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Bitterroot · Lewisia rediviva

Bitterroot©Ellen Mast

Description: This beautiful low-growing perennial herb (2 inches) makes a gorgeous rock garden specimen. It flaunts lovely large (3") pink flowers in late spring/early summer. Because the leaves appear and then disappear before the flowers arrive, the flowers appear to have been scattered on the ground. Bitterroot can be found growing in exposed dry habitats with gravelly soil, from the plains to lower mountain slopes, interior British Columbia south to California and east to Montana (where it is the state flower) and Colorado. Sun, no/low water, summer drought, excellent drainage.
Lewis described eating bitterroot in 1805:"another speceis" (bitterroot) "was much mutilated but appeared to be fibrous; the parts were brittle, hard of the size of a small quill, cilindric and as white as snow throughout, except some small parts of the hard black rind which they had not seperated in the preperation. this the Indians with me informed were always boiled for use. I made the exprement, found that they became perfectly soft by boiling, but had a very bitter taste, which was naucious to my pallate, and I transfered them to the Indians who had eat them heartily."