Canby’s lomatium (Lomatium canbyi) is named for William Marriott Canby (1831 – 1904), a Delaware businessman and banker who was also an avid botanist and plant collector.
This perennial native has a taproot with prominent globular thickening at the base. The black outer covering of the thickening, when unpeeled, looks wrinkled. The roots are eaten raw or cooked. When dried, Canby’s lomatium roots can be ground and made into a starchy flour. Leonard and I sampled the raw root and found it quite palatable – sweet and starchy. We expected the root to be fibrous, but it surprisingly was not fibrous or tough. The stems and leaves are also edible.
Canby’s lomatium leaves are basal, grey-green and pinnately divided.
The inflorescence is a compound umbel of 5 to 16 rays atop a leafless scape (flower stalk). The scapes range from light colored to dark red or brown. The small, individual flowers are white.
Mature Canby’s lomatium fruits are elliptical to ovate and compressed front to back with thin lateral wings.
Modern herbalists utilize Lomatium species, including canbyi, as expectorants and for respiratory ailments. Many Lomatiums demonstrate antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Self-treatment is not recommended because many members of this genus are highly poisonous and share similar physical characteristics (appearance) necessitating absolute positive identification.
A member of the Carrot Family (Apiaceae), Canby’s lomatium grows in dry, rocky, often steep habitats in association with sagebrush steppe and scrub in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Idaho. It is listed as a rare plant in California because of its limited distribution.
Other common names for L canbyi are Canby’s biscuitroot and chucklusa.
These specimens were photographed in several locations: Cedar Creek Trail near Cedar Pass in the Warner Mountains, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge near Clear Lake and Modoc National Forest Road 40N11 near Adin, all in Modoc County CA.