Fernleaf biscuitroot or desert parsley [Lomatium dissectum (Nutt.) Mathias & Constance] is a long-lived forb (non-woody perennial wildflower) with yellow, purple, or green/brown flowers native to the western United States. The shoot develops from the crown of a large taproot in early spring using the natural moisture from snow melt and spring rain. Fernleaf biscuitroot can start flowering before the last frosts, but floral development may suffer from hard freezes. Flowers are in compound umbels atop stalks that range from 60 to 150 cm (2 to 5 ft) in height. The highly dissected leaves have a fern-like appearance and are often over 40 cm (15 in) in length (Thompson, 1998). Plants initiate growth in early spring and complete vegetative growth, flowering, and seed set by early to midsummer. After seed set, the leaves die back during midsummer. Plants are dormant during summer and do not resume growth with fall rains.
L. dissectum is self-fertile and protogynous and bee pollination is necessary for fernleaf biscuitroot seed production. Halictus sweat bees and Apis honeybees have been observed in production stands of fernleaf biscuitroot in Ontario, OR. In nature, there are other bees that specialize in pollinating fernleaf biscuitroot (Jim Cane, USDA-ARS Pollinating Insects–Biology, Management, and Systematics Research Unit, personal communication).
L. dissectum grows at elevations from sea level to 2500 m in western North America from southern California to British Columbia to the Rocky Mountains, mostly on rocky soils and in meadows (Meilleur et al., 1990; Soltis et al., 1997). Highly fertile, well-drained, and rocky soils are preferred environments where L. dissectum grows into large clumps 1.0 to 1.2 m (3 to 4 ft) wide. It can grow in a range of precipitation regimes, including semiarid conditions. Three varieties, L. dissectum var. dissectum, L. dissectum var. eatonii, and L. dissectum var. multifidum, have been recognized indicating a considerable range of variation in the species; however, the varieties intergrade and there is disagreement as to whether varietal separation is warranted (Cronquist et al., 1997; Soltis et al., 1997).
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