This month let’s take a closer look at Oregon gumweed, also known by its scientific name, Grindelia stricta. It is native to North America and can be found along the west coast from Alaska to Oregon. It has sticky glandular hairs on its stems and leaves, which give the plant its characteristic gum-like texture. The immature flower heads produce a sticky, white resin that gives them a milky appearance. In fact, several Indigenous tribes in the Pacific Northwest extracted this resin to use as a medicine for treating respiratory illnesses and dermatitis caused by poison ivy.
Oregon gumweed is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 3 feet (90 cm) in height. It tolerates very dry, sandy to clay soils and prefers full sun. It belongs to the Asteraceae family, along with other plants like sunflower, daisy, and yarrow. Gumweed features bright yellow flowers with numerous petals, and they bloom later in the season than most native wildflowers, during June and July. Other native plants that bloom near the same time are woolly sunflower, fireweed, and oceanspray.
With its vibrant flowers, Oregon gumweed attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Since it flowers later than many other plants it is a valuable late-season source of pollen and nectar. These features make it an important native plant that supports the healthy functioning of the ecosystem. In fact, in the Willamette valley in Oregon, gumweed provides some rare species of insects with sustenance. The wetland-prairie long-horned bee (Melissodes pullatela) and the great copper butterfly (Lycaena xanthoides) both rely on Oregon gumweed for survival.
Oregon gumweed has been used in ecological restoration projects to stabilize soil and prevent erosion. People also cultivate it as an attractive ornamental plant for use in butterfly gardens. Locally, Oregon gumweed can be found along the seaside at St. John Point Regional Park. It is mainly found along the beautiful southern trail.
The Conservancy’s native plant nursery is currently growing Oregon gumweed from seeds that were harvested on Mayne. Harvesting local seeds helps to ensure that the plants are well adapted to our unique environment. Recently, work has begun on a plant sale area behind the Mayne Conservancy’s new office. When completed, the outdoor area behind our office, at 455-A Dixon Road, will serve as a place for the public to browse the wonderful native plants we have for sale. You’ll be sure to see Oregon gumweed amongst the selection of plants.