Also known as black snakeroot, this herbaceous perennial bulb is a member of the bunchflower family, Melanthiaceae, that also includes trillium and false hellebores. It is native to western North America from southern British Columbia to California, and east to Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Nebraska and the Dakotas where it grows in a variety of habitats including meadows, sagebrush slopes and montane forests. Growing 1-2’ tall, the plant has a .5-1.5” wide bulb that looks like an onion but lacks its odor, and smooth grass-like basal leaves up to 20″ long. Dense pointed terminal racemes 2-8″ long carry six-petaled, creamy white flowers from spring until mid-summer. The fruit is a three-parted capsule held on an elongated stalk. All parts of the plant are poisonous to both livestock and humans. The genus name, Toxicoscordion, is the Greek word for poison garlic, and refers to the bulb of the plant. The specific epithet, venenosus, is from the Latin word venenum, meaning poison.

Type: Herbaceous perennial bulb

Bloom: Six-petaled creamy white flowers in dense pointed terminal racemes 2-8″ long from spring until mid-summer.

Size: 1-2’ H

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average, dry to moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 4-8

Care: Divide when necessary

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed, division of bulb off sets

Companion Plants: Glacier lily, lupines, sticky purple geranium

Photo Credit: Matt Lavin, Wikimedia Commons

By Karen