Broom Snakeweed (Sarothrae)

The Broom Snakeweed (Sarothrae) is generally described as a perennial subshrub or shrub or forb/herb. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Broom Snakeweed (Sarothrae) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Broom Snakeweed (Sarothrae) will reach up to 1.5 foot high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Broom Snakeweed (Sarothrae) is usually not commercially available except under contract. It can be propagated by seed. It has a rapid ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -38°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: Broom snakeweed was used by numerous Native American tribes for a variety of reasons. The Blackfoot use the roots of broom snakeweed in an herbal steam as a treatment for respiratory ailments. The Dakota use a concentrate made from the flowers as a laxative for horses. The Lakota took a decoction of the plant to treat colds, coughs, and dizziness. The Navajo and Ramah Navaho rubbed the ashes of broom snakeweed on their bodies to treat headaches and dizziness. They also chewed the plant and applied it to wounds, snakebites, and areas swollen by insect bites and stings. The Comanche used the stems of broom snakeweed to make brooms for sweeping their residences.

Wildlife: Broom snakeweed is utilized by some large ungulates including mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Broom snakeweed can comprise up to 28% of the pronghorn diet.

General Characteristics

General: Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). Broom snakeweed is a perennial subshrub that ranges from 2 to 10 dm in height. It is native to the U.S. The stems are bushy and branch upwards from the woody base. The non-woody stems range from smooth to having some short hairs. The stems may be resinous and therefore sticky when touched. The leaves are alternate and range from linear to linear and threadlike in shape. The leaves are from 5 to 60 mm long and 1 to 3 mm wide. Dense clusters of flowers form at the ends of the stems. There are 3 to 8 ray florets per cluster and 2 to 6 disk florets per cluster. The flattened part of the ray corolla or ligule is yellow in color and 1 to 3 mm long. The whorl of bracts that is found at the base of the flower cluster is 3 to 6 mm tall and 2 mm across. The bracts are narrow and green in color at the apex and along the midnerve. The achenes have a modified calyx consisting of 8 to 10 acute scales. The acute scales of the ray achenes are about one-half as long as those of the disk achenes.

Required Growing Conditions

For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Broom snakeweed is found in open, dry plains and upland sites. Broom snakeweed is killed by fire. Re-

Cultivation and Care

Broom snakeweed flowers are pollinated by various insects. Regeneration occurs primarily through wind dispersed seeds. Most germination and seedling establishment occurs during the winter and spring. Broom snakeweed seeds are dormant at maturity and require a 4 to 6 month after-ripening period prior to germination. The most successful germination occurs between 59 to 86 (F, at or near soil surface. Broom snakeweed prefers full sun, well-drained soil, and low moisture.

Pests and Potential Problems Grown in its native habitat and using local seed stock, broom snakeweed should not be prone to debilitating pests.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) These materials are readily available from commercial plant sources. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

Control Please contact your local agricultural extension specialist or county weed specialist to learn what works best in your area and how to use it safely. Always read label and safety instructions for each control method. Trade names and control measures appear in this document only to provide specific information. USDA, NRCS does not guarantee or warranty the products and control methods named, and other products may be equally effective.

References Austin, D.D. & P.J. Urness 1983. Overwinter forage selection by mule deer on seeded big sagebrush-grass range. Journal of Wildlife


Weediness This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed.

General Upkeep and Control

HEAN3"In pre-European settlement times, the Hidatsa cultivated sunflowers in the following ways (Wilson 1917): 1) Garden plots were created from wooded and brushy areas in river bottomlands. 2) Brush cleared for planting was spread over the plots and burned, for it was conventional wisdom that burning trees and brush “softened the soil and left it loose and mellow for planting”. Burning also added nutrients to the soil. Before setting fire to the fields, the dry grass, leaves, and brush were removed from the edges of the fields so the fire wouldn’t spread. 3) Plots were allowed to lay fallow, and were taken out of production for two years to let them rejuvenate. 4) Sunflowers were the first seeds planted in the spring. Planting was done using a hoe. Three seeds were planted in a hill, at the depth of the second joint of a woman’s finger. The three seeds were planted together, pressed into the loose soil by a single motion, with the thumb and first two fingers. The hill was heaped up and patted firm. Sunflowers were planted only around the edges of a field. The hills were placed eight or nine paces apart. There were several varieties of sunflowers; black, white, red, and striped colors occurred in the seeds. 5) Seeds were harvested by spreading sunflower heads on the roof to dry. The heads were laid face downward, with the backs to the sun. After the heads had dried for four days, the heads were threshed by laying them on the floor face downwards and beating them as a stick. An average threshing filled a good-sized basket, with enough seed left over to make a small package. 6) Parched sunflower seeds were pounded in the corn mortar to make meal. Sunflower meal was used in a dish called four-vegetables-mixed; it included beans, dried squash, pounded parched sunflower seed, and pounded parched corn. 7) Sunflower seed balls were made of sunflower seed meal. In the olden times, every warrior carried a bag of soft skin with a sunflower-seed ball, wrapped in a piece of buffalo-heart skin. When worn with fatigue or overcome with sleep and weariness, the warrior took out his sunflower-seed ball, and nibbled at it to refresh himself. Each garden plot was “owned” and tended by a woman who cleared it. It was kept cleared of weeds and birds were chased off. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Subshrub, Shrub, Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Contracting Only
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Crown
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 1.5
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Rapid
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -38
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6–8 pH
Precipitation Range 7–7 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Minimum Frost-Free Days 140 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA