Thursday, June 30, 2011

wavyleaf soap plant ~ 06/30/11 ~ Fort Ord

Chlorogalum pomeridianum var. pomeridianum

Finally I have some pictures of this plant's flowers. They're only open in the late afternoon through one night (hence pomeridianum from post meridium, aka p.m.), a time of day when we don't usually hike. Shown in the second picture at the base of the green flower stalk are the dried leaves, although I don't think they always dry up by the time this plant blooms. True to the common name, when the rosette leaves are green, they can have a distinctive wavy margin. Also, it's named soap plant for a reason. The best site I've found that talks about its many historical uses is Wayne's Word.

STRONG WORDS OF CAUTION: As Wayne points out, make sure you're positive of the ID before using soap plant. You'd think no one would mistake death camas for soap plant, but many do, including myself in retrospect. I've seen both plants growing within a couple feet of each other (Jack's Peak death camas / soap plant, Wilder Ranch death camas / soap plant, and Rocky Creek death camas), and the leaves can look somewhat similar when the variation and extent of waviness is in question. This can be an issue if you dig up the bulb in winter when only the green leaves are visible. As I was looking up information for this post, I found a couple blogs and professional-looking sites with incorrect photo IDs, e.g., Plants of California, a Guide to Useful, Edible and Medicinal Plants shows death camas flowers, not soap plant! This is why I try to be as diligent as possible when posting IDs, because I know Nature ID gets picked up by search engines. While I do make mistakes, I also do not claim to be an expert, especially on edible or medicinal plants. It basically comes down to being smart about what we read online.

As a last note, I should mention the lush green stuff in the background is poison-oak. Funnily enough one of the reported uses of soap plant is to treat poison-oak rash. While there are many generic "obviously copied from somewhere else" notations of this online, I discovered Plants for a Future actually includes original references.

ps 01/23/12 - For a soap plant recipe, check out the comments on this blog post.


camissonia said...

Good point of caution about distinguishing Soap Plant from Death Camas. I've never seen the two together, but based on your observations they apparently can occur in the same habitat. Nice that you finally got some pictures of the flowers! I've never seen them in bloom, only the wavy-leaved rosettes out here on the Santa Rosa Plateau.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Thanks, Arleen. I started looking back through my pictures based on Wayne's information about soap plant and death camas commonly growing together "in the sage scrub and grasslands of coastal mesas." I'm working on posting pictures as evidence. Plus, the next time I'm at those locations, I'll try to get pictures of the 2 plants in the same frame. They each bloom at different times, so it helps with ID. Based on my own observations around here, Feb-Apr for death camas and Jun-Jul for soap lily.