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   Accurate identification of the several dozen species of Lomatium is, according to Intermountain Flora, "notoriously difficult....  Some species are highly variable...." Both fruits and flowers are often necessary for identification.

   Intermountain Flora further observes that "the distinction between Cymopterus and Lomatium is subject to failure". Ordinarily one or more of the Cymopterus dorsal seed ribs have wings; Lomatium seed ribs do not have wings"Cymopterus newberryi completely bridges the difference.  In this species the dorsal wings vary from nearly or fully as large as the lateral ones to poorly developed or even obsolete".

   "Loma" is Greek for "border" and refers to the small wings of the fruit.  The genus was named by Constantine Rafinesque in 1819.

Lomatium dissectum
Lomatium dissectum

Lomatium dissectum (Giant Lomatium)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Above: Dolores River Canyon, May 6, 2016.
Left: Prater Ridge Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, May 2, 2006.

Lomatium dissectum can grow to over four feet tall, but in the Four Corners area it is most often 2-3 feet tall. It is typically found at the lower elevations of the foothills in shrublands and woodlands, in the latter as shown on this page.

Leaves (and perhaps even the entire plant) might be mistaken for Ligusticum porteri but the latter has much larger, spreading leaves, consistently puts out a taller flowering stem with white, not yellow flowers, and occurs not only in the foothills but also the montane zone.

Flowers surmount a  stalk that is up to 40 inches tall. Flowers start in a tight circle and spread in a golden wheel formation over six inches in diameter.  (See photographs below.)

Thomas Nuttall named this species Leptotaenia dissecta from a specimen he collected in Oregon in the mid-1830s.  Mathias and Constance renamed it Lomatium dissectum in 1942. The plant is sometimes called Fernleaf Lomatium or Fernleaf Biscuitroot.

Lomatium dissectum

Lomatium dissectum

Lomatium dissectum

Lomatium dissectum (Giant Lomatium)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Prater Ridge Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, May 2, 2006; Sleeping Ute Mountain, May 7, 2012; and
Dolores River Canyon, May 6, 2016.

Clusters of tight buds open to attractive sprays of golden yellow flowers.

Lomatium dissectum

Lomatium dissectum (Giant Lomatium)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Prater Ridge Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, May 2, 2006.

Stems are robust, growing from a taproot that is a foot long and an inch wide. Stems are typically purple to purple-tinged.

Lomatium dissectum    Lomatium dissectum

              Lomatium dissectum    Lomatium dissectum

Lomatium dissectum (Giant Lomatium)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Prater Ridge Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, May 2, 2006.

The majority of the green in the top photographs above belong to just one leaf. Each large leaf is cut into smaller leaflets which are cut again into fine leaflets. The plant at right has leaves that are cut more consistently one more time than those of the plant at left.

Leaves are similar to those of Ligusticum porteri but are generally more glossy and not mottled as those of Ligusticum commonly are. Lomatium dissectum has yellow flowers in the spring; Ligusticum porteri has white flowers in the summer. The ranges overlap in the lower mesas but only L. porteri is found in the higher mountains.

Lomatium dissectum is commonly broken into three varieties, one of which is found in the northwest. Varieties eatonii and multifidum are separated primarily on the basis of how finely their leaves are cut. Some experts indicate that the variety found in our area is eatonii and some indicate it is multifidum. Because of this disagreement, I have chosen not to label to the level of variety.

Lomatium grayi

Lomatium grayi (Gray's Biscuitroot)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Dolores River Overlook Trail, April 25, 2007.

This is a wide-spread and abundant Lomatium blooming in the early spring in the Four Corners area of Colorado and Utah. It is rare in New Mexico and absent from Arizona. Leaves are subdivided into numerous, fine segments that turn in different planes, giving the plant a very thick, fern-like appearance. Flower stalks often lean.

The first specimen of this plant was collected by Sereno Watson on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake in Utah around 1868 and was named Peucedanum milleflium by Watson. It was renamed several times until in 1900 John Merle Coulter and Joseph Rose gave the present name. Asa Gray was a student of the great John Torrey, and Watson was Gray's student. The three dominated 19th century American botany.  (More biographical information about Gray.)

Lomatium grayi

Lomatium grayi (Gray's Biscuitroot)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Near Lone Mesa State Park, April 23, 2012.

Lomatium grayi

Lomatium grayi

Lomatium grayi (Gray's Biscuitroot)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Lone Mesa State Park, April 26, 2009.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Lomatium dissectum

Range map for Lomatium grayi