Soaproot – thumb-width, wavy, lanceolate leaves w/ parallel veins & smooth leaf edges


“Soaproot” {Chlorogalum pomeridianum}:

 Location Summary:

Habitat – Grows on sharp hillsides in both dry & moist soils throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains & along coastal ranges throughout west coast.  Wavy-leafed soap plant grows on rock bluffs, grasslandschaparral, and in open woodlands.

Range – They are endemic to western North America, from Oregon to Baja California, and are mostly found in California. [1]

Identification Characteristics:

 Warning!  This plant should not be confused with Death Camuswhich has cream-coloured flowers rather than blue flowers like this plant!  Death Camus also has no hair on its root!  The leaves lay flatter to the ground & are wavy unlike the wild iris.  

    Each of these soaproot bulbs (roots) are about the size of a rattle.

     Bulbous roots once the fibrous material has been removed:


Historical Edible, Medicinal, & Utility Uses:

Food – The young leaves can be used raw in salads. The root can be baked in oak coals (see keyhole lay) about 20-30 minutes until soft like a baked potato, & it tastes rather like a peanut. Crushing several roots & tossing them into stream will temporarily stun fish (temporarily removal of oxygen from the water) so that they float to the top of the water.

Medicinal – The soap can be used to wash off the oil from poison oak or ivy from the skin, & the juice can also help for the rash to heal.

Utility – As the name indicates, the roots make excellent soap.  Simply remove the fibers, crush the root, add water, & rub vigorously until plenty of suds appear & you’ve got soap that also makes great shampoo!  For use as glue or an ingredient in glue-making, crush the bulb & let juice dry. The fibrous hairs around the bulb can be used to make hair brushes, paint brushes, hand brooms for dusting, etc.

Excerpt from The Forgotten Abundance of America’s Wildlands by Richard Lonewolf Survival School:


Lonewolf says – I’ve washed my clothes & hair with this many times. I like twisting up some nettle or milkweed cordage & making soap on a rope!

Soaproot washing BEST
The fibrous hairs can be used as a brush to clean a rock surface, & the bulb can be crushed & rubbed vigorously to make odorless soap! Just 2 of this plant’s many uses.

Positive-Impact Harvesting Techniques:

     In some places where soaproot plants grow rampantly, they are classified as an underharvested species.  Where they grow sparsely, soaproot plants should have their seeds disseminated to help them propagate, & should never  be harvested in excess.  They are much simpler to harvest while the ground it wet after it rains.  Due to the fact that soaproot plants prefer hillsides, slopes are a preferred place to plant them.


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All data used for First Amendment purposes in accordance with the PreambleFair Use.

[1]:Jepson Manual (1993) Chlorogalum pomeridianum . accessed 3.23.2013:

Photos by Distance Everheart:

Video by Richard Lonewolf Survival School:

Photos & Database Entry: Distance Everheart 5-14-13, 7-31-13, 1-1-14, 9-10-2017


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