Posted by: gatheringwater | 2009/04/21

Roadside Attractions No. 1

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I told a friend this evening how much I liked living in a place where ferns and calla lilies grow in wild profusion. “Calla lilies? Where have you seen calla lilies?” she asked. It turns out my calla lillies are less romantically known as skunk cabbage!

It turns out that skunk cabbage is in the same family as calla lilies and jack-in-the-pulpit, too, so I wasn’t so far off. Perhaps if I’d known I was marveling over the unpleasant-sounding skunk cabbage, I would not have stopped to take a picture this afternoon, but I didn’t know and so I did stop and looking at the photo I took I still can’t help but think it is a beautiful plant, whatever it is called. The leaves are very large and, although only eaten in times of scarcity, were apparently used by first nations people in the Northwestern US to wrap food for storage and cooking.  The plant is also notable because it generates heat–enough heat to melt snow around the plant–and it is an early spring bloom.

I suppose the plant earns the “skunk” appellation when it starts to rot, because I would have described the odor of the new flowers as strong but pleasant. It was heavy and intocicating, but not rank, reminding me a bit of magnolia blossoms. The spathes are bright yellow.

Well, now I know, and so from now on I’ll say I’m glad to live in a place with a wild profusion of ferns and skunk cabbage.

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