Northwestern Balsamroot: Balsamorhiza deltoidea. Note the crenate or wavy leaf margins, a characteristic of many northwestern Balsamroot.
It should be pointed out that the balsamroots can be difficult to distinguish from one another in the Columbia River Gorge. Characteristics which help key them out may not always work on all plants of a population.
Some of the records that I have seen, indicate all 3 species at the same location and this probably reflects misidentifying the species. The latest data I've seen (eflora of North America) states that both Balsamorhiza careyana and Balsamorhiza deltoidea hybridize in the Columbia River Gorge. These species share many similar characteristics which further make absolute identification confusing. Further study coupled with plotting populations via GPS will hopefully shed new light on the distribution of these 3 species within the gorge!
It should be pointed out that both Hooker's balsamroot (Balsamorhiza hookeri var. hookeri) and serrate balsamroot (Balsamorhiza serrata) approach within a few miles of the eastern Columbia River Gorge, so their genetic makeup could influence the appearance of Gorge balsamroots.
Hybrid Balsamroot: Balsamorhiza careyana x deltoidea -
Hybrid Balsamroot: Balsamorhiza careyana X hookeri - Fairly common in northwestern and northern Klickitat County. Possibly also occuring on the ridgetops north of SR14 east of US 97 and near Goldendale, WA.
Carey's Balsamroot: Balsamorhiza careyana (Synonyms: Balsamorhiza careyana var. careyana, Balsamorhiza careyana var. intermedia) - The following 2 varieties are now lumped together and just consdidered as B. careyana.
Carey's Balsamroot: Balsamorhiza careyana var. careyana - Generally found further east in the Columbia River Gorge than var. intermedia.
Carey's Balsamroot, Intermediate Balsamroot: Balsamorhiza careyana var. intermedia - Arrowhead-like or large heart-like leaves are shiny green and nearly hairless (They often feel somewhat resinous to the touch, although I don't know if this is a good characteristic to use to distinguish this from northwest balsamroot.). One to three flower heads per stem, although multiple flower heads tend to be typical. Rays tardily deciduous, tending to drop with the achene. Plants to 3 feet tall. One to three flower heads per stem. Plants are found further east and the flowerheads are smaller than the next species.
Deltoid Balsamroot, Northwest Balsamroot, Puget Balsamroot: Balsamhoriza deltoidea - Arrowhead-like leaves have partly toothed margins and are green and nearly hairless. Often with one flower head per stem, but two or occasionally 3 may be present. Rays deciduous before achenes are ripe. Plants to 3 feet tall. This balsamroot is a native from west of the Cascades and evidently extends as far eastward as Biggs, OR.
Hairy Balsamroot, Hare's Head Balsamroot, Hooker's Balsamroot: Balsamorhiza hookeri (Synonyms: Balsamorhiza hirsuta, Balsamorhiza hirsuta var. lagocephala, Balsamorhiza hookeri var. hirsuta, Balsamorhiza hookeri var. hookeri, Balsamorhiza hookeri var. lagocephala, Balsamorhiza hookeri var. neglecta, Balsamorhiza hookeri var. platylepis, Balsamorhiza macrolepis var. platylepis, Balsamorhiza platylepis) - The former variety hookeri is the only form found near the Columbia River Gorge. Generally found along the upper Klickitat River near Mt. Adams and in the Simcoe Mountains. It may approach the Columbia River Gorge near the wind towers east of US 97.
Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Arrow-leaf Balsamroot: Balsamorhiza sagittata - Flowers and arrowhead leaves somewhat woolly or velvety. Leaf margins entire (smooth). Flowers large (to 4 inches wide) and yellow. Plants to 2 feet tall. Reported and collected from the Gorge, but I have not found any specimens in the Gorge that approach the silvery-gray, felt-like foliage of this species that are found further east.
Serrate Balsamroot, Toothed Balsamroot: Balsamorhiza serrata - A smaller balsamroot with serrate to deeply pinnatifid leaves, often on the same plant. Ray flowers are permanently yellow, surrounding a yellow-orange central disk.