Carey's balsamroot as seen in an area of sand dunes along Washington Highway 14 near milepost 115.5..................5/11/2009. Note that there may be two to three flower heads per stem with the uppermost flower head the largest.
The large, flat flower heads of Carey's balsamroot have a 2.5 cm wide yellowish central disk surrounded by 8 or 13 yellow ray flowers. The ray flowers persist on the flower head after bloom. Flower heads may be solitary to several per leafless stem, with the terminal head larger on variety intermedia. Variety intermedia may also have up to 21 rays. The leaves are up to 30 cm long and up to 15 cm wide. The blades are heart-shaped to triangular-hastate. Plants range from 20 to 100 cm high and the herbage ranges from smooth to glandular. Carey's balsamroot flowers from March into June.
Carey's balsamroot is significantly less hairy than Balsamorhiza sagittata, with the leaves being a bright green. The involucre is also only slightly haired or woolly in contrast to the woolly involucre of B. sagittata.
Although similar to Balsamorhiza deltoidea, Carey's balsamroot keeps the dry papery rays after flowering has completed while this trait does not appear in the former species (these two species do approach each other in the mid Columbia River Gorge, but hybridization evidently does not occur).
Carey's balsamroot is found in dry open habitats from the lowlands extending well up into the mountains.. It has a preference for the deeper soils on sloping ground rather than the rocky hilltops.
Carey's balsamroot may be found entirely east of the Cascade Mountains from south-central British Columbia through central Washington into north-central Oregon.
Variety intermedia may be found from southern British Columbia south along the eastern base of the Cascades to the northern part of the John Day and Deschutes Rivers, and then further south to Bend, OR. The two varieties intergrade to the west and southwest of Heppner, OR. The Oregon Flora Project shows this species (var. intermedia) as far west as Wygant State Park, to the west of Hood River. It has also been reported from Tom McCall Nature Preserve (at the main viewpoint) and a documented population can be found about 1/4 mile west of US 197 on the Washington side of the River. Variety intermedia is most common on the Oregon side of the Columbia River from near Celilo east, and is abundant on slopes above the lower Deschutes River.
Variety careyana may be found from central Washington south to northern Umatilla and northern Morrow counties in Oregon. In the Columbia River Gorge, variety careyana seems to be more common on the hillsides above the mouth of the John Day River.
--Photos of the leafy bracts covered with long, spreading hairs and a flower head of Carey's balsamroot as seen at Canyon Creek in the Klickitat State Wildlife Area..............May 8, 2009. The bracts on some plants may be largely glabrous or more sparsely haired than the specimen above. Note also the multiple flower heads on each stem.
--Examples of leaves of Carey's balsamroot as seen along Canyon Creek in the Klickitat State Wildlife Area..............May 8, 2009.
Carey's balsamroot as seen along Canyon Creek in the Klickitat State Wildlife Area..............May 8, 2009. The leaves of pungent desert parsley (Lomatium grayi) and Suksdorf's desert parsley (Lomatium suksdorfii) as well as an inflorescence of Hood River milkvetch (Astragalus hoodianus) can also be seen.
This is probably a hybrid plant between Balsamorhiza careyana and Balsamorhiza deltoidea as seen along the Cherry Orchard Trail about one mile east of Lyle, Washington........March 16, 2013.