Alternative Medicine

Medicinal Herbs and Wildflowers

Humans have seen plants as “useful” from the dawn of time. Aside from our source of food, different cultures have been using plants as remedies for health complaints. Various studies throughout history have proven healing qualities of medicinal plants—from prehistoric rites to modern medicine.

Wild plants and flowering plants now offer about a quarter of the essential chemicals in our modern medicines. This little-known fact makes medicinal plant research even more fascinating today than it has ever been.

The following wildflowers decorate the Visitor Center, Historic Area, and surface trails of Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota. In case you need them, you should know which wildflowers can be used as an alternative medicine. Let’s learn more about the characteristics of these plants and their medicinal properties.

Disclaimer: Some herbs may have not researched enough to scientifically prove their benefits in humans.

Wild Bergamot

The Roof Trail, Canyons Trail, and the historic area’s surface are all covered in this native light purple wildflower. The huge rose to purple colored blossoms stand out amid the other plants and grow in large patches. Flowers bloom at the tips of 1 to 3 foot square stalks with lance-shaped leaves.

Blackeyed Susan

The Black Eyed Susan wildflower may be found all across the Black Hills and is commonly employed in regions prone to erosion, such as hillside and roadside locations. This bright yellow wildflower can reach a height of 1 to 2 feet and has a brown sphere-shaped head about 2 12 inches in diameter. ​

Common Yarrow

The Monument’s common yarrow can be found all throughout, although it’s most widespread in the Historic Area and along the Canyons Trail. The tiny white flowers grow in an umbrella-like cluster that can reach a height of one to three feet. The aroma of herbs permeates the air as the fern-like leaves are crushed. ​


This stunning yellow flower, which was originally from Europe, blooms in disturbed places. This wildflower resembles a big dandelion during the spawning process. Plains Indians used the sticky, milky fluid from the 1 to 3 foot tall stem as a treatment for indigestion, inflammation, sore throats, and fever. ​​


Harebells can be found on the Roof Trail, Canyons Trail, and throughout the Historic Area in small groupings of two or three plants. This tiny wildflower can reach a height of 15 inches, with a bell-shaped blossom in different colors of blue to lavender at the top. ​

Hound’s Tongue

Hound’s Tongue is a dull reddish-purple hazardous plant introduced from Europe and is mostly found in the Monument’s Historic Area. The flowers of this plant bloom along the plant’s coiled stalks, which can grow to be 1 to 4 feet tall. Animals will be poisoned if they eat the bur-like seeds, and the seeds will attach to animals and clothing like Velcro.

Missouri Milkvetch

The leaves of this short-stemmed plant are gray-green to whitish and grow low to the ground. Hairy pointed sepals surround the rose to purple blooms. The seed pods are oblong and swollen, and as they age, they become brown and leathery. ​


In 1903, the Pasqueflower was named the official state flower of South Dakota. The petal-like sepals can open up to 3 inches. The silky hairs on the stem assist to shield this wildflower from the cold spring temperatures.

Prairie Coneflower

Prairie Coneflowers can be found throughout the Canyons and Roof Trails, as well as along Highway 16 as it passes through the Monument. This wildflower can grow up to four feet tall in some cases. The flower head is a cylindrical disk with 10 to 12 bright yellow petals that hang down as they mature.

Purple Coneflower

Purple coneflowers can be seen in abundance along the Canyons Trail, Roof Trail, and throughout the Historic District. The spiked dome-like head with dangling pink-purple petals is attached to a bristly stalk that can reach 1 to 2 feet tall. ​

Rocky Mountain Gayfeather​

This plant’s stunning purple blooms are borne in dense spikes with long wavy bracts. The stem can grow to be 8 to 30 inches tall, with long spear-like leaves covering it. Monarch butterflies and other butterflies are drawn to this unusual Dr. Suess-like flower. ​​

Rocky Mountain Iris​

One of the most rare flowers in the United States is the Rock Mountain Iris. Slender stems, sword-shaped leaves, and huge delicate lavender to purple blooms characterize this attractive wildflower. It makes strong, flexible fibers that are ideal for fishing net cordage, rope, snares, and string.

Stemless Hymenoxys

This wildflower grows amid the rocks along the Roof and Canyons trails, preferring an almost soil-free environment. The Stemless Hymenoxys grows to be less than a foot tall, with a bright yellow blossom emerging from the stemless stalk. ​​

Three-nerve Fleabane​

Fleabanes are prevalent in the Black Hills and prefer to live in open areas. This plant is named after the three conspicuous nerves that run the length of each lance-shaped leaf. 100 to 150 purple or lavender ray florets surround numerous yellow disc florets in each flower head. The flower heads can grow to be over two inches in diameter, creating for a spectacular spectacle. ​ ​

Wooly Verbena

Many types of bees and butterflies visit the Monument because of these lovely purple pencil-like blooms. Wooly Verbena can reach a height of 1 to 4 feet, with purple blooms flowering at the tips of the five spreading lobes. ​

  • Blackeyed Susan
  • Common Yarrow
  • Goatsbeard
  • Harebell
  • Hound's Tongue
  • Missouri Milkvetch
  • Pasqueflower - Alternative Medicine
  • Prairie Coneflower
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Rocky Mountain Gayfeather
  • Rocky Mountain Iris
  • Stemless Hymenoxys - Alternative Medicine
  • Threenerve Fleabane - Alternative Medicine
  • Wooly Verbena

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