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Local fields abound with Okanagan sunflowers

Okanagan sunflowers on Know Mountain in Kelowna.
April 18, 2021 - 8:00 AM

It is such a prolific and popular plant in the region, it’s become the City of Kelowna’s official flower.

We’re talking about the Arrowleaf Balsamroot, sometimes more familiarly known locally as the Okanagan sunflower.

“Okanagan Sunflowers” is an acrylic on canvas painting of the Arrowleaf Balsamroot by local artist Jo Scott-B.

The painting occupies a prominent position on the third floor reception area at Kelowna City Hall. The plant was named Kelowna’s official flower in 2000.

Local wild food forager Scott Moran calls it “a lovely flower that comes up super early around here.”

You can find the bright yellow flowers popping up throughout the Thompson and Okanagan. They are a plant that is commonly found throughout the North American west, with flowers about the size of a small fist emerging in this region around the beginning of April.

Moran says the plant has been used as an Indigenous food source and has several parts that are edible. He does not actively forage for it, however.

“It’s a nice looking plant and has an almost spicy odour, but it’s not a wild plant that is in high demand as a food source right now,” he says.

According to information supplied by the U.S. Forest Service, the Arrowleaf Balsamroot was used as a food source by various indigenous tribes from California north to British Columbia. In B.C., it’s found in the southern part of the province east of the Coast Mountains.

The plant is most abundant in mountain fields and can take years to fully mature. The Arrowleaf Balsamroot doesn’t transplant well, so they’re best left in their natural habitat.

More information on the Arrowleaf balsamroot can be found here.

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