Skip to main content
Reservations recommended. Reserve tickets here.
Skip to main content

Woolly mule's ears

Scientific Name:
Wyethia mollis
Native Name(s):
  1. Northern Paiute: a'gü' (Kelly 1932); kusi'agüpü (Kelly 1932); aki (Couture et al. 1986; Fowler 1989); akü (Fowler 1989)
  2. Klamath: Stä'-mäk (Coville 1897)

Wyethia mollis is a perennial herb that grows up to 1.5 m in height. It has large, oblanceolate to widely obovate, basal leaf blades that can be up to 40 cm long. Numerous short coarse hairs cover stems and leaves and give the plant a woolly appearance and soft feel. Each plant has many striking yellow flowers. Achenes range in size from 9-11 mm. They appear dark brown in color and are moderately to densely woolly. Fruits are oblong sometimes tapering at one end.

Starch granules
This species is starch deficient. No starch granules were observed in fruits.


Wyethia mollis grows in open forests, meadows, dry rocky slopes, and sagebrush scrub communities at elevations ranging from 900-3400 m.


Wyethia mollis is distributed in the western states of California, Oregon and Nevada.


The roots of Wyethia mollis can be cooked and are said to have a sweet flavor. The seeds can also be eaten raw or cooked, with a flavor similar to sunflower seeds. The plant was also used medicinally; a poultice of crushed roots or leaves was applied to injuries to reduce swelling.

As food
Northern Paiute: "Edible seeds included...a'gü (Wyethia mollis Gray)." (Kelly 1932:98)

Northern Paiute :"A broken bone was enclosed in two or three flat splits bound on with deer hide. The crushed leaves of kusi'agüpü (said to be the same as a'gü', Wyethia mollis Gray) were applied as a poultice. The same medicine was used for sprains and to reduce swellings." (Kelly 1932:196)

Northern Paiute :"[For mid-July harvest] Mule's ears and balsamroot were among the first seeds to ripen, with tumbling mustard (an introduced plant) ripening later." (Couture et al. 1986:153-154)

Northern Paiute:"For akü, use a seed beater woven in a spoon shape like a basket (tsikü). Knock it into a conical burden basket.  Clean it and leave nothing but the seed. It is sacked for winter use. It is parched and winnowed and then ground for mush." (Fowler 1989:47)

Northern Paiute: "[A]ku, something like a wild sunflower. It is gathered in July. Sunflowers are rolled between the hands to break them and any other seeds that you want to grind up fast. Roast them before you grind the seeds. Sometimes it is mixed with other seeds." (Fowler 1989:47)

Klamath: "Stä'-mäk.- A plant very similar to Balsamorhiza, but the canescent leaves not cordate at the base. It is abundant in the yellow-pine forests. The roots of a plant, which from description is probably this, are mashed and used as a poultice for swellings."  (Coville 1897:106)

Distribution Map: