Northern mule's ears in bloom on open slopes above the Wenas Campground, Yakima County, WA.......May 24, 2019.
Northern wyethia is a balsamroot look-alike. It is a fairly handsome plant, with erect stems and long basal leaves, and large yellow flower head. The herbage is entirely smooth and shiny. The texture is resinous. The leaves are stiff with entire or sometimes toothed margins. The basal leaves are enlarged with elliptic or lance-elliptic blades from 20-60 cm long and 5-16 cm wide. The base of the leaves tapers gradually to the petiole. The venation is very prominent. The stem leaves are smaller, sessile, and lance-ovate to ovate in shape. The stem leaves range from 9-25 cm long and 2-6 cm wide. The solitary stem is stout, somewhat lax, and ranges from 30-80 cm tall.
One to several flower heads may be found atop the stem. The central one is largest. The central head contains 13-21 yellow rays surrounding the disk. The lateral heads may have only 8 rays around the disk. The rays measure 2.5-5 cm long. The involucral bracts are wide and herbaceous, and often surpass the disk.
Mule's ears indicate overused rangeland. As forage, only the flowers are consistently eaten (the leaves are too leathery). Mule deer and bear may eat the leaves only early in the spring, when they are more succulent. The seeds and flowers are consumed by sharp-tailed grouse and Columbian ground squirrels. The roots were boiled and chopped for their medicinal qualities by the Nez Perce.
Northern wyethia is found on open, moist slopes to 2600 meters.
Northern wyethia is found from central Washington east to western Montana, south to northern Nevada and Utah.