Mule's ear, Wyethia angustifolia, is a sturdy perennial wildflower with large, sunflower-like flowers on 1’ stalks. It grows in many different plant communities, from woodlands to grasslands, and is found in many different parts of California, as well as in other parts of the West. It likes good drainage and full sun, often growing on slopes.
Infrequently offered in the trade, mule's ear goes dormant with the dry time and stays quiescent through the winter, emerging in early spring, sometimes as early as February. Both the flower stalks and the seeds were important indigenous foods.The flower stalks were considered a delicacy before bloom, and the seeds were gathered for pinole.
They have "erratic germination," meaning the seed germinates over a long period of time. Some recommend "cold-stratification," but we keep things simple and just sow it in the fall.Sow in flats and transplant into 4" pots when the true leaves emerge. to accommodate the plant's significant taproot. When the roots have filled the 4" pot, we usually transplant it to a 5-gallon container, where it can grow without constraint, before planting it out in the ground. We use gopher baskets, though they may be unnecessary. Gophers don't seem to be a problem in the wild. Let us know your experience.
In one grassy, hilly area, we noticed a considerable increase in mule's ear patches after controlled burns. It survives even though surrounded by weedy grasses, to gladden our hearts.This winter-dormant, drought-tolerant perennial will be a welcome addition to your meadow of native grasses and wildflowers.