Fernleaf Biscuitroot -Tall Band Pot
Carrot family (Apiaceae). Fernleaf biscuitroot is the largest member of the Lomatium genus. It is a perennial, herbaceous forb arising from a thickened woody taproot or caudex. Mature plants can be up to 1.3 m (51 in) tall. The leaves are ternate and pinnately compound. Blades of the larger mature leaves are 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 in) long and the larger ultimate segments are 2 to 3 mm (0.08 to 0.12 in) wide.
Flowering occurs from April through May. The flowers are yellow to purple, and born in umbels with 10 to 30 rays; each ray is 4 to 10 cm (1.6 to 3.9 in) long. Each umbel is composed of a combination of 50 to 200 male and hermaphroditic flowers (Thompson, 1998). Occasionally, all-male umbels are found, but the species is clearly hermaphroditic with both stamens and pistils in the same flower.
The seeds are elliptical; 8 to 15 mm (0.6 in) long and 5 to 10 mm (0.4 in) wide with a thickened wing about 1 mm (0.04 in) wide. There are approximately 99,000 seeds per kg (45,000 seeds per lb) (USDA-NRCS, 2010).
Established plants of fernleaf biscuitroot, like other members of the Lomatium genus, begins growth very early in the spring, often just following snow melt, providing crucial early forage for many wildlife and domestic animals. It is considered a very valuable forage species due to its large stature and high biomass production levels. Ogle and Brazee (2009) rate members of the genus as desirable spring and summer forage for cattle, sheep, horses, elk, deer and antelope.
Early green-up and flowering make this an important species for early spring pollinators and other insects. It is highly attractive to some bees. Pollinator surveys at native stands of fernleaf biscuitroot showed frequent visitation by several species of Andrena and Micrandrena that are oligolectic (pollen specialists) for this genus. In cultivated stands, honeybees and overwintering queens of Halictus and Lasioglossum bee species are sometimes frequent.
Fernleaf biscuitroot has been identified as an important plant species in sage-grouse habitat. Pre-laying sage-grouse hens eat the foliage (Barnett and Crawford, 1994). Sage-grouse chicks consume the plants, as well as associated insects (Drut et al., 1994).
Photo Credit: Matt Lavin