Soap Plant or Soaproot

Common name: Soap Plant or Soaproot

Scientific name: Chlorogalum pomeridianum
Family: Liliaceae (lily)
Habitat: grassland
Size: cluster of leaves 1 foot or more across, flower 1.5 to 2.5 cm

Fun facts: Native Americans used the root of this plant as a soap and to stun fish. It contains chemicals which make it slippery like soap. These same chemicals paralyze the gills of fish.

Description: Member of the lily family. The flowers have three petals and three sepals which are similarly colored and appear to be six petals. The flowers are white or pale pink.

The leaves are in a bunch at the base of the plant (a basal rosette) and have wavy edges.

Life cycle: Soap Plant is a bulb-forming perennial. For most of the year, the plant consists of a cluster of leaves about a foot in diameter. In May, the plant sends up a tall stalk with many branches and delicate flowers.

Ecology: Flowers are pollinated by night flying moths and open just as the sun goes down. They are very fragrant in order to attract their pollinators which are flying around in the dark of night. Try visiting at sunset to see and smell the Soap Plant flowers.

Investigate: Caterpillars of the moth that pollinates the Soap Plant eat the flowers and seeds of the plant. They usually feed very early in the morning and crawl to the bottom of the plant during the heat of the day. Can you find evidence of their feeding?