Wyethia mollis, or mountain mules ears, is a bold short stature member of the Aster family.  Also known as wolly mules ears, this impressive plant can best be imagined as a 1 foot high sunflower.  Mountain mules ears grows, as the name suggests, at high elevations in the Sierra Nevada range of Northern California into western Nevada and north into Southern Oregon where it can form sizeable colonies among dry open meadows or within sagebrush areas.  Wyethia mollis is a slow growing tap-rooted perennial which produces broad leaves in a loose rosette.  The leaves appear as though they emerge directly from the soil but are actually branching from an underground stem.  The name mollis means soft, which describes its large, gray, feltlike leaves that rise vertically from the base of the plant.  Its value is surely its bloom which appears in spring or early summer as an attention grabbing bright yellow flower 3 to 5 inches in length with whorls of yellow florets born solely or in clusters of 2 or 3.  Rarely available in cultivation, this is an extremely drought tolerant plant grown best in rocky soils in full sun with no supplemental water.

 

IMG_3151