Ligusticum grayi Page

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These class notes were written by Howie Brounstein @1993. You are welcome to reprint them as long as this paragraph is included. Feel free to send comments to Columbines and Wizardry Herbs, Inc. PO Box 50532, Eugene, OR 97759, USA. All the color medicinal plant photos are linked from Southwest School of Botanical Medicine's enormous archive of North American medicinal plants. Sometime these links will lead to a plant that is a different species but similar to what you might find with Ligusticum grayi. Last update December, 1996.
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Common Names

Oshala, Gray's Lovage, Osha (mistakenly). Ligustikon is name of some ancient Greek Umbelliferae.

Identification

Native perennial with aromatic taproots; 2-6 dm tall, no spots on stem; leaves mostly basal, dissected, compound, and either ternate (3's) or ternate-pinnate; flowers white to pink in compound umbels, no involucre, occasionally a few involucels; fruits laterally flattened, oblong to ovate, glabrous (no hair), and prominently ribbed to slightly winged, stylopodium present.

This plant is virtually impossible to key out in Gilkey's Handbook of Northwestern Plants. She says the flowers of this plant are purple, and calls it Purple Lovage. I have never seen one purple flower after checking tens of thousands of these plants. Gilkey uses flower color as a keying characteristic.

Oshala, Ligusticum grayi, can be confused with Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum, relatively easily because of their similar fruits and general stature. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum, has a spotted stem and a mousy odor in its roots. It is a weedy plant that grows at low elevations in disturbed soils. Oshala, Ligusticum grayi, is a mid-elevation native with a distinctive odor and no spots on its stems. Although these plants grow in different elevations and habitats, it is essential for a safe wildcrafter to distinguish the two.

The highly poisonous Water Hemlock, Cicuta douglasii, is of real concern when harvesting Oshala, Ligusticum grayi. Water Hemlock, Cicuta douglasii, has a distinctly different fruit, root smell, and to a discerning eye, leaf shape. It generally grows at low elevations in aquatic or semi-aquatic ecosystems. Even though Oshala, Ligusticum grayi, grows in drier meadows at mid-elevations upward, I have observed both of these plants growing close together with a number of other mixed umbelliferaes in wet meadows on the border of low and mid-elevations. Always harvest umbelliferaes when identifiable in seed, and don't harvest plants near the highly toxic Water Hemlock, Cicuta douglasii. Every wildcrafter who harvests umbelliferaes must know Water Hemlock, Cicuta douglasii, very well.

Habitat

Moist to dry, open to wooded, mountain slopes and drier meadows from mid-elevation upward to sub-alpine systems, This species grows in the Cascades and the Sierras, east to central Idaho and northeast Nevada. Blooms from July to September.

Associated Plants

At mid-elevations: False Hellebore, Veratrum viride; Valerian, Valeriana sitchensis; Senecio triangularis.

Tending the Stand

Although this plant is a perennial, pick only a portion of the stand. Re-seed when the fruiting stem falls off during harvesting.

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