lomatiumnudicauleCommon name: biscuit root

Scientific name: Lomatium nudicaule

Native American names: Cous (Salish), Gathmin (Coastal)

Plant family: Apiaceae

Description: Lomatium nudicaule is a perennial dicot but is usually more robust than L. utriculatum, as it ranges from 20-90cm. The leaves are mostly basal and can be either lobed or divided. The flowers are yellow but occasionally purple and are grouped into small compact heads, and the fruits, like those of L. utriculatum, are oblong to elliptic with broad wings and distinct ribs and range from 7-15mm long.

Habitat and range: L. nudicaule lives in open sunny meadows with well-drained clay soil at low elevations, and it may be found along the coast ranges of California to British Columbia and west of the Sierra-Cascade crest and extends into Nevada, Idaho, and Utah.

Contemporary and historical uses: Young leaves and stalks of L. nudicaule were an important springtime vegetable of the Nlaka’pamux, Lillooet, Shuswap, and possibly Okanagan who were all native to southern British Columbia.[1] These tribes gathered the leaves and shoots before the plants flowered (usually in April and May) and then ate these greens raw or cooked as a potherb. The stems were particularly valuable for their high vitamin C content. Leaves and shoots continue to be used and are sometimes frozen, jarred, or dried for storage. Leaves were, and still are, used as flavoring for tea, soups, stews, fish, meat, and smoking tobacco.[1]

Lomatium nudicaule plants are valued for their medicinal properties found in the seeds, roots, and leaves. Among the Salish, a poultice was made from the roots, bark, fruit, or leaves of L. nudicaule to treat bruises, cuts, and boils. Much like the roots, the seed of both plants has historically been used to treat colds, headaches, and stomach problems. Tribes such as the Saanich, Songish, and Cowichan (all native to southwestern British Columbia or Vancouver Island) soak and boil the seeds to make tea that may help soothe sore throats and colds.[2]

[1] Kuhnlein, Harriet V., Nancy Turner. 1991. Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian Indigenous Peoples: Nutrition, Botany, and Use. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Overseas Publishers Association.

[2] Turner, Nancy, Marcus A. M. Bell. 1971. The Ethnobotany of the Coast Salish Indians of Vancouver Island. Economic Botany. 25(1): 63-104.