Scientific name: Lomatium cous
Facts: This is one of the few plants that have the same scientific name as the common name. Cous (pronounced coush), is found throughout much of the Pacific Northwest, from Washington to Montana, to Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. It is one of the first flowering plants to bloom in early spring, yet it also can be found blooming in July, as the plant continues to grow larger.
In early April, it can be found blooming in open meadows and in sagebrush areas at lower elevations of the Blue Mountains.
The flat-topped clusters of bright yellow tiny flowers are quite small this early in the year, and take a sharp eye to spot down among the grass. For example, the plant in this photo was taken six weeks ago, and the entire plant was only four inches across and about two inches high.
By mid-summer these plants can be well more than a foot tall, with flower clusters several inches broad.
Cous is one of the food plants of American Indian tribes from throughout the region, and is still used for this purpose. The roots were dug in the spring, specially prepared and saved for use later when other food is scarce. Unfortunately, it's not as plentiful as it used to be, due to loss of habitat.
Cous looks almost identical to several other species of Lomatium, making identification difficult without knowing more about what details to look for to separate it from other species. The problem is that many of the other "look-alike" species are toxic, so one should never try eating one just because it might be Cous. It is very likely to be something else.
Where to find them: Throughout the lower to middle elevations of the Blue Mountains. If it looks like the plant in the photo, it might be Cous; or it might not be.