Martindale’s Desert Parsley (Lomatium martindalei)
Although we’ve long enjoyed the “spring gold” dusting of these flowers across rocky landscapes in the early spring, we’ve only recently tried to sort out the many similar looking desert parsley (lomatium) and buckwheat (eriogonum) families. Both have gold (or white) umbel flower heads that rise above a bed of leaves, but the leaves of lomatium have the characteristic parsley feathered shape, while the buckwheats are oval and more leathery. Distinguishing within the parsley family is a bigger challenge as echoed by Daniel Mathews in his valuable trailside reference Cascade-Olympic Natural History“: “a large and tricky genus (lomatium) in a large and tricky family (parsley)”, or Manning & Spring’s Mountain Flowers of the Cascades & Olympics: “the casual student doesn’t distinguish the numerous desert parsleys…”
A few species are easier to identify, including this frequently seen Martindale’s, with its distinctive leaves (see photo below). We continue to struggle with distinguishing between the other common species, pungent (grayi) and fineleaf (utriculatum–actual “spring gold”) whose leaves are more lacey and can vary in appearance over the season.
The latin lomatium makes reference to the winged shape of the fruits that surface in the fall, and sometimes remain visible into the next spring. Our post for the distinctive large red lomatium Columbianum notes how Lewis & Clark expedition enjoyed desert parsley roots on their journey, although likely not the martindale species.