Old man's whiskers as seen east of the Tygh Ridge summit to the north of Tygh Valley, OR.
Prairie Smoke is a perennial, often to 30 cm broad, consisting primarily of basal leaves which are compound-pinnate. The blades are from 5-18 cm long and the numerous leaflets are parted or dissected. The blades are covered with long, grayish hairs. The flowering stems are reddish and may be up to 40 cm tall, with a pair of reduced leaves at midstem.
The flowers are terminal, with one to nine flowers in a cyme. The calyx is reddish-purple to pink or yellow in color. The 5 petals are light yellow, white, pink, or red-purple tinged. When in bloom, the flowers nod or arch downward. As the fruits mature, the flower becomes erect. The fruits are elongate, feathery achenes.
Native Americans boiled the roots to make a tea. The plant is an interesting perennial for the rock garden or prairie garden.
Prairie smoke is found in moist sagebrush plains and foothills, to subalpine ridges and talus slopes.
Old Man's Whiskers may be found on the eastern side of the Cascades from British Columbia south to the Sierra Nevada. It is found eastward to Newfoundland, and south to New York, Illinois, Nebraska, through the Rockies to New Mexico and Nevada.
In the Columbia River Gorge, it may be found in the Columbia Hills north of The Dalles, OR near 3000'.
Close-ups of the pendant flowers of prairie smoke as seen on north-facing slopes of the Columbia Hills Natural Area Preserve..........May 10, 2009.
Prairie smoke blooming in the drier meadows surrounding Panakanic located at the head of Rattlesnake Creek in western Klickitat County...........June 8, 2014.