Species distinguishing characteristics:
- White-woolly foliage
- Clusters of flowers with a yellow center surrounded by papery white bracts
- Leaves at the base wither as the plant matures
- Stalkless stem leaves are less woolly-hairy on upper surface
- Often grow in large patches connected by rhizomes
- Multiple layers of bracts beneath the flowers
- Flower heads composed of many smaller (often tiny) flowers, each of which produces an individual seed
- Flowers may contain disk florets, such as those in the yellow center of a daisy, and/or petal-like ray florets
- Undivided leaves
- Includes the food plants lettuce, artichoke, and endive
Erect, unbranched perennial, up to 90 cm, from rhizomes. Often grows in large patches.
Leaves and stems:
Foliage covered with white-woolly hairs giving the plant an overall greyish-green appearance. Stems usually unbranched. Leaves at the base wither as the plant matures. Alternate leaves, 2-15 cm long and 0.5-2 cm wide, are attached directly to the stem (stalkless). Leaves are linear, taper to a point, have a conspicuous mid-vein, and are less woolly-hairy on the upper surface. Leaf margins are often rolled underneath.
Flower heads, 8-10 mm across, in a dense flat- to round-topped cluster at tops of stems. Globe-shaped flower heads are composed of an inconspicuous center of small yellow (to brownish at maturity) disk flowers surrounded by overlapping rows of pearly-white papery bracts. Flowers bloom in mid-summer and can stay intact until the first snow.
Extensive woody rhizomes.
Hard-coated seeds, about 1 mm long, with small rounded bumps on the surface and a tuft of short, white hair at the tip.
Open forests, meadows, rocky slopes, and moderately disturbed areas such as roadsides and logged, burned, or flooded areas at low to subalpine elevations.
The flowers are everlasting when picked for dried flower arrangements. The whole plant yields yellow, green, or brown dyes. Medicinally, as a tea, pearly everlasting leaves and flowers have been used to treat mild allergies and swollen mucous membranes in the throat and stomach. Externally, it can be applied to the skin as a soothing poultice for moderate burns and sunburn. Many tribal groups smoked the woolliest leaves as a treatment for headaches, throat problems, and lung problems. The Cheyenne, and possibly the Blackfoot people, sprinkled powder made from dried flowers on horse’s hooves and between its ears to improve the horse’s endurance.