• Soap Plant in full bloom

    by  • July 24, 2011 • Plant Profiles, Sierra Foothills

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    Studying the singular Soap Plant

    As the season passes, the Soap Plant is on the wane, still over 7 feet tall, waving over the drying meadow and garden. Here is a record of its life cycle here in the Sierra foothills.

    Wavyleaf soap plants are pretty difficult to photograph and seem to disappear.

    Mid-June-  Wavyleaf soap plants are pretty difficult to photograph and seem to disappear into the background.

    Wavyleaf Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
    Startling at first, this strange plant is really very interesting. The strap-like leaves have wavy-edged leaves 12-18 inches long that curl around the base of the plant.  It grows 4-7 feet tall on a wispy appearing but sturdy stalk, which in July explodes into a myriad of delicate white vase shaped flowers in early mornings and evenings. In the garden, these unusual plants can add a tall element with a little insect drama. Almost transparent, the flower stalks are hard to photograph, disappearing into the background.

    Chlorogalum pomeridianum , Wavyleaf Soap Plant early May

    Chlorogalum pomeridianum , Wavyleaf Soap Plant early May

    Soap plants like to grow together in colonies and grow on woodland and meadow slopes where a bit more water may drain down.

    Soap plant lower stalk appearing June 2nd among the 'wavy' leaves

    Soap plant lower stalk appearing June 2nd among the ‘wavy’ leaves

     

    Soap plant green buds

    Soap plant green buds

     

    Soap plants blooms and buds

    Soap plants blooms and buds

     

    Soap plant inflorescence at 7 am June 28

    Soap plant inflorescence at 7 am June 28

    Soap plants like many bloom from the bottom up

    Soap plants like many bloom from the bottom up

     

    Soap plant 7 am June 28

    Soap plant 7 am June 28 – The black blob is a fuzzy and frenzied syrphid fly

     

    Soap plant close up showing tiny moths

    Soap plant close up showing tiny moths

    If you look closely you’ll see that the insects, syrphid flies, and tiny moths, know just when to visit this plant and the whole stalk is jumping with activity.

     

    Soap plant inflorescence 10am June 28

    Soap plant inflorescence 10am June 28

    By 10am on the same day the flowers close up shop and don’t open again until the sun gets low and the air is cool.

    Today, nearing the end of July, the stalk still wave in the wind a one or two flowers still attract the flower flies. Soon the stalks will turn tan, but the leaves will stay green until frost.

    At the base of the root is a fibrous bulb, which when dried was used by the local Mono Tribes as a brush for cleaning pots as well as for food. Get out a big shovel if you want to dig up the root, for it goes deep almost 18 inches!

    I went out to dig up a root to show, but stopped after a few minutes. The dirt’s way too hard and I thought to myself, I’m glad not to depend on these for my dinner. Or to clean up afterward. Here is a link to a photo of the root.

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    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.