Heartleaf Arnica: Arnica Cardifolia, also known as Heart-leaf Leopardbane
Secwepemc: kwelkwelqíqen (arnica)
Tsilhqot’in: ts'ats'el (sunflower)
Nlaka’pamux: various names meaning yellow head/flower, small resembling balsamroot, etc.
Nsyilxcen: ntsetsahsmnw’íxw (facing each other)
English translation: Heartleaf Arnica
Typical Bloom (varies by elevation): February-April
Heartleaf arnica is exactly that, heart leafed! They are a rhizome plant with branching roots producing one or more stems reaching up to a half a meter in height. The basal leaves on this perennial herb are finely toothed and grow off shoots that are opposite of each other on the stalk, with as many as 4 pair of hairy glandular leaves. The stalks of the heartleaf arnica grow in groups and clusters upright with ray and disk flower heads. The flowers are the showy yellow characteristically known from the sunflower family of plants. The flowers bear a daisy like appearance and are lined with white-haired phyllaries sometimes studded with resin glands with up to 5 heads per plant. The pappus is whitish hairy and barbed. These seeds are carried to their destinations by the wind.
Heartleaf arnica is widespread in North America, growing in forests, on hillsides, and beside streams. It enjoys boreal and cool temperate climates and is often found in Lodgepole pine and Douglas fir forests of the mountains growing in a variety of types of soil. Hardy to trampling and tolerant of both shade and sun, Heartleaf arnica is a dominant ground cover in many forests. An individual plant can live up to twelve years and plants may even survive a wildfire by resprouting from its rhizome afterward!
Arnica has been used as medicine since the 1500’s in European cultures and is still popular as medicine today. It was applied to the skin as ointments, creams, liniments, tinctures, and salves to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. Even now it is used for injuries like sprains and bruises. Arnica can cause serious side effects when taken by mouth, is usually used externally only.
Indigenous Cultural Notes: Traditionally, the plant was mashed and applied externally to cuts and bruises. It was used to prevent infection, reduce swelling and for pain relief. All parts of the plant were used; however, the flowers are known to have the most potency.
Interesting facts: Heartleaf arnica is an important part of the summer diets of mule deer and elk. The Greek word for lambskin is “arnica”, referring to the hairy leaves and stems of this plant. Cordifolia, the species name, means heart-shaped leaves.
Medicinal plant information is for historical information only. Gold Country Communities Society is not encouraging harvesting of native plants for food and/or medicine.
Researched and written by Lana Rae Brooks
“Appendix 2B. Names of Native Plant Species in Indigenous Languages of Northwestern North America” Pg 80