Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Curlycup Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

By Nancy Miller

Despite the heat and the drought we have experienced this summer, the Curlycup Gumweed is in full bloom at the refuge right now. Lucky for us, it favors dry soil. It can be found mainly on the end of many pads, and along the Auto Tour route.

This is one of my favorite flowers. It starts growing in the Spring, blooming late June to early September; however, it seems to bloom in the later months at the refuge. I have seen a few that bloomed earlier along some of the back roads. I have been watching them for several weeks, waiting for the bright yellow blooms to appear. They finally came in full bloom about two weeks ago.

I check out all the wildflowers at the refuge, but this is my favorite, attracting all kinds of cool looking insects as well as the beautiful butterflies. They seem to come at the right time for the butterflies that are starting to migrate to stop and enjoy. I’m hoping to catch a few more butterflies on them since butterflies seemed to be a little scarce this year.

The Curlycup Gumweed is a member of the Aster family. Curlycup Gumweed is unpalatable to cattle, sheep, and horses. Tannins, volatile oils, resins, bitter alkaloids and glucosides give it an unpleasant taste. The fresh or dried leaves of gumweed can be used to make an aromatic bitter tasting tea. The plant was used by the native North American Indians to treat bronchial problems and skin afflictions such as reactions to poison ivy. It is used in modern herbalism for treatment for bronchial asthma. The plant merits investigation as a treatment for asthma.

The dried leaves and flowering tops are anti-asthmatic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, expectorant and sedative. Externally, the plant is used as a poultice to treat burns, poison ivy, dermatitis, eczema and skin eruptions. In early times, the Spanish New Mexicans would drink an extract made from the flower buds and boiling water for kidney problems. The sticky sap was chewed as gum. Leafless stems would be used as brooms.


Photo by Nancy Miller

For more information about what to see and do at Hagerman NWR, see the official Refuge website, and the Friends website.

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