Desert parsley (Lomatium utriculatum) is a native perennial that adds a bright splash of color to the spring and early summer landscape. Desert parsley can be found in dry ground in the more arid portions of the Pacific Coast States and British Columbia. Spring gold, fine-leaved desert parsley, biscuitroot, and foothill lomatium are a few of the other common names of this member of the carrot/parsley family.
The hollow desert parsley stems grow from a long, slender taproot. The leaves are divided into linear segments. Some leaves are basal while most are located along the stem and are sheathed along the base. The bright yellow desert parsley flowers are composed of five petals. Several to many flowers compose compact heads which aggregate into umbels (flat-topped inflorescence derived from a common point). The fruit is a flattened and broadly winged seed. Lomatium species often hybridize with each other and this can make identification difficult.
The green stems and leaves are edible in the spring before they mature and become fibrous and tough. A passable, if sometimes resinous, tea can be made from the stems, roots and flowers. Eaten raw or cooked the root resembles a “wild” carrot. The taproot, when dried, and the seeds, when dried and roasted, can be ground into a flour. Since baking with desert parsley flour usually results in a resinous and hard product, the results are probably not worth the effort in my opinion.
Although Native Americans chewed desert parsley for headaches and stomach complaints, desert parsley is not generally considered medicinal.
Desert parsley can show some of the same characteristics as its toxic cousins in the parsley/carrot family. Therefore before ingesting desert parsley be certain of its identity.
The genus name, Lomatium, derives from the Latin “loma” which means “border” and refers to the wings on the fruits.
These desert parsley plants were photographed in our north pasture (Modoc County CA).