Western Puccoon

Native Americans used western puccoon (Lithospermum ruderale) for both food and medicinal purposes. The roots were cooked and eaten as part of their diet. Puccoon was also used to treat wounds, burns, diarrhea and as an oral contraceptive.

Research has shown that puccoon has estrogen-like constituents that could interfere with hormonal balance, eliminate the estrus cycle and decrease the size of the thymus and pituitary glands. Puccoon also contains potentially toxic alkaloids. Obviously this plant is not to be used casually, if at all, by herbalists.

Western puccoon grows in a wide range of habitats, sandy and gravelly soils, open forests, clearings and grasslands, at elevations up to 6,500′ from British Columbia through California and the Rocky Mountain States.

This native perennial, a member of the Borage Family, has a large number of stems that derive from a woody root. The alternate, linear puccoon leaves are crowded together and interspersed with pale yellow flowers near the stem tips. The five petals are united in a trumpet shape. Each flower produces four hard, nut-like seeds. (The genus name derives from “litho” meaning stone and “sperm” meaning seed.) Puccoon plants grow from 1/2 to 1 1/2 feet in height.

The common name puccoon may come from the Virginia Algonquian word “poughkone” meaning “a plant used for dyeing”.  A yellow dye was made from puccoon.

In addition to western puccoon, Lithospermum ruderale is also commonly referred to as wayside gromwell, western stoneweed, lemon weed, and Columbia puccoon, among other names.

I found these western puccoon specimens along Barnhardy Road in the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Oregon.

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