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This summer, we appear to have two predominant species of cudweeds growing on the property. Both plants are members of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family.  At present, the genera for these species appears to be in flux, but currently the accepted genus for both of these cudweeds is Pseudognaphalium.

Pseudognaphalium stramineum (syn. Gnaphalium stramineum)

This species is an annual to biennial herb, native to western North America.  Common names for Pseudognaphalium stramineum include Chilean cudweed (this species was previously known as Gnaphalium chilensis), everlasting cudweed, small flowered cudweed, annual cudweed, and cotton batting plant.

 

Newly emerging Pseudognaphalium stramineum earlier this spring

The word gnaphalium is derived from the Greek gnaphalon, meaning “a lock of wool”, and stramineum means “straw-colored”.

 

Pseudognaphalium literally means 'false lock of wool'

Pseudognaphalium stramineum blooms between May to October.  Flowers are white, appearing yellow, to straw-colored, in bud.

 

Pseudognaphalium stramineum

Leaves are narrowly lanceolate, ranging from 2-8 cm in length.

This plant is renowned for growing in disturbed areas, and has a preference for moist sandy soils.  Heaviest concentrations of this plant are presently in the orchard, which has been heavily disturbed between tree planting, and deer-fence installation the past year.

 

Pseudognaphalium stramineum

A hot poultice of leaves and stems from this plant, applied to the body, was used by the Kawaiisu as an analgesic.  The Navajo and Ramah peoples used this plant as an emetic, and the Pomo would apply a poultice of boiled plants to reduce facial swelling.

 

A fading inflorescence of Pseudognaphalium stramineum

This plant also had value in hunting.  The Pomo and Kashaya would use the cottony material from the flower tops as a stuffing to line their deer antler head disguises [1].

Pseudognaphalium californicum (syn. Gnaphalium californicum)

Pseudognaphalium californicum is known commonly as ladies’ tobacco, California rabbit tobacco, California cudweed, and California everlasting.

 

California Everlasting (Pseudognaphalium californicum)

This species is also native to the west coast of North America from Washington to Baja California. This is an annual or biennial plant with a branching stem reaching 20 to 80 cm in height. Stem branches have lance-shaped leaves 2 to 20 cm in length.

The inflorescence is a cluster of flower heads, each enveloped in an involucre of rows of white phyllaries.

 

Pseudognaphalium californicum

There doesn’t appear to be much of this second species growing here, and where it is found is up-slope of the orchard, in a relatively undisturbed area, in association with Lotus scoparius, and Diplacus aurantiacus.

 

A fading inflorescence of Pseudognaphalium californicum

The American Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) uses this plant as food for its larvae.  A number of these butterflies have been sighted in the orchard area recently.  Alas, none close enough to my lens to photograph them.

 

Although some consider cudweeds to simply be ‘weeds’, some native plant nurseries do stock this particular species as it is quite attractive, and a valuable larval food source.

An infusion of Pseudognaphalium californicum was used by the Costanoans for treating stomach pain, and as a cold remedy. [1]

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[1] Daniel E. Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotanical Database