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Common Name: Pigmy Bitterroot
Lewisia pygmaea is a perennial plant that can grow up to 0.10 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
Western N. America - British Columbia to California, Arizona and New Mexico.
Open, often gravelly, moist to dryish areas in mountains to above the tree line[
]. Open places in short turf or gravelly or rocky substrates at elevations of 2300 - 4200 metres[
Requires a very well-drained gritty humus-rich deep soil in a sunny position[
]. Prefers a neutral to acid soil[
This species is not reliably hardy in Britain. It can withstand consistently very cold weather but does not like alternating periods of mild and cold conditions, nor does it like winter wet[
]. The plant is very susceptible to rotting at the neck in a damp soil[
]. Plants die down after flowering and start growing again in the autumn[
A very ornamental plant[
Very apt to hybridize with other members of this genus[
Root - cooked. Steeped and boiled[
]. It can also be dried for later use[
]. The root is said to be extremely nutritious[
], though some native North American Indian tribes believed that eating it could cause insanity[
]. It is easiest to use when the plant is in flower because the outer layer of the root (which is very bitter) slips off easily at this time of the year[
]. The root has a good taste though a decided bitter flavour develops afterwards[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame in a very freely draining soil[
]. Sow stored seed as soon as possible in a cold frame. One months cold stratification should improve germination, though this is still likely to be very slow. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Division in early to mid spring. Very difficult.