Friday, April 17, 2009

Skunk Cabbage

Staying with the jack-in-the-pulpit theme: when I was growing up in Eugene, Oregon, we'd pass a sign for Darlingtonia Botanical Wayside on the way to the coast. If we stopped there I don't remember it, but I have been back as an adult. Perhaps the pitcher plants (Darlingtonia californica) that grow there stayed on in my subconscious and that's what draws me to the Arisaema cobra lilies that I wrote about yesterday. Another reason they may be muddled up in my mind is that darlingtonia is also known as cobra lily. And it's easy to see why.

It always seemed so strange that an entire wayside would be devoted to these stinky, carnivorous plants that drew flies and shine ghostlike in the filtered light with an acid lemon glow. Hence the nick-name "swamp lantern." Now I discover that it is Oregon's largest single-species preserve and I feel a connection to the folks who had the foresight many decades ago to cherish the botanical beasties.

According to Tryon Community Farm, its root and rhizome contain a useful expectorant
good for treating cases of whooping cough, asthma, and bronchitis; also taken for upper respiratory problems such as nasal congestion and hay fever; less commonly it is used in the treatment of epilepsy, headaches, vertigo, and rheumatic problems and as a means to stop bleeding.

And now I also see that there are two distinctly different kinds of skunk cabbage: Lysichiton americanus and Symplocarpus foetidus. I've wandered into a swamp of botanical confusion. Now it's clear: Lysichiton americanus is western skunk cabbage and Symplocarpus foetidus is eastern skunk cabbage. The latter bears a very strange fruit indeed. Well, doesn't anything with "fetid" in its name?

I'm still searching for the missing link between the cobra lily forms above to the yellow flowers--they are both darlingtonia californica but how this fits with the eastern and western skunk cabbage I'm still waiting to find out.

All this springtime swamp-tromping has led me to a wonderful blog from Carnation:

1 comment:

Premium T. said...

Wait just a minute. I went out and photographed skunk cabbage today. Hmmm. A theme.