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Bigseed Biscuitroot

Scientific Name:
Lomatium macrocarpum
Family:
Native Name(s):
  1. Northern Paiute: hu'˙nibui (Kelly 1932); hunibui (Fowler 1989); hu˙nibui (Fowler 1989)
  2. Paiute: haapi (Couture 1978)
Description:

Plant
Lomatium macrocarpum is a perennial flowering herb. This low-growing plant reaches from 4-20 inches tall with a  large fleshy taproot that is sometimes irregular in thickness. Small bluish or gray-green leaves are clustered near the base of the plant, and often only appear on the lower 1/4 of the stem. Flowers are white, yellow, or purple in color and form irregular umbels, or umbrella-like clusters, at the top of the plant.

Identification tips
Other common edible biscuitroots include Lomatium cous which can be distinguished from L. macrocarpum by its diminutive size, and leafless flowering stems. Lomatium dissectum is larger, up to 30 inches tall and has leaves along its stems.

Starch granules
Bimodal size distribution (sm./med.) ranging from 3-22 microns with an average size of 9 microns. Diads and triads common. Heteromorphic, polyhedral and plano-convex shapes common along with hemispheres and spheres. Most grains are angular. All grains have dark central dimple. Larger grains have radial and stellate cracks. Cross is clear with a wide center and even, thin arms.

Habitat:

Lomatium macrocarpum prefers open rocky hills and plains, and grows in desert shrub, sagebrush, and pinyon-juniper communities. The plant can be found from 5000 to 8500 feet in elevation.

Distribution:

From southern British Columbia to California, east to Monitoba and a Colorado.

Ethnography:

There are many species of Lomatium that served ethnobotanically important roles among indigenous western North American populations. Plants from this genus were used as greens and for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. However, their most common use was as a dietary staple (Todt 1997). Taproots of the species Lomatium macrocarpum are large and edible. They were sometimes eaten raw, but more often they were boiled or cooked. Sometimes taproots would be dried in the sun, and preserved for future use. 

As food
Northern Paiute "From early spring well into summer root gathering was an economic activity of great importance. Women went each day to dig ya'pa', tu˙nu'˙yu, mu'˙a', hu'˙nibui, pa˙si'go', and other roots. These they prepared by boiling or by pit-roasting, or sometimes preserved by drying in the sun." (Kelly 1932:100-101)

Northern Paiute "Hu'˙nibui (Lomatium macrocarpum) also was eaten either fresh or dried. Charlie Washo thought it could be eaten raw but that it was usually cooked."  (Kelly 1932:101)"It is something like sweet potatoes and the same size. It grows in the mountains and is roasted in the sand." (Fowler 1989:43)

Northern Paiute "The roots of this plant were peeled and eaten raw or after having been baked in hot ashes. One informant said that this plant was never prepared by boiling. Another said that they used to dig lots of this at Malheur and bake it in the ground." (Mahar 1953:95)

Other
Northern Paiute "Bitterroot and biscuitroot have long been major trade items exported by the Harney Valley Paiute…In 1982, a gallon of cleaned, dried bitterroot sold for $80, and four gallons of fresh biscuitroot for $35." (Couture et al. 1986:157)

Distribution Map: