This beautiful, tall, showy, brightly painted-looking wildflower of the daisy family of plants (Asteraceae) can cover several acres with magnificent color on the Western Plains, was first described and introduced to gardeners by the British-born botanists, ornithologist and printer Thomas Nuttall. It became known as Nuttall’s weed or calliopsis.
Today it is also called tickseed, or Goldenwave. The common name tickseed came from someone’s belief that the seeds resembled ticks. It is a highly adaptable native wildflower that successfully made a transition to popular and colorful garden ornamental.
Its bright yellow flowers with mahogany center appear from late spring to early fall. The plant is easy to grow from seeds. Dwarf varieties are less prone to flopping. It is usually an annual but mat return for a second year in certain conditions.2,3
Early pioneers stuffed this plant in their mattresses to repel fleas and bedbugs. The plant was well known to yield a red dye among the White Mountain Apache, Zuni, and Cherokee, and this knowledge was passed to European colonists.
Modern dye experts have produced a wide array of colors such as reddish-brown, rusty red, orange-red, bright orange, gold, yellow, and even green. Both Lakota and Zuni also made a red drink from the plant.
Plant tops were harvested and dried for later use as a tea to “strengthen the blood.” The Zuni made a beverage of the plant, until the introduction of coffee by traders.1
- Other names: Golden tickseed, Common tickseed, Golden-wave
- Synonyms: Coreopsis cardaminefolia
- Family: Asteraceae (daisy family)
- Native to: U.S.
- Matt Warnock Turner – Remarkable Plants of Texas: Uncommon Accounts of Our Common Natives
- Susan H. Munger, Charlotte Staub Thomas – Common To This Country: Botanical Discoveries of Lewis and Clark
- Zoe Merriman Kirkpatrick, Benny J. Simpson, David K Northington – Wildflowers of the Western Plains: A Field Guide