General: strong perennial with a branching crown and short thick rhizomes. Flowering stems 15-50 cm tall, with soft or stiff glandular hairs above, sometimes hairless below, naked or with 1-3 brownish (and membranous) to greenish, simple or 3-lobed bracts.
Leaves: basal, long-stalked, the blades ovate to cordate, mostly 1-6 cm broad, usually longer than broad, with 5-7 rounded lobes, from hairless to copiously glandular with soft or stiff hairs.
Flowers: many in a spike, 3-12 cm long. Petals linear and much shorter than the calyx lobes, sometimes 5, but usually fewer, often lacking. Calyx cream-colored , 6-8 mm long at flowering, up to 10 mm long shortly afterward, tubular to narrowly bell-shaped, the 5 sepals erect, blunt-tipped. Stamens shorter than the calyx lobes, the anthers mostly 1-1.3 mm long. Ovary tapered above to conical, stylar beaks and very short true styles 0.1-0.5 mm long.
Fruits: capsules 6-10 mm long. Seeds dark brown, 0.6-0.9 mm long, oblong-ellipsoid, longitudinally with slender, straight to curved, conical spines.
Rocky soil, cliffs, and shaded talus slopes, montane to alpine zone, in w. and c. parts of MT. Also from B.C. and Alberta to n.e. CA, n.w. WY and n. NV.
The leaves of round-leaved alumroot are edible cooked.
The whole plant, but especially the roots, has agents that cause tissue to contract. The Blackfoot used a decoction of roots used for diarrhea. They also made a decoction of roots used as an astringent. The Flathead used roots infused or chewed for diarrhea and stomach cramps. The Kutenai Indians made a decoction of roots taken for tuberculosis. The Okanagan-Colville Indians used a poultice of mashed, peeled roots applied to sores and cuts. They also mixed roots with puffball spores and used as a salve for diaper rash. A decoction of roots were used, especially for children & babies, to rinse out the mouth for sore throats, and fresh roots were held in the mouth and sucked for sore throats. The Shuswap Indians made a decoction of leaves and roots taken for diarrhea. The Thompson Indians chewed leaves and roots and spat it on sores or wounds. They also made a tea of root taken for sore throats and liver trouble. Small, peeled, cleaned root pieces were chewed for mouth sores and gum boils. The Cheyenne Indians made a tea of roots taken or powdered roots rubbed on the skin for rheumatism. They also powdered roots and rubbed it on the skin, and made a tea of powdered plant tops for the same purpose. A poultice of powdered roots was applied for poison ivy and other skin rashes. The Blackfoot made a tea of roots used as an eyewash.
The root can be used as an alum substitute, this is a mordant that is used in fixing dyes. The root is rich in tannin and it has been suggested that this is the mordant. The plant can also be used as a good ground cover plant for the woodland garden. Plants should be spaced about 30 cm apart each way.
var. alpina Wats.: Leaves and lower portion of the stems finely glandular-hairy (but varying to stiff-hairy), the blades thick, mostly 1-2.5 cm broad and slightly longer, usually rounded and somewhat tapered at base, not conspicuously cordate.
var. cylindrica Dougl. ex Hook.: Leaf blades frequently over 2.5 cm broad, usually conspicuously cordate at base. Lower part of the stems and the leaf stalks glandular with soft to stiff hairs. Bracts of the stems rather conspicuous in many cases. The common phase of the species.
var. glabella (T. & G.) Wheelock: Leaf blades frequently over 2.5 cm broad, usually conspicuously cordate at base. Lower part of the stems and the leaves, at least the leaf stalks, hairless or sparsely glandular-short-hairy.
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