Tall eriogonum (Eriogonum elatum) is a desert buckwheat that on first glance closely resembles nude buckwheat (see “Nude Buckwheat” 06-21-12). One of the main differences can be seen in the basal leaf rosettes. Nude buckwheat has oval leaves with long petioles (stalks) that lay flat against the ground while tall eriogonum leaves are lance shaped (may sometimes be flat across the base and resemble an arrow shape) with long petioles. Tall eriogonum leaves are upward pointing. Nude buckwheat does not have the leaf-like bracts at the base of the flower stalk as are present in tall eriogonum.
Growing from a thick taproot, tall eriogonum has upright, branching stems which can be hollow. The large, open inflorescence consists of clusters of white to pinkish flowers. The base of the flowers is slightly hairy as are the basal leaves.
A native perennial, tall eriogonum habitat includes dry hillsides and open sagebrush flats in the Great Basin and Northern Mojave Desert (CA, OR, WA, NV and ID). The plants prefer sandy to gravelly soils.
Also commonly known as tall wooly buckwheat, tall buckwheat and rush buckwheat, E. elatum can be cooked and eaten as a pot herb while young and tender. I have never been tempted to eat tall eriogonum.
These plants were growing at a friend’s house near County Road 91 north of Lookout CA (Modoc County).