Narrow-leaved Gromwell
Lithospermum incisum Lehm.
Family: Boraginaceae, Borage
Genus: Lithospermum
Other names: narrow-leaved puccoon, Indian turnip
Nomenclature: incisum = deeply cut
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
Medicinal plant

General: perennial with flat, stiff, short hairs, from a stout, woody taproot, 5-30 cm tall.

Leaves: alternate, the lowermost reduced and chaffy or rarely well developed and oblanceolate, the others linear-oblong to narrowly lanceolate or linear, rather numerous, 2-6 cm long and 2-6 mm wide.

Flowers: well-developed, crowded in the uppermost leaf axils, short-stalked. Corolla bright yellow, the narrow tube 15-30 mm long, with more or less evident fornices, the limb abruptly flaring, 1-1.5 cm wide, with evidently irregular, sometimes almost fringed lobes, these flowers long-styled and seldom producing much fruit. Highly fertile, short-styled flowers, fertilized in the bud, commonly developed later in the season farther down on the stem, the plant becoming slenderly much branched. May-July.

Fruits: nutlets, gray, shining, sparsely pitted, 3-3.5 mm long, with prominent inner keel and a prominent collar.


Dry, open plains and foothills, in most parts of MT. Also in much of c. U.S. and adjacent Canada and Mexico, west-ward to UT and s. B.C.
Edible Uses

The root of narrow-leaved gromwell is edible cooked. It is usually eaten boiled or roasted. The root has also been used to make a tea.

Medicinal Uses

The root has been chewed by some native North American Indian tribes as a treatment for colds. The Cheyenne Indians used the finely powdered leaves, root and stem and rubbed them on the body in the treatment of paralyzed limbs. They also chewed the plant and spit it and blew onto the face to keep a very sleepy person awake, or in face or rubbed on chest as a stimulant. The Zuni Indians used a tea of the root in the treatment of stomach aches and kidney problems. They also made a poultice of the root and a decoction of the plant taken for swelling or sore throat. The Navajo ate the plant as an oral contraceptive and chew it for coughs and colds. The Hopi Indians used it as a treatment for lung hemorrhages. A cold tea of the pulverized root and seed has been used by the Navajo as an eyewash. This plant was used as a medicine by various native North American Indian tribes and interest in the plant has revived recently as a possible source of modern drugs.

Other Uses

The dried plant tops was burned by the Blackfoot Indians as a ceremonial incense. A blue dye has been obtained from the roots. The seeds have been used as beads.

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