Habit: Balsamorhiza deltoidea forms a clump of large, arrow-shaped basal leaves topped with many sun-flower like blossoms. Raising from a deep taproot system and bearing long petioles (leafstalks), the basal leaves can be as large as 1 feet tall by 8 inches wide, and present a rough, wavy surface with sinuous edges, due to the shallow lobes or rounded teeth on the margins. Narrow, bract-like leaves grow along the flowering shoots. Each flowering stalk measures up to 3 feet and bears multiple flower heads. The central flower is the largest and has as many as 20 elliptic ray corollas. Disk flowers are arranged in the center of the corolla and are dark yellow. The plant is typically in bloom from early to late spring, but sometimes flowers last until mid summer.
Ecology: grows at low elevations in open woodlands and dry grassy hillsides with deep soils. It is native from British Columbia and south through the strait of Georgia-Puget, the Columbia River Gorge and sporadically all the way to Southern Califonia. In Oregon it inhabits areas on both sides of the Cascades.
Growing conditions: favors full sun or light shade, and well-drained, rather dry soils. The big, bright flowers of this perennial are perfect for an early spring display. It can be grown as a companion for common camas (Camassia quamash) and other early bloomers.
Puget balsamroot has been used by Native American communities for its edible roots and seeds, as well as for medicinal purposes. Early Canadian settlers used the seeds to feed their chickens. This species is also known as deltoid balsamroot.