American Sawwort (Saussurea americana)
If ever one needs a reminder that flowers exist to attract pollinators rather than for human enjoyment, look no further than the homely sawwort. The many patches of raggedy looking Saussurea we found in late summer in Olympic National Park were never without bumblebees, flies, or butterflies. The alternating toothed leaves resemble groundsel, another aster family relative. Their tattered look, comes from their lack of “ray” flowers, instead they contain only purple “disc” flowers (the center of most daisies and sunflowers), out of which protrude white styles. In our photos the female white styles are split and curl back.
We found many large groupings of Saussurea, three to four feet tall, in moist settings along open trails and in lush areas of sub-alpine meadows.
Several years ago we found Sawwort outside Mt. Rainier National Park a month earlier in July, and it had not yet “bloomed” (see upper left photo below).