Early Yellow Locoweed
Blooming early in the season when range grasses are just beginning to grow, pale yellow pea-shaped flowers appear, above basal leaves, on stems 10–50 cm tall. Johnston reports the Blackfoot called this plant “rattle weed”, as the ripe seed pods rattle loudly when shaken, and that the leaves were chewed to alleviate sore throat. Despite this use, Johnston says that several locoweed species are poisonous, and that animals may become so addicted to the plant that they eat little else. As a result, early yellow locoweed, which “is common in the Porcupine Hills of southwestern Alberta ...likely has caused locoism and death of many Peigan ponies in the past.” (40)
Kershaw explains these toxic qualities. Locoweeds contain alkaloids, and some species take up selenium from alkali soil. Symptoms of toxicity include depression, loss of coordination and excitability. Locoweeds also cause heart disease, fluid retention, diarrhea, birth deformities and miscarriages. (248)
According to Wilkinson, the flowers were used as bedding and flooring in the sweathouses of the Okanagan people. (120)
To be added soon.
Johnston, Alex. 1987. Plants and the Blackfoot. Occasional Paper No. 15., Lethbridge Historical Society, AB.
Kershaw, Linda. 2000. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies. Lone Pine Publishing, AB.
Wilkinson, Kathleen. 1999. Wildflowers of Alberta: A Guide to Common Wildflowers and Other Herbaceous Plants. University of Alberta Press and Lone Pine Publishing, AB.