The beautiful soaproot are in season!
For most of the year, soaproot (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) is simply an innocuous tuft of leaves growing from the ground. But at this time of year, it shoots a long stalk of starry white flowers. Best of all, these blooms only open in the late afternoon and evening–for most of the day, you can walk past them without even noticing the wiry gray stalks. When I do see them it feels like a special treat.
It’s worth it to try to find a field where soaproot is in bloom–en masse these are spectacular. Because the stems are so tall and yet nearly invisible, the flowers seem to hover in the air like real stars.
Also known as amole, star lily, soap lily, or soap plant, it contains saponins and was traditionally used as its name suggests. The crushed bulb foams up nicely and was used to wash hair, bodies and anything else. The plant was also used in fishing, since saponins are toxic to ichtyoids. The crushed bulb would be tossed into a stream, and soon the hapless fish could be scooped out!