Garden worthy? Mmmm, maybe...

With many spring blooming California Natives going summer dormant, I'm delighted to welcome the blossoms of Chlorogalum pomeridianum (Soap lily) with its fragrant white blossoms. And for my wildlife garden in the back, it really is a perfect plant. But I'm not sure I'd plant it in the front, because here is the whole plant.

What do you see?
  • A very tall plant (over 6 feet), that leans unless in full sun. 
  • A few leaves, a lot of stem, and blossoms that open (and are fragrant) only late in the day and at night. 
  • Blossoms that, while numerous, are only about an inch across. 
Would I recommend this plant to my neighbors who are starting to get interested in natives? Maybe not. Its really for the connoisseur. Though it is such a delight when the first blossoms open. And then more the next day, and the next.

And then again, here's what the venerable Las Pilitas site has to say:

"Soap Lily has long, strap-like, wavy leaves that lie along the ground, and a loose spike of small white flowers up to 2 feet high, and flowers from around May-August. Soap Lily, Chlorogalum pomeridianum, ranges from southern Oregon to San Diego, California, grows in full sun, and is drought tolerant within its range. Chlorogalum pomeridianum survives the long rain-free season by means of underground bulbs, which are filled with food by the growing leaves during the winter and spring seasons. If you are starving, the bulb may eaten only when roasted (soapy onion), the raw bulb being utilized as soap. Soap Lily, or Amole, goes dormant in summer and fall. We can sell this only in spring and early summer. Soap Lily makes a unique addition to a California native garden (and having emergency food in the ground doesn't hurt either)."

There you have it. Let's hear it for emergency food and the fragile beauty that shines in the summer night.


The flowers are so delicate and elegant!
Anonymous said…
Soapy onion? Starving is a relative term! lol Have you thought about staking it as a standard? If there are multiple stems, maybe braid them around a stake? I love the airy feel it gives. :-)

biobabbler said…
So, is that what I got a picture of on ?!? I'd not figured that one out. So, THANK YOU so much for identifying it--pretty sure that's right. It was evening (sun going down) when I took the picture.
Country Mouse said…
The ones growing wild here on the ridge have not yet started to bloom but are about to. One large plant with a really impressive stout stem about 6 feet tall got chomped by some passing snacker. I was dismayed - but it has branched out and created a - not bushy - but fuller structure. So topping it might be worth a try in a garden. You can't put them back of the border because you really need to be up close to see them. Well I agree, TM - an intriguing plant, a bit problematic in a garden setting, but definitely a conversation piece, their delicate spidery evanescent flowers, unfolding just for such a short time. I've never tried digging one up, but at Ohlone Day each year in Henry Cowell State Park (Felton) you can join in or watch a demo of making soaproot brushes. Fun that biobabbler could ID the mystery plant from this post!
Christine said…
Yeah it's a plant to blog about, but not necessarily have a garden party for! Those close up shots are just lovely! Who comes by to pollinate it? What's the scent like?
Amy said…
Very pretty photos of such a little, delicate bloom. I see what you mean about the rest of the plant. Maybe if it was mixed in with something full and green....hmmmmm.:)