White Sweetvetch (Hedysarum sulphurescens)
Grizzly food! Good thing we didn’t know this fact when we found this flower early on in an amazing backpacking trip in the rolling tundra of Okanogan country near the Washington-Canada border. We thought it might be a pea or milk vetch or possibly a non-native species, but found it too early to see its uniquely shrivelled seed pods. We finally identified this flowering pea family member using Scotter & Flygare’s Wildflowers of the Canadian Rockies. Thriving in moist stream beds, its roots (which are said to taste like licorice) are a nutritious staple for bears in both spring and fall. More common in Montana and Idaho, we found it in the western edge of its range. The latin translates to sweet (hede), broom (sarum), an alternate name for this group of plants, highlighting their sweet scent and broom-shaped flower stalk with blossoms trailing mostly on one side.