By Tom McDonald – Smiling Dog Landscaping

Golden dyssodia [Dyssodia pentachaeta] is a beautiful little perennial that is almost a ground cover because it is so prolific. Acting as a wildflower, it can be sown as seed in the areas you want it in the spring and sometimes can be found in nurseries. These spunky little flowers acknowledge no boundaries and will spread, sometimes into your neighbor’s yard which may or may not be a good thing. Growing less than eight inches, dyssodia has a short life span but reseeds itself so quickly that the new plants replace the dead ones without missing a beat. Spent plants and those trying to make a break for it are easily removed since their root systems are very shallow.

The daisy like yellow flowers look great in rock gardens and bloom spring through summer, ignoring our triple digit summers. The one pictured here is still blooming in mid-November and expect will still be flowering till the first frost. Since there are at least five varieties growing in the Sonoran Desert it is a great flower to attract our very important native bee species.

While Dyssodia is rarely used as a landscape plant, it has a wide variety of medicinal uses. The list of its medicinal uses is quite lengthy and can easily be found online. A wonderful description of its preparation and uses can also be found in Charles Kane’s book, Medicinal Plants of the Desert Southwest. 

Of particular interest, Dyssodia produces camphene, a minor constituent of camphor oil and recent studies have shown that it can have a calming effect on the gut. It can also inhibit the growth of bacterial pathogens. The Navajo considered it ‘red ant medicine’ applying it to stings or taken internally as a decoration to cure stomach pains caused by eating red ants. One tribe even used it as a fish poison to ‘stun’ fish for harvesting and there is some evidence that the seeds were harvested and roasted for consumption.

Red ants are likely not on your holiday menu, but if for some strange reason they are, you might want to keep dyssodia in mind! 

Free classes at Smiling Dog in December include:

  • Garden Walk on December 5th at 9:00 a.m.
  • Irrigation Class on December 12th at 9:00 a.m.

Space is limited. To register for a class contact Smiling Dog Landscapes:

480 288 8749