Lomatium dissectum is in the family Apiaceae. A gardener would recognize its umbel-shaped flowers as similar to those of carrots, parsley, dill, and celery. And of course, there are many other non-edible species in this botanical family. Lomatium dissectum has basal leaves which are finely divided, much like those of a carrot plant. Its flowers may be red or yellow, and stand 2 to 3 feet tall. This plant is a perennial, and we do not know how old a plant must be to develop these large roots which are 3 to 6 inches in diameter and up to 2 ft long.
It grows in the semi-arid climates of the Great Basin and Northwest, particularly on steep rocky hillsides where there is little competition from other species. While it seems to grow more prolifically in volcanic soils, it is also found in decomposed granite.
CULTIVATION & HARVESTING:
Lomatium dissectum plants make approximately 900 seeds per flower umbel each year, with several umbels per plant. The seed has a reputation as being difficult to germinate. Yet recent work has yielded up to 80% germination with fall sowing in situ, under mulch, for spring germination. In an average rainfall year, adequate moisture during the winter and spring is available for seed germination. The seedling does not tolerate transplanting. (*1)
While Lomatium in commerce is almost exclusively wildcrafted, we are working with organic herb growers who are able to put some acreage in very long term plantings. Their 4-year-old plants are still a long way from being harvestable. The plant’s adaptation to semi-arid growing regions includes summer dormancy when soil moisture is normally inadequate for plant growth. Even when in cultivation with irrigation, this summer dormancy programming is maintained. Thus plants grow slowly from year to year.
There is an appropriate concern about over-harvesting any medicinal herb which is primarily obtained by wildcrafting. It is not considered endangered at the moment, although it is being closely watched. We are therefore very careful to purchase our Lomatium dissectum root extract from a single supplier whose harvesting methods are respectful to the native habitat. Sometimes traveling to remote areas, we take take only a small percentage of the plant from any particular area, so that their harvesting makes the least possible impact, aiming for sustainability of the wild growing areas. (*2)
*Note: Cultivation method above was discontinued due to poor long term results, so now we only carry wildcraft.
IDENTIFYING THE PLANT IN THE WILD:
There are many plants in the Apiaceae family, and some of them are poisonous. For this reason, we do not recommend harvesting your own supply of this plant medicine. The plants which are harvested for our use have been identified by a professional botanist. (*3)
Click here to view Plant Photos.
These are large images and may take a minute to download.
*1 reference personal communication D. Lemaire, 1999.
*2 reference personal communication: (BK)
*3 reference personal communication: (DL) Staff botanist at the herbarium at U.C. Berkeley.