Fernleaf Biscuitroot– Lomatium dissectum

Overall At-Risk Score: 50

Latin Name:

Lomatium dissectum

Common Name:

Biscuitroot; Desert Parsley, Fernleaf Biscuitroot, Giant Lomatium, Toza, Wild Carrot.

Family:

Apiaceae (known as the Carrot, Celery, Parsley, or Umbellifer family)

Lifespan:

Perennial; very long-lived

Reproduction:

Flowers in April/May with a large umbell of small yellow-white flowers, each flower becoming a flat, ovate seed that carries itself through the wind.

Geographic Region:

Biscuitroot is found in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, and Washington. It’s also found in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan.

Habitat:

Usually found living amongst sagebrush and pinyon-juniper woodlands in the high deserts of the western United States, Biscuitroot is well adapted to many soil compositions, and is drought tolerant due to its large taproot.

Ability to Withstand Disturbance and Overharvest:

Having a large woody, carrot-like taproot allows this plant to handle browsing and fire with a great chance of returning the next year. Overharvesting may be an issue in small pockets of L. dissectum’s range, but overall, there is no evidence to suggest wild harvest impacting populations in a significant way.

Status of Endangered/Threatened (by state):

There are no specific state or federal laws currently in place for Lomatium dissectum.

Lomatium dissectum has not yet been evaluated by the IUCN Red List.

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

The root of Lomatium dissectum is considered to be one of the most commonly used plants in Native American society, dating back centuries. It served as a bit of a general cure for common ailments, but it was used most frequently to aid in the healing of small wounds and to cure respiratory issues. It was also historically used to combat the influenza outbreak of 1917, a practice that is still relatively common to alternative medicine practitioners today.

Vulnerability of Habitat/Changes of Habitat Quality and Availability:

Due to L. dissectum’s rocky, high desert habitat, there are not many extreme threats to the plant’s large habitat range or quality. Although, extended drought and increasing fire frequency may have long term effects not yet seen.

Wild Harvesting Impact On Other Species:

Gophers often rely on L. dissectum as a food source, so the removal of a population of this plant could lead to a decrease in gopher populations in that area. It is also a key plant for bees, early spring pollinators, and other insects in the region.

Recommendations for Industrial and Home Use:

As always, we suggest you source from sustainably cultivated sources, support people in the agroforestry business, and talk to your doctor before taking anything to make sure it does not react poorly with preexisting conditions or medications. This plant may not yet be at great risk of commercial exploitation in the wild, but this could quickly change with a small tilt in the herb markets.

Citations

  • Bradford C VanWagenen, Jennifer Huddleston, and John H Cardellina II. J. Nat. Prod.1988. 51 (1), pp 136–14.1
  • Marshall, K. D., & Thornton, S. L. (2018). Worse than the Disease? The Rash of Lomatium Dissectum. Kansas journal of medicine, 11(2), 1–6.
  • Moerman, D.E. 1998. Native American Ethnobotany. Timber Press. 927 p.
    Native American Food and Medicinal Plants, 8. Water-Soluble Constituents of Lomatium dissectum.
  • Thompson, J. N. (1998). COPING WITH MULTIPLE ENEMIES: 10 YEARS OF ATTACK ON LOMATIUM DISSECTUM PLANTS. Ecology, 79: 2550-2554. doi:10.1890/0012-9658(1998)079[2550:CWMEYO]2.0.CO;2
  • Tilley, D., St. John, L. Ogle, D., Shaw, N., and J. Cane. 2010. Plant guide for fernleaf biscuitroot (Lomatium dissectum). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Idaho Plant Materials Center. Aberdeen, ID.
  • USDA. (n.d.). Plants Profile for Lomatium dissectum (fernleaf biscuitroot). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=lodi