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Chlorogalum pomeridianum - (DC.)Kunth.

Common Name Soap Lily, Wavyleaf soap plant
Family Hyacinthaceae
USDA hardiness 7-10
Known Hazards The bulb contains saponins. Although fairly toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and most of them simply pass straight through. Saponins are found in a number of common foods, including many beans. They are destroyed by thorough cooking[K]. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].
Habitats Dry open hills and plains, occasionally in woods, below 1500 metres[71].
Range South-western N. America - California.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Chlorogalum pomeridianum Soap Lily, Wavyleaf soap plant

Chlorogalum pomeridianum Soap Lily, Wavyleaf soap plant


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of bulb
Chlorogalum pomeridianum is a BULB growing to 2 m (6ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 8 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Loathoe pomeridiana.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds; East Wall. By. South Wall. By. West Wall. By.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Root
Edible Uses:

Bulb - cooked[2, 71, 94, 105]. A slow baking in its skin will remove any soapiness in the taste[92]. The bulb should be peeled before being eaten since the skin is fibrous[183]. The bulb can also be peeled and then boiled, though the water it is cooked in should be thrown away[94]. Although wholesome and nutritious when thoroughly cooked, the raw bulb should not be eaten because it contains saponins[K]. The bulb is very large and can be up to 15cm in diameter[200]. Young leaves - raw or cooked[105]. Used as a potherb when harvested in the spring, they are very sweet when slowly baked[92, 183, 257].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antidandruff  Antirheumatic  Antiseptic  Diuretic  Laxative  Poultice  Skin

Soap lily bulbs contain saponins, a medicinally active ingredient that is of particular value as an antiseptic wash. Saponins are somewhat toxic (see the notes above on toxicity) and so any internal use of this plant should be carried out with great care[K]. The bulb is antiseptic, carminative, diuretic and laxative[94, 257]. A decoction has been used to treat wind in the stomach[257]. Externally, the bulbs have been rubbed on rheumatic joints[257]. The pounded bulbs were mixed with water and used as a hair wash in the treatment of dandruff, to prevent lice and also to treat skin irritations including that caused by poison oak[213, 257]. A poultice of the baked bulbs has been used as an antiseptic on skin sores[257].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Adhesive  Fibre  Soap

A glue can be made from the sap that is expressed from baking bulbs[92, 94, 257]. The bulbs can be boiled into a liquid starch which can then be used to twined baskets to close the interstices so that seeds do not fall through[257]. A soap is obtained from the bulb[21, 46, 61, 169]. The bulb is stripped of its outer fibrous covering and rubbed on clothes or hands in water to produce a lather[92, 95]. It is very good for delicate fabrics and has a gentle affect upon the skin[92, K]. The bulb can also be dried for later use, it can then be grated as required and used as soap flakes[92]. A fibre obtained from the outer covering of the bulb is used to make small brushes or as a filling for mattresses etc[92, 94, 169, 257].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Succeeds in any reasonably good well-drained soil[1, 42]. Prefers a rich well-drained moisture retentive soil[164]. Tolerates partial shade[164]. Dislikes dry soils according to one report[200] but plants grow in dry soils in the wild[71]. Plants are frost hardy but they come into new growth in the autumn and so need to be grown in a warm sheltered position, especially in colder areas of the country[188]. The bulbs can be damaged by heavy frosts[169]. The roots are brittle so any transplanting should be done with care[169].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow spring or summer 2mm deep in a peat/sand mix. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 6 months at 15°c, but it can be slow and erratic. Sow the seed thinly so that the seedlings do not need to be thinned and grow them on in the pot for their first year of growth, giving an occasional liquid feed o ensure that they do not become mineral deficient. When dormant, pot up 3 young bulbs per pot and grow them on for at least another 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the spring[164]. Division of offsets when the bulb dies down in late summer. Larger offsets can be planted out direct into their permanent positions but it is best to pot up the smaller bulbs and grow them on for at least a year in the greenhouse.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

See reader comment later

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Chlorogalum parviflorumSmallflower SoapplantBulb0.6 7-10  LMHSNDM20 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

lacusXXharo   Fri May 19 2006

I liked your article, it gave alot of information I needed. Please note that the "Soap Lily" as you described is also Amole, Soap Plant, and Soap Root. It was also used by the Miwok as a fish poison (I can't remeber if you said this though). It would be placed in water where alot of fish were, the chemical within the plant would shock the fish allowing the Miwok to gather the fish that floated to the top of the water without so much hassle. You can't do that now with Soap root, it's illegal, but that's what the Miwok did. This information was by Nancy Kissam from Kule Loklo in California.

Charles Gitchell Jr   Sun Feb 11 2007

Still used for Poison Oak just peel off a peace and rub it on the Poison Oak. It needs to be a fresh peace do this until the Poison Oak Go's away Charles Gitchell Jr. Chalanchawi South Western Pomo in California

Riki   Thu Jan 31 2008

Charles, I believe we are cousins. My father is Lynn Gitchell. My email is [email protected]. -Riki

[email protected]   Thu Nov 19 2009

me too! my emial is [email protected]

PLans for a future

   May 1 2017 12:00AM

Plant description for chlorogalum pomeridianum says no weed potential. On my Southern Oregon property it is extremely invasive, with the population doubling annually. They are nearly immune to removal (some as much as 16 inches deep), frost (all survived a week of single digit temps in 2013) and strong herbicides (like brush killers that decimate poison oak). Breaking the woody seed stalks before bloom did little to reduce the spread, and they are rapidly becoming the dominant plant on my hillside forest property, currently numbering in thousands, soon to become tens of thousands. PFAF has the best available plant description, but I've found no website that can suggest a means of stopping their spread.

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