Yerba Mansa (Californica)

The Yerba Mansa (Californica) is generally described as a perennial forb/herb. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Yerba Mansa (Californica) has green foliage and inconspicuous white flowers, with an abuncance of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until spring. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Yerba Mansa (Californica) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Yerba Mansa (Californica) will reach up to 1.5 foot high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Yerba Mansa (Californica) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed, sprigs. It has a moderate 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 22°F. has none tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: The root of the plant was used as a medicine by many tribes in California, Great Basin, and the Southwest including the Wukchumni Yokuts, Kawaiisu, Paiute, Shoshone, and Pima. Some Native Americans still gather the plant today. The Kawaiisu, for example, boiled the root and a decoction was then drunk hot to alleviate colds and coughing. The Tubatulabal of southern California for colds also took a decoction of the plant. The Kamia of Imperial Valley pulverized the seeds of yerba mansa in the mortar and the meal was then cooked as mush in a pot or baked as bread in hot ashes. The Yokuts pounded up the root and soaked it in water. The water was then drunk for a bad stomach. The Costanoan made a decoction from the root, which was used, for menstrual cramps and for general pain remedy. A tea was used to wash sores and the plant, dried and powdered, was sprinkled on wounds as a disinfectant. The Cahuilla peeled, cut up, squeezed, and boiled the roots into a decoction that was drank as a cure for pleurisy. An infusion was also used as a cure for stomach ulcers, chest congestion, and colds.

The bark was also harvested in autumn and boiled into a deep red-wine color and drank to alleviate

ulcers or applied externally to wash open sores. The Moapa Paiute boiled the leaves in a quantity of water and used it as a bath for muscular pains and for sore feet. The Shoshone mashed the roots and boiled them to make a poultice for swellings, or the decoctions used as an antiseptic wash. A tea from the boiled roots can be taken for stomachache or more commonly as a tonic for general debility following colds. The Pima in the Southwest made an infusion of dried roots which was taken for colds. They also chewed the roots and swallowed them or made a decoction of the roots which was taken for coughs. Spanish settlers in California used the plant as a liniment for skin troubles and as a tea for disorders of the blood.

General Characteristics

General: Lizard’s Tail Family (Saururaceae). This common herbaceous perennial has an aromatic, creeping rhizome, which is thick and woody. The flowers do have not true petals, but rather each flower is subtended by an involucre bract 1-3 cm long that is white, often tinged reddish. There are about one hundred flowers to each conical-shaped flower head. The conical spike is stout, 1-3 cm long and is subtended by 4-8 unequal white petal-like bracts, 1-2 cm long and rounded. The fruit is a capsule. The leaves have a spicy smell and are alternate and simple.

Required Growing Conditions

For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. The plants are found in saline or alkaline soil in damp or wet places in many different plant community types, such as valley grassland, saltgrass flats, and desert fan palm oases. The range of the plant is from the Peninsular Ranges, South Coast Ranges and Mojave Desert of California on the south, and north through the Sacramento, San Joaquin Valleys and San Francisco Bay Area. The plant also inhabits the Channel Islands off the southern California coast. Its range extends into Utah, central Kansas, northcentral Oklahoma, Colorado at the foot of the Front Range, Arizona, northwest New Mexico, and west Texas

Cultivation and Care

This plant is not valued horticulturally, yet its white bracts are quite attractive. This plant is hardy and spreads rapidly, and can become invasive. Start the plant from a fleshy root. Dig up the plants from an already established area and transplant them in the fall or winter. Directly outplant the plants in the ground in full sun, giving them plenty of space. Place the plants one-foot apart. The transplants will fill in quickly, sending 2-3 feet of runners radiating out from each plant. Water the transplants and keep them moist year round. If growing the plants for their roots for medicinal purposes, plant them in a loose soil.

General Upkeep and Control

Weed around the plants periodically. Areas of yerba mansa were burned periodically by the Wukchumni Yokuts to maintain their quality and abundance. ANCA4"Since this grass seldom contributes more than 10 to 15 percent of total herbage on any site, it is seldom selected as a key management species. It maintains itself in the plant composition of grazable woodlands if grazing is deferred every summer and proper grazing is practiced during winter. Under good management, it is one of the first grasses to become established on a range that has been overgrazed. Annual burning reduces stand.

Establishment Growth starts in midJanuary in southern Florida and 30 to 45 days later in northern part of range. Vigorous plants produce leaves 8 to 10 inches long in 30 days. Stems, blades, and sheaths are covered with a white chalky coating that rubs off easily. Seedheads appear in September and early October. Seed ripen in October and November. Chalky bluestem is a good seed producer. Basal leaves stay green during winter unless temperature falls below 20' F. Particularly well adapted to wet acid or neutral sandy soils. Makes maximum growth on seepy slopes. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance None
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 1.5
Vegetative Spread Moderate
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Spring
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed, Sprigs
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature 22
Soil Depth for Roots 6
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 6.5–9 pH
Precipitation Range 6–6 inches/yr
Planting Density 2700–4800 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 6
Minimum Frost-Free Days 280 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Medium
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

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