Wildflower Photographs by Garry DeLong
Click on caption for a larger version of the photo
Skunk Cabbage (Lysichitum americanum) grows in clumps, with bright green leaves having a lustrous, waxy looking surface. The "flowers" appear in early spring, before the leaves have expanded, and consist of a showy, bright yellow sheath (spathe) up to 8 inches or more long surrounding an elongated, club-like flower spike (spadix).
The fleshy rhizomes, which have a strong, peppery taste due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals, were eaten occasionally by some Indian tribes when other food was scarce. They were roasted and eaten in early spring by some, and were steamed and eaten by other groups. These rhizomes were dug up with digging sticks, washed, and boiled or pit-cooked. Another tribe would boil the leaves in two changes of water, then eat them in spring. Also some groups dried and powdered the leaves and mixed them with berries or salmon eggs as a preservative or thickener. More important and widespread than the actual food use of skunk-cabbage, however, was the use of the large, waxy leaves in various aspects of food preparation. They were employed by virtually all western Washington tribes like waxed paper, for wrapping food, lining cooking pits, separating foods being cooked together, and drying berries on. They were also used as makeshift plates and folded to make temporary dippers and drinking cups. Although most people regarded the leaves as "poisonous," due to their rank smell and their calcium oxalate crystals, their use in food preparation apparently did not cause any tainting of the food. The waxy outer coating of the leaves protected the food.
Skunk cabbage contains microscopic bundles of needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate in their stems, leaves, and underground parts. These are apparently somewhat dispelled with cooking and/or drying, but if the plants are eaten fresh and unprocessed, they cause severe burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue, and throat. Fortunately, the initial burning almost always prevents a person from ingesting any serious toxic quantities. This is a very bad plant to eat. Most of the above information from Kingsbury, 1964.
Geranium carolinianum This tiny wild geranium is common in most parts of the US and has been declared invasive in some parts of the eastern US by some authoritative sources. In Oregon, however, it is just a common and pleasant little wildflower.
The common dandilion (Taraxacum officinale), much maligned despite its beauty, was introduced to the US by colonists to use as salad greens.
This Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) was found growing along railroad tracks near the Columbia River in South-central Washington State.
The Fairy Slipper Orchid (Calypso bulbosa)-growing at the side of an Oregon hiking trail-1979. This orchid is native to Canada and the Pacific Northwest U.S. It is extinct over much of its range and is now quite rare. It does not survive contact with man and readily dies in cultivation. The beautiful flower head is about the size of a quarter.
(Trifolium incarnatum) (?)
Portland Oregon, 1979
Phantom Orchid, Cephalanthera austiniae, within the city limits of Portland OR in 1982. While walking in Forest Park one day, I spied a one-foot stalk of tiny white orchids at the side of the trail. The opening of the cup-shaped face is about the size of a pencil eraser. I have never seen this species again. With the help of Paul Nielsen, a British native orchid expert, I was able to identify this orchid. The plant is interesting because it completely lacks chlorophyll. Instead, its existence depends on a companion fungus which makes much of the nutrition that the orchid needs. The plant is officially threatened over its entire range of Southwestern Canada and Northwestern U.S.
Sitka Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) The Sitka Columbine is a common and attractive wildflower, treating the hiker to its beauty from April through June. The plant often demonstrates it resilience by resprouting from rootstock after a fire. Native Americans used infusions from different parts of the plant for a variety of ailments from heart trouble to fever and even as a wash for poison-ivy. When pulverized, the seeds, a commodity of intertribal commerce, were rubbed on the hands by men as a love charm and also used in some tribes as a man's perfume. The flower is often pollinated by hummingbirds, which may depend on the plant as an important source of nectar. Forest Park, 1983
F11 for a