Columbia Desert Parsley (Lomatium columbianum) is a spectacular plant that is endemic to Washingon and Oregon. It is perennial and grows on open slopes in the eastern Columbia Gorge area.
Although the overall range of this plant is small, it is fairly common within its range. It grows at hundreds of sites in the Columbia Gorge.
The purple flowers of Columbia Desert Parsley make it easy to distinguish from its local relatives, all of which have white or yellow flowers. The purple blooms begin to appear between mid March and May, depending on elevation, aspect, etc.
The compound umbels of Columbia Desert Parsley give it away as a member of the plant family Apiaceae, known as the carrot or parsley family. The parsley that we use as a spice is in this family and is native to the Mediterranean region.
A compound umbel is a plant structure where multiple stalks radiate out from a single point on the main stem. Smaller, flower-tipped stalks radiate out from a single point on each of the larger stalks. Each Columbia Desert Parsley plant has several main stems. This is sort of hard to describe using words, so take a look at the photos to see what I’m talking about.
The individual flowers are small and have 5 petals.