Plant Profile – Episode 2 – Pratten’s Buckwheat
Eriogonum prattenianum var. prattenianum, commonly called Pratten’s Buckwheat or Nevada City Buckwheat, is a native shrub that grows in open areas comprised of weathered volcanic soils, known as lava caps. The type locality, the individual plant selected to showcase the diagnostic characteristics of this species compared with other native Buckwheats, was collected in 1851 in Nevada City.
Pratten’s Buckwheat grows as a low shrub on a woody stem, with leaves of a bluish-green color, tomentose (densely covered with short matted woolly hairs) on both sides. It gives rise to tall flower stalks that have a reddish hue at first, soon fading to pale yellow.
It is one of the showier denizens of the lava cap at Hell’s Half Acre in Grass Valley, blooming in early summer when most of the area’s wildflowers have already gone dormant. It appears in similar habitats existing in pockets all along the Yellow Pine belt of the central Sierra foothills.
Another variety of this species, var. avium, grows in the southern Sierra and differs by having only the top side of the leaf being tomentose, with the underside only sparsely hairy. This variety is ranked by CNPS as Rare rank 4.2.