The Soap Plants, Soaproots or Amoles are the genus Chlorogalum of flowering plants. Less common names for them include Soap Lilies. They are endemic to western North America, from Oregon to Baja California, and are mostly found in California.
The Soap Plants grow as perennial plants, from a bulb, more or less elongated depending on the species. The bulbs can be white or brown, and in most species are very fibrous. The leaves grow from the base of the plant. The flowers are borne on a long central stem, and appear to have six rather separate petals (not all are petals in the technical sense). There are 6 stamens, which are rather prominent in most species.
The placement of the genus Chlorogalum has varied considerably. In the APG III system, followed here, it is placed in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae, based on molecular systematics evidence. Until the 1980s, it was generally treated in the Lily family, Liliaceae, in the order Liliales, and conservative taxonomic sources such as ITIS still put it there. It has also been placed in its own family, Chorogalaceae, or in a group within the hyacinth family Hyacinthaceae (now Scilloideae), in the order Asparagales. Phylogenetic studies based on molecular evidence (e.g. Pfosser and Speta 1999), suggested that, along with Camassia, Chlorogalum seemed to be most closely related to the genera such as Agave and Anthericum.
Five species are currently classified in the genus. All except the Wavy-leafed Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum, have rather restricted distributions, with little overlap. The Wavy-leafed Soap Plant, however, has a range that virtually encompasses those of all other members of the genus, and is the most common of them.
- Narrow-leaf Soap Plant, Chlorogalum angustifolium, found in the inner north Pacific Coast Ranges of California and southern Oregon and the Sierra Nevada foothills
- Red Hills Soaproot, Chlorogalum grandiflorum, found in the north and central Sierra Nevada foothills
- Small-flowered Soaproot Chlorogalum parviflorum, found in the south coastal region of California, south of Santa Barbara, and into Baja California
- Wavy-leafed Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum, found anywhere in California except the higher Sierra Nevada and the deserts, and also in south-western Oregon
- Purple Amole, Chlorogalum purpureum, found in the Outer South Coast Ranges of California, south of Monterey Bay and north of Santa Barbara
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