Herb: Flannel Flower

Latin name: Fremontodendron californicum

Synonyms: Chiranthodendron californicum, Fremontia californica

Family: Sterculiaceae (Cacao Family)

Medicinal use of Flannel Flower:

The inner bark is used as a poultice. One report says that the bark has similar properties to Ulmus rubra (Slippery Elm Bark). These properties are as follows:- Slippery elm bark is a widely used herbal remedy and is considered to be one of the most valuable of remedies in herbal practice. In particular, it is a gentle and effective remedy for irritated states of the mucous membranes of the chest, urinary tubules, stomach and intestines. The inner bark contains large quantities of a sticky slime that can be dried to a powder or made into a liquid. The inner bark is harvested in the spring from the main trunk and from larger branches, it is then dried and powdered for use as required. Ten year old bark is said to be best. Fine grades of the powder are best for internal use, coarse grades are better suited to poultices. The plant is also part of a North American formula called essiac which is a popular treatment for cancer. Its effectiveness has never been reliably proven or disproven since controlled studies have not been carried out. The other herbs included in the formula are Arctium lappa, Rumex acetosella and Rheum palmatum. The inner bark is demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, nutritive. It has a soothing and healing effect on all parts of the body that it comes into contact with and is used in the treatment of sore throats, indigestion, digestive irritation, stomach ulcers etc. It used to be frequently used as a food that was a nutritive tonic for the old, young and convalescents. It was also applied externally to fresh wounds, burns and scalds. The bark has been used as an antioxidant to prevent fats going rancid. The whole bark, including the outer bark, has been used as a mechanical irritant to abort foetuses. Its use became so widespread that it is now banned in several countries.

Description of the plant:


6 m
(20 feet)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Dry, mostly granitic slopes, 900 - 1800 metres in California. It thrives on poor dry rocky soils of the foothills, where it often forms dense thickets.

Other uses of Flannel Flower:

The bark can be made into cordage then used in making nets etc. Wood - fine-grained, hard to soft, heavy. It is not used commercially due to the small size of the tree.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - pre-soak for 48 hours in warm water and then sow singly in pots in a cold frame in late winter. Variable germination. Grow the young plants on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in sandy soil in a frame. Cuttings of greenwood in spring in a frame.

Cultivation of Flannel Flower:

Dry, mostly granitic slopes, 900 - 1800 metres in California. It thrives on poor dry rocky soils of the foothills, where it often forms dense thickets.

Known hazards of Fremontodendron californicum:

The stem is clothed with brown hairs which rub off easily and can be a severe irritant. When pruning it is best to wear a mask. The eyes can be badly affected.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.