Borrego Sun - Since 1949

"California Buckwheat"


Last updated 6/2/2021 at 10:41am

When you think of buckwheat, pancakes might be something that comes to mind for most people.

But California buckwheat is a common local shrub that was more important to Native Americans for its medicinal qualities rather than as a food source.

This common shrub is a local native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

It's commonly found in sagebrush scrub chaparral environments and dry washes and recognizable by clusters of tiny, white to pink summer flowers that turn brick red in the fall.

These are tough plants, growing up to 6 feet high with leaves that look like rosemary and particularly attractive to honeybees. They are also highly Drought resistant and do very well in arid landscapes.

California buckwheat is also popular with moths and butterflies, attracting more than 30 different species.

There are references in literature that the Cahuilla gathered and ate the tiny seeds, but no similar references in Kumeyaay records.

But historical accounts of buckwheat being used for medicinal purposes are far more frequent.

The roots and the flowers were ground and then brewed into tea to help with upset stomach and diarrhea. Flowers boiled to make tea were also used for heat problems, and a buckwheat tea made from leaves helped with sleep.

Native plant nurseries recommend California buckwheat as a tough and easy to grow plant, requiring very little supplemental water once established.

During peak heat the plant will shed dried flowers and leaves, creating a healthy natural mulch

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