Large-fruited Lomatium

Large-fruited Lomatium © CBowker

Bigseed Biscuitroot, Desert Parsley
Lomatium macrocarpum

Description (Jepson,

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Carrot Family (Apiaceae)
  • Herbaceous perennial
    • Grows from an enlarged taproot (primary vertical root)
  • Leaves
    • Compound (divided into leaflets), heavily dissected, appearing feathery
    • Arising from the plant base (basal)
    • Leaf segments are flat, like flat parsley
    • Leaf midvein is flat
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a double umbel
      • An umbel is a spoke-like flower cluster with stalks radiating from a single point
      • A double umbel is two-tiered, like an umbrella of umbrellas
    • Light yellow flowers, each with 5 tiny, incurved petals
    • Leaf-like structures (bractlets) at the base of the secondary umbels have pointed tips and are clustered to one side
    • Flower stalks are thick and up to 12 in. long
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a flattened, round or oval schizocarp (a dry fruit that splits open into 2 single-seeded segments) with wings (extensions)
    • Wings usually narrower than the body
  • Height to 20 in.


  • Native to California
    • Grows generally in serpentine soils on rocky slopes in chaparral or woodlands
    • 65-74% of plants occur on ultramafic soils, e.g.serpentine; see ultramafic affinity rankings (Calflora per Safford and Miller 2020)
    • See Serpentine Grassland for more about Edgewood’s serpentine soil and the unique communities it supports
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, found from British Columbia and central Canada, to North Dakota and Utah
  • Grows at elevations between 490 and 10,000 ft.

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Wildlife
    • Larval food source (host) for the anise swallowtail butterfly (Papilio zelicaon)
    • Nectar source for Bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis)
    • Other pollinators include spiders, beetles, flies, and bees
  • Native people
    • Roots eaten raw, baked, or dried for later consumption; thus the common name biscuitroot
    • Tender leaves and stems eaten as greens
    • Roots chewed for sore throat or an infusion of roots made to treat respiratory illnesses
    • Leaves used as padding, especially in baby cradles as a sleeping aid
    • See Carrot Family for more details about how Native people actively managed edible geophytes
Fruit © KKorbholz

Name Derivation

  • Lomatium (lo-May-shum) from the Greek loma, “bordered,” referring to the marginal fruit wings
  • macrocarpum (mak-ro-KAR-pum) – from the Greek makros, “large,” and karpos, “fruit,” meaning large fruits or seed pods


  • Wings on fruit enable wind dispersal of seeds
  • Highly-speciated genus, with about 40 species in California (Ritter 2018 and Darrach 2016)
  • Approximately 40% of Lomatium species are narrow endemics (restricted to a specific geographic location)
    • Strongly habitat specific
    • Resist hybridization
  • Geophytes (e.g. plants growing from bulbs, corms, rhizomes, or enlarged taproots) are well adapted to survive fire, our Mediterranean climate’s long, dry summers, and extended droughts
    • Above-ground growth dies back after flowering, while underground the plant survives with stored water and nutrients
  • Lomatiums are generally long-lived, some living more than 100 years (Darrach 2016)

ID Tips

  • May be confused with woolly-fruited lomatium (L. dasycarpum ssp. dasycarpum), which also grows in serpentine grasslands and chaparral
Large-fruited LomatiumWooly-fruited Lomatium
Hairinessless hairy, with hairless petals and nearly hairless fruitsusually more hairy, with hairy petals and fruits, although some at Edgewood are glabrous (smooth, lacking hairs)
Leaf Segmentsflat, like flat parsleyterete (round in cross section), like pudgy fingers
Leaf Midveinflatindented
Flower Colorlight yellowwhitish-green to highlighter yellow
Bractlets1narrowly ovate, with less venationbroadly ovate, with more venation
Wings2 on Fruitusually narrower than the bodyusually wider than the body
1 Modified leaves at base of flower clusters
2 Extensions
  • Edgewood has 5 Lomatiums: caraway-leaved lomatium (L. cauifolium var. caruifolium), woolly-fruited lomatium (L. dasycarpum ssp. dasycarpum), large-fruited lomatium (L. macrocarpum), common lomatium (L. utriculatum), and California lomatium (L californicum).
    • Distinguishing them from each other and even from some Sanicle species can be challenging
    • Take note of the habitat, shape and presence of bractlets, color of foliage and flowers, fruit size and shape, presence or absence of leaf sheathing, and the presence or absence of fragrant leaves

At Edgewood

See General References

Specific References

Alexander, E.B. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine soils and why they limit plant survival and growth. Fremontia 38/39: 28-31.

Anderson, M.K. 2005. Tending the Wild. University of California, Berkeley.

Darrach, M.E. 2016. Lomatium – A Misunderstood Genus: New Taxonomic Understanding And Persistent Confusions and Contusions Regarding Circumscribing Lomatium. Slide presentation. WA-Botanical Symposium, University of Washington Botanic Gardens.

Ritter, M. 2018. California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora. Pacific Street Publishing, San Luis Obispo, California.

Safford, H.D. and J.E.D. Miller. 2020. An updated database of serpentine endemism in the California flora. Madroño 67(2): 85-104. BioOne Complete. PDF hosted by San Diego State University, San Diego, California.

Shapiro, A.M. and T.D. Manolis. 2007. Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.