Autumn is coming, and the number of plants still flowering diminishes this time of year. Snow Buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum) is one you can often find in bloom through September in eastern Washington. This plant profile was originally published, in slightly different form, as part of a native plant spotlight series.
Why Choose It?
With frosty-green leaves and long-lasting sprays of tiny white to pink flowers, Snow Buckwheat cools the eye in late summer and early fall. Happy on little water, this sub-shrub is well adapted for dry sites and gravelly or sandy soils.
In the Garden
As a ground cover or an accent plant in a rockery or sunny bed, Snow Buckwheat’s woody taproot will seek out water, anchor the plant in wind, and provide erosion control. The airy flower stalks will start in June and continue through the summer, when its late nectar is important to bees. White-lined sphinx moths may also sip at its flowers, and butterfly caterpillars find food and shelter among the leaves.
Snow Buckwheat grows as a mat or mound, to about six inches tall, with flower stalks rising eight inches or more. Plant it in full sun and in a gritty to sandy soil with excellent drainage. Water well at planting time, give it some water the first year or two, and it should be off and running.
Where to See It
Present throughout the Columbia Basin, Snow Buckwheat grows in sagebrush communities and mixed grasslands, and sometimes among ponderosa pine. Look for it on rocky roadsides and outcrops.
And, hey, is this the buckwheat in my pancakes?
Nope, that’s a Eurasian crop plant, in the genus Fagopyrum. The genus Eriogonum, with more than 250 species—many of them here in the west—can make a life-long study. Numerous other garden-worthy buckwheats, often sporting lollipop-like clusters of yellow or brick-red flowers, grow throughout the Columbia Plateau and into the mountains.
Upcoming Washington Native Plant Society Events
Saturday, October 1, 2016
10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Bellevue Botanic Garden, Bellevue, WA
Saturday, October 8, 2016
9:00 am to 3:00 pm
Capital Museum Coach House, Olympia, WA
Saturday October 15, 2016
10:00 am to 12:00 pm
WSU Research Center, Mt. Vernon, WA
Thursday, October 13, 2016
2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Details and updates to be published on the UW School of Environmental and Forestry Sciences Offshoots blog.