Gaillardia aristata – Gaillardia, Brown Eyed Susan
Gaillardia, Brown Eyed Susan – Gaillardia aristata
Gaillardia = gay-lard-ee-a, after Gailard de Charenton-neau, 18th century French magistrate and botanical patron;
aristata = L. “with a beard, awned”;
Identification: Gaillardia is a perennial herb 30 – 60 cm tall with slender branching rootstocks. The showy flower head has yellow rays, sometimes tinged with red and orange radiating out from the centre. The disc of the flower head is brown, reddish-brown and sometimes even purplish. The leaves are lanceolate.
Distribution & Habitat: This herb is found quite commonly in small clumps on well-drained slopes in the Rocky Mountain Foothills as well as in open grasslands and other dry places.
Preparation & Uses: The Blackfoot Indians found many uses for this plant. An infusion of the root was taken for gastroenteritis. It was rubbed on nursing mothers sore nipples. Saddle sores and falling hair were treated with Gaillardia. The infusion of the root was used as eyedrops, administered in drops. Some Indians would chew the root and apply this to skin disorders. An infusion of the herb parts of this plant was also used as an eyewash and for nosedrops. The flower head was also infused to make a footbath.
To our ancestors, this plant represented the health, earthiness and wholesomeness of the common people. It also represented a gift of liveliness and sunshine from our Mother the Earth.