- Author: Maureen Clark
I frequently see different species of Mule's Ears while I'm on my hikes. Wyethia species plants are known as Mule's Ears. This genus is named after Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth, an early explorer that lived from 1802-1856. He was also known to help create the ice industry.
Mule's Ears grow from a deep taproot and basal clump of broad - narrow, tongue shaped, bright green leaves. The mule ears are large leaves that can be 16” long by 3” wide. Its sunflower like bloom is a large, bright yellow, 3” flower. With lots of solitary blooms occurring from mid spring through midsummer. Most plants grow up to 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide. The Wyethia species prefers full sun – part sun, low water, sandy- loam - clay soil and good drainage. This plant attracts butterflies, bees, beneficial insects and is a host and larval plant for caterpillars. It goes dormant in the winter and survives in zones 5b-11. They are native from Northwest down to Baja, California. Recently, some of the plants have been reclassified in the Agnorhiza genus.
Wyethia angustifolia, The Narrow Leaf Mule Ear plant is also known as the California compass plant. The leaves are believed to point in a North to South direction. Native to the Washington, Oregon and California coasts. The narrow leaf mule ear grows in northern and central California, along the coast to the Sierras. It prefers to grow in meadows, stream banks, grasslands and dry open fields that are less than 6,000 feet elevation.
The Native American Ohlone tribe made a thick lather from its roots and applied to people's chest to help treat respiratory problems. The roots were also used to draw out blisters. The leaves were boiled and as an extract for fevers.
Keep an eye out for these sunflower “look alike” while you're out and about.
Agnorhiza bolanderi – Bolander's Mule's Ears
Agnorhiza elata – Hall's Mule's Ears
Agnorhiza invenusta – Colville's Mule's Ears
Agnorhiza ovata –Southern Mule's Ears
Agnorhiza reticulata – El Dorado Mule's Ears
Wyethia amplexicaulis – Northern Mule's Ears, Black Sunflower
Wyethia helianthiodes – Sunflower Mule's Ears
Wyethia x magna