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Toxic parts

The bulb contains saponins. Although fairly toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and most of them simply pass straight through. Saponins are found in a number of common foods, including many beans. They are destroyed by thorough cooking[K]. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].

Edible uses


Bulb - cooked[1][2][3][4]. A slow baking in its skin will remove any soapiness in the taste[5]. The bulb should be peeled before being eaten since the skin is fibrous[6]. The bulb can also be peeled and then boiled, though the water it is cooked in should be thrown away[3]. Although wholesome and nutritious when thoroughly cooked, the raw bulb should not be eaten because it contains saponins[K]. The bulb is very large and can be up to 15cm in diameter[7]. Young leaves - raw or cooked[4]. Used as a potherb when harvested in the spring, they are very sweet when slowly baked[5][6][8].


Material uses

A glue can be made from the sap that is expressed from baking bulbs[5][3][8].

The bulbs can be boiled into a liquid starch which can then be used to twined baskets to close the interstices so that seeds do not fall through[8]. A soap is obtained from the bulb[9][10][11][12]. The bulb is stripped of its outer fibrous covering and rubbed on clothes or hands in water to produce a lather[5][13]. It is very good for delicate fabrics and has a gentle affect upon the skin[92, K]. The bulb can also be dried for later use, it can then be grated as required and used as soap flakes[5].

A fibre obtained from the outer covering of the bulb is used to make small brushes or as a filling for mattresses etc[5][3][12][8].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Soap lily bulbs contain saponins, a medicinally active ingredient that is of particular value as an antiseptic wash. Saponins are somewhat toxic (see the notes above on toxicity) and so any internal use of this plant should be carried out with great care[K]. The bulb is antiseptic, carminative, diuretic and laxative[3][8]. A decoction has been used to treat wind in the stomach[8]. Externally, the bulbs have been rubbed on rheumatic joints[8]. The pounded bulbs were mixed with water and used as a hair wash in the treatment of dandruff, to prevent lice and also to treat skin irritations including that caused by poison oak[14][8]. A poultice of the baked bulbs has been used as an antiseptic on skin sores[8].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


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Seed - sow spring or summer 2mm deep in a peat/sand mix. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 6 months at 15°c, but it can be slow and erratic. Sow the seed thinly so that the seedlings do not need to be thinned and grow them on in the pot for their first year of growth, giving an occasional liquid feed o ensure that they do not become mineral deficient. When dormant, pot up 3 young bulbs per pot and grow them on for at least another 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the spring[15]. Division of offsets when the bulb dies down in late summer. Larger offsets can be planted out direct into their permanent positions but it is best to pot up the smaller bulbs and grow them on for at least a year in the greenhouse.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Chlorogalum pomeridianum. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Succeeds in any reasonably good well-drained soil[16][17]. Prefers a rich well-drained moisture retentive soil[15]. Tolerates partial shade[15]. Dislikes dry soils according to one report[7] but plants grow in dry soils in the wild[2].

Plants are frost hardy but they come into new growth in the autumn and so need to be grown in a warm sheltered position, especially in colder areas of the country[18]. The bulbs can be damaged by heavy frosts[12].

The roots are brittle so any transplanting should be done with care[12].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Chlorogalum pomeridianum. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Chlorogalum pomeridianum.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Chlorogalum pomeridianum
Imported References
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type


    1. ? 1.01.1 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
    2. ? Munz. A California Flora. University of California Press (1959-00-00)
    3. ? Sweet. M. Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West. Naturegraph Co. ISBN 0-911010-54-8 (1962-00-00)
    4. ? Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (1976-00-00)
    5. ? Balls. E. K. Early Uses of Californian Plants. University of California Press ISBN 0-520-00072-2 (1975-00-00)
    6. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
    7. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    8. ? Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
    9. ? 9.09.1 Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    10. ? 10.010.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    11. ? 11.011.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    12. ? Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden. ()
    13. ? 13.013.1 Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (1976-00-00)
    14. ? 14.014.1 Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
    15. ? Bird. R. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 4. Thompson and Morgan. (1990-00-00)
    16. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    17. ? Grey. C. H. Hardy Bulbs. Williams & Norgate. (1938-00-00)
    18. ? Brickell. C. The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-86318-386-7 (1990-00-00)