“Soaproot”: thumb-width, wavy, sword-shaped leaves w/ linear veins & smooth edges: {Chlorogalum pomeridianum}

Soaproot {Chlorogalum pomeridianum}

Each of these soaproot bulbs (roots) are about the size of a rattle.

 Location Summary

Habitat: Grows on sharp hillsides in both dry & moist soils throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains & along coastal ranges throughout west coast.

Range: They are endemic to western North America, from Oregon to Baja California, and are mostly found in California.

Identification Characteristics

 CAUTION: This plant should not be confused with Death Camus, which has cream-coloured flowers rather than blue flowers like this plant!  Death Camus also has no hair on its root!  The leaves lay flatter to the ground & are wavy unlike the wild iris.

  The leaves grow close to the ground & are wavy, unlike the wild native Iris.
The leaves are long & are about the width of a thumb, looking much like the leaves of an iris, except that they are wavy & grow closer to the ground.
Soaproots 2 raw roots2
The bulb-shaped root is covered in brown fibrous hairs & can be peeled off easily.



Traditional Food, Utility, & Medicinal Uses 


Food: The young leaves can be used raw in salads. The root can be baked in oak coals (see keyhole lay) about 20-30 minutes until soft like a baked potato, & it tastes rather like a peanut. Crushing several roots & tossing them into stream will temporarily stun fish (removal of oxygen from the water) so that they float to the top of the water.

Utility: As the name indicates, the roots make excellent soap. Simply remove the fibers, crush the root, add water, & rub vigorously until plenty of suds appear & you’ve got soap that also makes great shampoo! For use as glue or an ingredient in glue-making, crush the bulb & let juice dry. The fibrous hairs around the bulb can be used to make hair brushes, paint brushes, hand brooms for dusting, etc etc etc

Medicinal: The soap can be used to wash off the oil from poison oak or ivy from the skin, & the juice can also help for the rash to heal.

Lonewolf says: “I’ve washed my clothes & hair with this many times. I like twisting up some nettle or milkweed cordage & making soap on a rope!

Soaproot washing BEST
The fibrous hairs can be used as a brush to clean a rock surface, & the bulb can be crushed & rubbed vigorously to make odorless soap! Just 2 of this plant’s many uses.

Positive-Impact Harvesting Techniques

In some places, where Soaproots are very abundant, they are considered an under harvested species.  Where they are sparse, they should always have their seeds planted & only be harvested sporadically.  They are much easier to harvest while the ground it wet– otherwise they can put up quite a fight!

   This video excerpt is fromThe Forgotten Abundance of America’s Wildlands w/ Richard Lonewolf available on both www.WildWillpower.org & www.RichardLonewolf.com— all proceeds benefit the growth of this website & smartphone app & we really appreciate your support!

Bibliography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soaproot, Richard Lonewolf

Photos & Database Entry: Distance Everheart 5-14-13, 7-31-13, 1-1-14

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *