Orange Agoseris, Dandelion Imposters of the West Coast



If you have walked through the meadows or woods of the west coast, you may have seen this plant before. You might have mistaken it for a strange looking Dandelion. 

JW Stockert, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Orange Agoseris (Agoseris Aurantiaca), also known as the Mountain Dandelion, is one of a family of ‘False Dandelions’. It is a perennial native to the West Coast growing up to two feet (0.6m) tall. Orange Agoseris grows between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific. You can find this edible plant all the way from Canada, through the Pacific Northwest, and down into California.

Identifying Orange Agoseris

Though often mistaken for true Dandelions at a glance, Orange Agoseris sports some distinct differences which make it unique.

Walter Siegmund, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Orange Agoseris comes in a spectrum of orange hues ranging from a deep rust color to nearly yellow. It can also sometimes grow in pink, and darken to purple as the flower ages. Growing from a basal rosette of narrow lance-shaped leaves, it produces no stems. Rather, it produces several stem-like peduncles each supporting a single flowering head. These flowering heads grow between 2.5 to 3 centimeters long and contain 15-100 orange ray florets. This gives it that iconic ‘dandelion’-like appearance. When matured, these flower heads form a puff ball of seeds with white bristles. Again making it quite easy to mistake for dandelion.

Foraging

Orange Agoseris is a hardy plant that thrives well in the same environments as Dandelion. Finding the two together is not surprising! When exploring the mountains, meadows, and woods of the West Coast, look along trail edges for the bright orange flowers. Orange Agoseris thrives well in nutrient poor, well-draining and moist soil where they can have access to full sunlight.

Merrie Freed, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Unlike Dandelions, which grow in large colonies, Orange Agoseris is a solitary plant. Often growing scattered and hidden among taller grasses and forbs, despite growing up to two feet tall. Orange flowers are a rare find in the wild. Seeing the orange buds of this species in the grass is a treat!

Eating Orange Agoseris

Like the true Dandelion, the leaves and flowers of Orange Agoseris are edible and nutrient dense. Young leaves are good to eat raw. Cook the leaves once they have matured. The leaves of Orange Agoseris are rich in several nutrients including iron, zinc, boron, calcium, silicon. They are especially high in potassium, as well as vitamins A, B complex, C, and D.  When dried, the sap of Orange Agoseris is chewable like gum.

Walter Siegmund, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Orange Agoseris flower buds have the same culinary uses as Dandelion buds. It is common to see them used fresh in salads, or dried into tea. Boiling the buds in a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water produces a delicious syrup.

 

Cautions, Potential Toxicity and Lookalikes

Historically the wet leaves of Orange Agoseris have some reported use as an external pain reliever for sprains and bruises. However, there are some conflicting reports of toxicity if it enters the bloodstream. Always proceed with caution when applying any plant material for medicinal use.

Pale Agoseris, Agoseris Glauca, is another ‘False Dandelion’. It shares many traits with Dandelion and other Agoseris varieties. This contributesThe buds and leaves are not edible with this variety. Only the sap is chewable like gum after drying.

Although the flower structure is quite similar to Orange Agoseris, Pale Agoseris only comes in yellow varieties. The leaves are narrow and smooth, typically without toothed edges. Pale Agoseris grows from the West Coast to the Midwest United States, and up into Canada.

Walter Siegmund, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Although Similar to Orange Agoseris, Pale Agoseris is a bright Yellow.

Final Considerations

It is important to always be mindful of the impact foraging has on the ecosystem. Orange Agoseris is a native plant to the West Coast and serves as a food source for insects. It is not a protected species, in fact it grows common and widespread, with minimal risk for overharvesting.
Though easy to overlook, the Orange Agoseris is more than a dandelion imposter. Where some places may not grow Dandelion plentifully, Orange Agoseris can often thrive! This plant presents a wonderful opportunity, and is worth looking out for. 

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Written by Taylor Calderon
Taylor Calderon is a freelance graphic designer and writer from South Texas. They have a passion for art, food, and living self-sufficiently. They enjoy writing on a variety of topics and issues, from sustainable living to botanicals and foraging, to travel and culture. To see more of their work, you can view their portfolio at www.flamingink.art

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