As I mentioned in earlier posts, this year prickly lettuce and Chilean tarweed are two of the predominant wildflowers/weeds along our roadsides this year. A third plant in abundance is the common madia (Madia elegans), also known as the elegant madia. Another “tarweed” belonging to the same genus as Chilean tarweed, much of the information about common madia is similar to that already mentioned in the Chilean tarweed post.
Common madia is sometimes found blooming in profusion along roadsides. A few hours later not a flower is to be seen in the same area. Confusing until one realizes that this annual member of the sunflower family opens in the late afternoon and blooms through the night until early morning. During the middle of the day the ray flowers curl shut and no blooms are visible.
This native can be found in the Pacific Coast states and Nevada. The bright, lemon-yellow ray flowers are deeply lobed and surround central disk of yellow tubular flowers. More confusion – the ray flowers can be completely yellow or yellow with a maroon basal portion. These common madia flowers, growing along the road in front or our house (Modoc County CA), have maroon at the ray base making them, as the species name implies, elegant. An urn-shaped involucre (set of bracts) is beneath the inflorescence. The linear leaves are alternate on a branched stem that can grow up to three feet tall. The entire plant is covered in stalked glands that contain a resin like substance. Common madia is very sticky and has a pungent odor which is described as tar-like. I think it smells more like resin and do not find it at all unpleasant. Even carefully touching the common madia for a few pictures left my fingers covered with black, tacky residue that was difficult to wash away.
The seeds of common madia were historically ground into flour and eaten by Native Americans. Many wildlife species also enjoy common madia seeds. Small mammals (mice, voles), rabbits and many birds (including mourning doves, quail, finches, juncos, and horned larks) eat the common madia seeds.
Although its cousin, Chilean tarweed, is considered a noxious weed, none of my weed guides listed common madia as a weed. I find that omission unusual since common madia appears to be as invasive as Chilean tarweed.