Large-fruited Lomatium

Large-fruited Lomatium © TCorelli

Bigseed Biscuitroot, Desert Parsley
Lomatium macrocarpum

Description (Jepson,

    • Eudicotyledon
      • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Carrot / Parsley Family (Apiaceae)
    • Herbaceous perennial
      • Grows from a taproot (primary vertical root)
    • Leaves
      • Compound (divided into leaflets), heavily dissected, appearing feathery
      • Clustered near the plant base
      • Gray-green and usually densely hairy
    • 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
      • Flower stalks are thick and up to 12 in. long
      • Leaf-like structures (bractlets) at the base of the secondary umbels have pointed tips and cluster to one side
      • Bright yellow to cream flowers, each with 5 tiny petals
      • 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 extensions (wings)
    • Height to 20 in.


      • Native to California
        • Grows generally in serpentine soil 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)

        • Larval plant for the anise swallowtail butterfly (Papilio zelicaon)
        • Adult Bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis) frequents the flower for nectar
        • Other pollinators, including spiders, beetles, flies, and bees, also frequent this plant
        • Native people had several uses for large-fruited lomatium
          • Roots eaten raw, baked, or dried for later consumption; thus the common name biscuitroot
          • Tender leaves and stems were 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
        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 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)
            • Native people actively managed large-fruited lomatium and other edible geophytes (Anderson 2005)
              • Hardwood sticks were used for digging
              • Some plants were spared to allow future crops
              • Root fragments were left in the ground to regenerate
              • Areas were burned to decrease competition and recycle nutrients

            ID Tips

              • May be confused with woolly-fruited lomatium (L. dasycarpum), which also grows in serpentine grasslands and chaparral
                • Large-fruited lomatium
                  • Less hairy overall, with bright yellow to cream, hairless petals and nearly hairless fruits
                • Woolly-fruited lomatium
                  • More hairy overall, with greenish-white, hairy petals and hairy fruits
              • Identifying the 5 species of Lomatium at Edgewood and even distinguishing them 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
              Large-fruited Lomatium (L), Woolly-fruited Lomatium (R) © DSchiel

              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, vol. 38:4/39:1, pp. 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 Miller, J.E.D. 2020. An Updated Database of Serpentine Endemism in the California Flora. Madroño, 67(2), pp. 85-104.

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