Native Plants for the Intermountain West: Plant List

Arrow-leaf Buckwheat in the Landscape

Stephen Love, University of Idaho

Scientfic Name:  Eriogonum compositum
Common Name:  Arrow-leaf buckwheat

Description:  Arrow-leaf buckwheat is a long-lived perennial with a woody crown and leaves that dessicate in winter. Among wild buckwheats, this species is unusual and unique, with very large, arrowhead-shaped leaves. Leaf color is dark olive-green. Beginning in early June, very large umbels of dark yellow flowers (some varieties have cream-colored flowers) grow on very stout stems and rise a foot or more above the foliage. The flowers remain attractive for up to six weeks. After bloom, the leaves remain attractive and often take on a reddish cast in fall. Arrow-leaf buckwheat is a great subject for a xeric bed or border.

Native Habitat:  Locally common in southwestern Idaho and the dry eastern portions of northern California, Oregon, and Washington. Typically grows on dry, rocky slopes and rock outcrops among scattered clump grasses, forbs, and low shrubs at elevations ranging from 200 to 5,100 feet.

Cultural Requirement

Soil:  Prefers a neutral to alkaline, nutrient-poor, well-drained soil. Tolerates clay soils if not over-watered.

Moisture Tolerance:  Xeric conditions or limited supplemental water under very dry conditions.

Sun/Shade/Preference:  Full sun.

Transplanting:  Seedlings are susceptible to damping-off. Pot-grown seedlings transplant easily when 2-5 inches tall. Larger plants may become more difficult to transplant, and cannot be handled bare-root.

Propagation:  Best from seed. Seed requires no pretreatment or possibly a short period (2 to 3 weeks) of stratification. Difficult from cuttings.

Maintenance (pruning, fertilization, deadheading, division, irrigation, etc):  Plants should be dead-headed after bloom to improve appearance. The plants are otherwise very easy to care for, requiring limited irrigation (one to four times during dry years) and little or no fertilization.

Insect, disease, or other problems:  Arrow-leaf buckwheat has no pests of consequence.

Landscape Value

Use in the Landscape:  Very effective in xeric landscapes when planted with other low-to-medium height plants, or in front of shrubs or taller plants. Contributes well in berms or border plantings. Can be used in either naturalized or formal designs.

Foliage:  Large, leathery, dark olive-green leaves. Leaves grow on condensed branches. Dense mounded form before and after bloom.

Flower:  Dark yellow or light cream color. Individually small flowers are arranged in very large umbels, up to 8 inches across.

Timing:  June, July

Color:  Cream, light to dark yellow.

Fruit:  Inconspicuous achene enclosed in a dried perianth. Each flower produces only one seed.

Form:  Densely mounded leaves with tall, spreading flower stems.

Texture:  Coarse.

Ultimate Size:  In bloom - 12 to 24 inches; out of bloom - 6 to 10 inches. Width is similar to height.

Rate of Growth:  Slow. The plant rarely blooms the first year and progressively gets larger with more profuse bloom over subsequent years.

Suggested Plant Partners:  Small to medium-sized native grasses, penstemon species, small to moderate-sized Artemisia species, and late blooming mint species such as Agastache cana or Salvia pachyphylla.

Availability:  Limited availability as potted plants. Seed can usually be purchased from the Eriogonum Society or from native plant seed suppliers.

Cultivars:  None.


Nicholls, G. 2002. Alpine Plants of North America: An Encyclopedia of Mountain Flowers from the Rockies to Alaska. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Nold, R. 2008. High and Dry: Gardening with Cold Hardy Dryland Plants. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Robson, K.A., Richter, A. and Filbert, M. 2008. Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

USDA Plant Database