Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
One of the first plants to bloom each year, oriental lomatium is easily overlooked because of its rather drab appearance. Often called "white wild parsley," the species has been collected in most North Dakota counties north and east of the Missouri River. The plant ranges from Minnesota south to Missouri and Arizona, at elevations under 9,000 ft.
Like most of our early spring flowers, oriental lomatium is perennial from a heavy taproot. Leaves are all basal and resemble those of the carrot. The flowers are less than one-sixteenth inch wide and clustered in umbels of about a dozen. An umbel is a flower cluster with all the flower stalks (pedicels) arising from the same point. In oriental lomatium, about a dozen umbels are in turn grouped together, forming a complex flower "head" about an inch across. The flower clusters are borne on leafless stalks about three to eight inches long. About mid-June, winged seeds develop which look like those of common garden dill.
Look for this plant in April on drier sites in heavily or moderately grazed native prairie. I could find no references to any economic value for oriental lomatium.
The parsley family (Apiaceae) includes such plants as carrot, dill and celery. Apium is the ancient Greek name for celery. The genus Lomatium stems from the Greek lomation, "a little border," in reference to the papery edges on the seeds. The name orientale was selected for the specific epithet because the plant occurs farther east than most of the other members of the genus. Oriental lomatium was first described for science by botanists John Coulter (1851-1928) and Joseph Rose (1862-1928) in 1900. Coulter founded the Botanical Gazette and Rose worked at the U.S. National Museum where he was an authority on the Apiaceae and several other plant families.