Chlorogalum pomeridianum

By Casey dos Santos Allen

Chlorogalum pomeridianum or Wavy-leaf Soap-root is a perennial about 1 foot tall with leaves growing from a bulb . The wavy leaves are feeding a bulb root that has good cleaning qualities and was used by some Native Americans and early settlers for washing and bathing. It was also eaten and used medicinally, often prepared as a poultice or decoction. The medicinal preparations were used for a range of purposes:  antiseptic, treatment for rheumatism and stomachache, and as a diuretic and laxative.

The Soap-root has a flower spike with many flowers that bloom in succession. The flowers are white and open in the late afternoon/evening which is when moths and other evening flying insects are out pollinating. Each flower opens for one evening only so there is a short window for pollination. Chlorogalum p. is very common in the Bay Area and occurs throughout most of California. It blooms May through August.