Biscuitroot; Fern Leaf Biscuitroot, Desert Parsley, Giant lomatium
Apiaceae (Celery family)
Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Washington; also in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan in Canada
Found in the high deserts of the western United States and common living amongst sagebrush and pinyon-juniper communities. This perennial forb is well adapted to many soil compositions and is drought tolerant due to its large taproot.
Perennial; very long lived
Flowers in April/May with a large umbel of small yellow-white flowers, each flowering becoming a flat, ovate seed that carries itself through the wind.
Ability to withstand disturbance and over harvest:
Having a large woody, carrot-like taproot allows this plant to handle browsing and fire with a great chance of returning the next year. Over harvesting may be an issue in small pockets of L. dissectum’s range, but overall there is no evidence of wild harvest affecting populations in a significant way.
Status of Endangered/Threatened (by state):
Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:
The root has been used for centuries by the plethora of Native tribes that occupied this plant’s range. It was used to remedy many digestive issues.
Vulnerability of habitat/changes of habitat quality and availability:
Due to L. dissectum’s rocky high desert habitat, there are not any extreme threats to its large habitat range or quality. Although, extended drought and increasing fire frequency may have long term effects not yet seen.
Demand and Relative Acreage Needed to Meet Demand:
Wild Harvesting Impact On Other Species:
Gophers often rely on L. dissectum as a food source, so removal of a population of this plant could lead to a decrease in gopher populations in that area.
Recommendations for industrial and home use:
As always, we suggest you source your medicines from sustainably cultivated sources and support agroforesters. This plant may not yet be at a great risk of commercial exploitation in the wild, but this could quickly change with a small tilt in the wild-herb markets.
- Bradford C VanWagenen, Jennifer Huddleston, and John H Cardellina II. Native American Food and Medicinal Plants, 8. Water-Soluble Constituents of Lomatium dissectum. J. Nat. Prod., 1988, 51 (1), pp 136–141.
- 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.