Chlorogalum pomeridianum

Mary Sue Ittner
Sun, 29 Jun 2003 10:17:39 PDT
Dear All,

John Ingram asked about this plant at a time I was too busy to respond. I 
hoped someone else would field the answer, but I don't think they did. He 
wondered if a plant he had seen with Delphinium cardinale that he thought 
was a green spider plant could have been Chlorogalum pomeridianum. I'm not 
sure what plant he means by a green spider plant (hymenocallis?). John 
could you perhaps give us a scientific name of what you thought it was?

We had a picture of Chlorogalum flowers as a cover for an issue of BULBS 
and offered prizes to people who could identify it. Two Southern California 
people were able to do it. Unfortunately the picture was a scan of a print 
and it didn't enlarge very well at all which made identification even harder.

Chlorogalum pomeridianum is a bulb found on grassy road banks, open 
meadows, and slopes in southern Oregon and California. It has basal 
rosettes of attractive wavy margined leaves that appear late winter and 
widely branched panicles of fragrant starry flowers that bloom in summer on 
stems to 2 1/2 ft. (76 cm.) The flowers open late afternoon, are pollinated 
by night insects, and fade by morning. Flowers appear over a long period. 
All parts of this plant were used by native Americans in a variety of ways 
including using the lather from the crushed bulb for bathing, washing 
clothes, and as a shampoo. From this use comes the common name of this 
plant, Soap Plant.

I've made a page for the wiki and added some pictures taken yesterday of 
plants in my garden. It is hard to take a picture of the flowers since it 
opens so late it is usually in the shade or there isn't much light. Bob put 
cardboard behind it so the camera would focus on the flower but doing that 
means you can't really appreciate how it looks so we'll try again. It is a 
plant I am fond of. I like the leaves and the starry flowers are quite 
charming. I make a point of looking for it in my garden when I know it is 
going to open. I often see the leaves when I am out hiking as it is very 
common here, but the flowers are never open then. I have grown if from seed 
and relocated some to a better part of my garden when it was dormant late 
fall. The bulb is huge in established plants. It seeds itself a bit around 
my garden but is carefree so I usually don't dig all the seedlings out.…

There are other species of Chlorogalum. Two of them are found in other 
parts of the state so I don't think they could be what John saw. Two others 
that are found in Southern California have flowers that open during the 
day. One, C. purpureum, has purple flowers and is found in the 
south-central Coast Ranges. Another C. parviflorum is found on dry coastal 
sage scrub from central and southern California to Baja. It is described in 
Bulbs of North America. For some strange reason the other species are not 
included. There might be pictures on the Jepson Herbarium web page of the 
different species and I understand Calflora is also back online.

I find it quite fascinating that this genus which was another one that was 
included in Liliaceae in The Jepson manual is slated to join Camassia in 
the Agavaceae family.

I hope this helps.

Mary Sue

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