Tag Archives: stalk

Consider the lilies of the valley

The common names of plants tell a lot about a plant, and sometimes they just offer subtle hints, and sometimes they may even lead one astray. In Thompson Ethnobotany, by Nancy Turner and others, the roots of the twisted stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius, a close relative of the lily-of-the-valley) are described as “very poisonouos” and the fruits as “not eaten”.

I was in Alaska teaching a class of 3rd graders about plants. I was waiting for my group to assemble prior to a hike. One little Tlingit tyke was sitting down with some twisted stalks piled in his lap. “Hey George, want some cucumber plant? Tastes just like cucumber.”


I was instantly rebuffed by the term “cucumber plant”, which seemed an irresponsible name for a poisonous plant. Read on

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