Plant Profile: Grindelia (Gum Plant)
Summer in San Francisco is in full swing. While the sun shines and the fog rolls in, there’s no better time to take a walk up on Mt. Sutro and enjoy the native flora. A pretty sight right now is one of our summertime favorites, Grindelia also known as San Francisco Gum Plant. Its bright yellow blossoms look like little daisies and you can see them now up at Rotary Meadow or on the hillside above the Mt. Sutro Native Plant Nursery.
Grindelia (gumweed, gum plant) is a genus of plants native to the Americas belonging to the Asteraceae/Compositae family (commonly known as the aster, daisy or sunflower family). It’s a perennial herb that blooms from July to September. With well over sixty different species, identification can be difficult due to overlapping characteristics and their readiness to hybridize with each other.
There are three species currently growing on Mt. Sutro: Grindelia hirsutula var. maritima (San Francisco Gum Plant), Grindelia hirsutula, andGrindelia stricta. Grindelia hirsutula var. maritima is the rarest of our gumplants, meaning it’s rare throughout its range, endangered in a portion of its range, and endemic to California. The San Francisco Gum Plant grows in sandy or serpentine slopes, and grows to one and one-half feet tall. Other places where this plant can be found are on Twin Peaks, up above the Laguna Honda Reservoir, and in several locations in the Presidio.
The Miwok reportedly made an infusion of pulverized Grindelia leaves and applied it to sores. The Pomo were known to use it as a sedative, antispasmodic, and expectorant. Gum plant was also used to treat poison oak, and even as a tea substitute.