Savor Sister Jacqueline Soule here today with native plant that is lovely in the landscape, never needs water, and can be used as an herb for cooking. Can it get better than this? Well yes, our native solitary bees use this as a food source in that time when spring wildflowers and cacti are done blooming and not much else is in flower.
Slender poreleaf, also called hierba del venado, odora, (Spanish), xtisil (Seri), bears the scientific name of Porophyllum gracile. If you like word origins you can just look at this scientific name and learn something about the plant. The word gracile has the same root as graceful, poro tells us it has pores, and the one you may not know phyllum refers to leaves, but enough Latin for now.
Slender poreleaf is a member of the Compositae or sunflower family and is good for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes. A native, hardy, blue-green evergreen perennial, it grows 1 to 2 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide. It can take full sun and even reflected sun, and also grows well in part shade. It needs the alkaline desert soils, and does not tolerate over-watering.
First, the taste is somewhere between arugula, cilantro and rue. I like it in salsa. I also crush the dried leaves and add them to hamburger. Careful! A little goes a long way.
The Seri use a tea made from the stems of this native plant as a remedy for colds. Roots are macerated and used to treat toothache. In some Mexican markets fresh and dried material is available for sale. People crumble dried leaves together with salt and rub it on meat for flavor and to help make it last in the absence of refrigeration.
These medicinal uses may have scientific validity since many related species in the Tageteae tribe contain thiophenes, sulfur compounds with proven bactericidal properties, good as cold remedies. The thiophenes may also help preserve the meat while the other secondary compounds flavor the meat.
Slender poreleaf appears to be unpalatable to rabbit, javalina, rodents, and deer. Since it is distasteful to deer it is puzzling why it is called “hierba del venado” which translates as “herb of the deer.” Perhaps because it is found in remote areas where deer roam, or perhaps it is good for field dressing deer meat.
Planting and Care.
You won’t find this delicate fragrant perennial blue green shrub in nurseries, but if you find seed while you are out hiking, bring some back and plant it about a quarter inch deep in an unused corner of your yard. Protect it from seed eating birds, and with a little water and you will be rewarded with a durable desert plant that needs no care and produces lovely white to pinkish flowers with attractive red highlights.
If you are not a hiker, head over to the Pima County Seed Library – online or in any branch library. I donated a bag of seed to them, and smaller packets should be available for check out. All they ask is that you return some seed to them in coming seasons.
Harvesting and Use.
Harvest fresh material of the slender poreleaf as needed for salads and salsas, or harvest and dry for use later.
Porophyllum ruderale is commonly grown throughout the New World and used as a condiment, especially in salsas. Since it is used by many cultures, common names, include Bolivian coriander, quillquiña, yerba porosa, killi, pápalo, tepegua, mampuritu, and pápaloquelite. It needs more water than our native species, and shade in summer, but taste is much the same.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.