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Bitterroot Plant


The flower of Bitterroot plant


Scientific classification:


: Plantae
: Tracheobionta
: Spermatophyta
: Magnoliophyta
: Magnoliopsida
: Caryophyllidae
: Caryophyllales
: Portulacaceae
: Lewisia
: L. rediviva
– Plants
– Vascular plants
– Seed plants
– Flowering plants
– Dicotyledons

– Purslane family
– lewisia
– bitter root
Variety 1: Lewisia rediviva Pursh var. minor (Rydb.) Munz
Variety 2: Lewisia rediviva Pursh var. rediviv

British Columbia to southern California; east to Colorado, and Montana. The Bitterroot plant is a low-growing perennial with a fleshy taproot and a simple or branched base. It grows in open woodlands and sagebrush shrublands with pine, oak or juniper in many soil types such as shale, sand, clay, granite, serpentine, or talus.


  • The Bitterroot plant is a low-growing herbaceous perennial plant with a fleshy taproot and a simple or branched base.
  • The Bitterroot plant grows in loose gravel,dry open slopes and rocky places, sandy ground,granite or shale, mostly dry soil, sagebrush plains to lower mountains.
  • The Bitterroot flowers are large for the size of the plant, 1.5 inches - 3 inches in diameter. The Bitterroots flower blooms from May to June.
  • Its flowers are white, tinged with red and grow in terminal cymes.
  • The leaves appear soon after the snow melts and often wither before the plant flowers from late April and sometimes lasting into July.
  • The Bitterroot produces fruit capsules when matured, which are egg-shaped. Seeds are 6-20, nearly round, about 2 mm long, dark brown, shiny, with very minute oval bumps in regular rows, without appendage.
  • The seeds will germinate in late winter or early spring.
  • Native Americans were using its roots for food and trade. Tribes dug up the roots and dried them so they could be kept and used for months. The root was too bitter to eat unless it was cooked, and it was usually mixed with berries or meat.
  • Bitterroot has cathartic, diaphoretic, emetic and expectorant properties. It is used as an alterative in rheumatism, syphilis and scrofula. It is used to cure dyspepsia, constipation, fever, gallstones and dropsy.
Edible Uses:

Bitterroot is the state flower of Montana. The root was a staple food of some native North American Indian tribes. It is said to be extremely nutritious, 50 - 80 grams being sufficient to sustain an active person for a day. The root is, however, rather small and tedious to collect in quantity. It is easiest to use when the plant is in flower in the spring, because the outer layer of the root (which is very bitter) slips off easily at this time of the year. The Indians usually dug the roots early in the spring as the leaves are developing and long before flowering time, when the root becomes most bitter. They believed that only certain areas produce palatable roots. Whilst being boiled the roots become soft and swollen and exude a pink mucilaginous substance. The root swells to about 6 times its size and resembles a jelly-like substance. The root has a good taste though a decided bitter flavor develops afterwards. If the root is stored for a year or two the bitterness is somewhat reduced, however they are again cooked before use. The root can also be dried, ground into a powder and used as a mush or a thickener in soups etc.

Medicinal Uses:

The root affects the heart and promotes secretion of milk. An infusion of the root has been used to increase the milk flow in nursing mothers, to relieve heart pain and the pain of pleurisy and also as a blood purifier. The root has been eaten raw to counteract the effects of poison ivy rash and as a treatment for diabetes. The pounded dry root has been chewed in the treatment of sore throats. A poultice of the raw roots has been applied to sores.