FACT SHEET: James Buckwheat

click picture for larger version

Common Name: James Buckwheat
Scientific Name: Eriogonum jamesii
Family: Buckwheat Family (Polygonaceae)
Distribution: Occasionally encountered in central and southern Utah
Habitat: on rock outcrops and in shallow, rocky soil in desert shrub, foothill and lower montane habitats
Habit: long-lived cushion plant
Height: 2-6", with flowering stalks to 1'
Spread: 0.5-2'
Foliage Color: silky green
Leaves: mostly basal, oval, small, leathery and evergreen
Flower Color: bright yellow
Flower Form: tiny bell-shaped flowers borne in showy terminal balls.
Flowering Season: midsummer

Cultural Requirements: Prefers full sun and well-drained, infertile soils. Fully cold-hardy. Drought hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front), and intolerant of overwatering.

Culture: We have no information on success with direct-seeding for this plant, but it could probably be direct seeded in late autumn, as can its close relative sulfurflower buckwheat. The seeds (achenes) are relatively large and should be planted at a depth of 1/8 to 1/4". Seeds require 4-12 weeks of moist chilling to remove dormancy. This plant is relatively slow-growing and requires at least two years to reach flowering size.

Uses and Notes of Interest: This plant is quite similar to the closely related and much commoner sulfurflower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). James buckwheat has larger, more attractive flowers and a more compact habit, making it more suitable for use in the rock garden. In flower, it is attractive to many native bees and other insects. The perianths are persistent in fruit and turn a pleasing rust color. The evergreen leaves tend to turn red in fall, adding a color accent all winter long. To collect seed, strip off the flowers after they have dried and turned rusty, and remove the achenes (a maximum of one per flower) by hand-rubbing. Only a few of the flowers set good fruit.