The photo above shows several flower heads of strict buckwheat (var. proliferum) as seen at Horsethief butte to the northeast of The Dalles, OR .........October 7, 2006. Note the dense coat of white hairs lining parts of the stem as well as the involucel.
Strict buckwheat is a mat forming subshrub to 30 cm tall. The woody stems are prostrate to ascending. The flower stems are leafless above the basal leaves, although a pair of tiny bracts may be found at the point where the stem branches into the inflorescence. The leaves are mostly basal, with the blades oval to ovate in shape tapering abruptly to long, thin petioles which are 1-4 times longer than the blade.. The leaves range from 5-25 mm long and the lower blade surface is gray-woolly, the upper surface being gray to green, either woolly to sparsely haired.
The inflorescence is open and two to three branched, subtended by 2 linear bracts. The flowers are typically white, creamy, or occasionally yellow. The individual flowers range from 3-4 mm long and lack hairs on their outer surfaces.
1. subspecies strictum: Flowers white, light yellow, or pink. Inflorescence very open and branched. Leaves greenish above. Found from the Blue and Wallowa Mts. of southeastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, and western Idaho.
2. subspecies proliferum variety anserinum: Flowers yellow. Inflorescence congested. Leaves grayish on both surfaces. Found from Chelan County south, between the Cascades and Columbia River in Washington, central and southeastern Oregon, northeastern California, and northern Nevada.
3. subspecies proliferum variety glabrum: Flowers white or cream. Inflorescence very congested into tight rounded clusters. Surface of flowers smooth (not very hairy). Found in Washington in Yakima, Douglas, and western Grant counties.
4. subspecies proliferum variety proliferum: Flowers white or cream. Inflorescence congested, but not into tight, rounded clusters. Surface of flowers more woolly-hairy. Range of species.
Found on sandy or gravelly soil in both ponderosa pine forests and among sagebrush.
Strict buckwheat is a widespread species, found from north-central Washington east to Idaho and western Montana, south to Nevada, then west to the east slopes of the Sierra of northern California and Cascades of the Pacific Northwest.
In the Columbia River Gorge, strict buckwheat (variety proliferum) may be found east of Bingen, WA between the elevations of 100'-600'.