Monday, April 23, 2012

Skunk Cabbage

This past week has been crazy busy. I had to send my new book down to the publishers electronically, which was quite the fiasco. I'm already computer challenged and when you compound that with an old computer and internet service that can be iffy at times, I was a basket case by the time I finally accomplished what needed done. Then there's all the work that needs done on the boat. I started replacing the interior skin of the boat with some 1/4 inch plywood, and since nothing is square on a boat, it's been a real fun time. I spent almost all day Friday trying to figure out a pattern. I never did get one and finally gave up and left in frustration around 5:00. It was quite unpleasant. Anyway, I've been really busy and just now felt like I could take some time to do a new blog post. It can sometimes be a challenge to find something to write about, but because it's getting to be spring here in Southeast Alaska, I thought I would write about one of the harbingers of spring, Skunk Cabbage. This is Western Skunk Cabbage, Lysichiton americanus, as opposed to Symplocarpus foetidus, Eastern Skunk Cabbage. I didn't even know there was two different kinds, but as the old saying goes,  you learn something new every day.  I guess it's also known as Swamp Lantern, though I've never heard it called that in all the years I've lived here. However, I often heard it referred to as Stunk Cabbage by my daughter Autumn when she was a toddler out at the farm. We would grasp her little hand and walk down the boardwalk on the way to or from the tabernacle and every time we passed a patch of it she would point and say, Stunk Cabbage. For about the first hundred times it was kind of cute- after that it was kind of annoying. By the time she turned twenty one and was still saying it, it had lost any sense of delight. (Just kidding Autumn)I should have taught her the Latin name, then it probably would have been entertaining to hear it more often. Of course half the entertainment value would have been in having me try to pronounce it. One of the local bear hunting guides has mentioned that the Brown Bears dig up the roots of this plant soon after they come out of hibernation. It's one of the first things they eat and serves as a laxative. I haven't seen any bears yet, but it's not uncommon to pass by areas in the early spring where  a number of Skunk Cabbages have been dug up. I think the deer feed on the plants when they first pop up too. When the plant is full grown the leaves are enormous. You could probably use one as an umbrella. It usually grows in swampy areas; muskegs and in drainage ditches. It's always nice to see at the end of winter- a bit of a promise that spring is really here. Speaking of spring, I understand that places back east have just experienced a blizzard dumping eight to twelve inches of snow in areas like New York and Pennsylvania. Guess that will put the old Symplocarpus foetidus in a tailspin for a bit. I guess if you want to experience some spring you better come up to Alaska. As you can see our Swamp Lanterns are burning bright.

12 comments:

  1. Looks like the photos were taken near the creek at the Cemetery i'm guessn?

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  2. Negative. Airport i'm thinking

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  3. Hi guys- the top picture is the little stream that runs by the forest service office and the lodge. The others are by the airport. Jen says the bears are out now. One got into Val Veelers freezer the other night and ate a bunch of herring eggs and other stuff. So far I've been lucky in that they haven't discovered the freezer next door where I have the Halibaits stored. Hope you're both doing well. We're taking off tomorrow to head for St. Louis.

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  4. That's great news. Hope you and mom have a great trip and stay safe.. Hey Ben i'll give you a call here sometime. Everytime I try on the computer the signal is bad.

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  5. That was funny dad, I don't remember that at all. But, I LOVE the smell of skunk cabbage! :)

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  6. New book? I didn't realize you were working on another one. I'm looking forward to it.

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  7. Looking forward to reading the new book also dad! As for the "stunk cabbage"..ick...never did care for it. Remember when Camille and Matt Pinard got into it and it made their hands itchy...that's some smelly stuff! Can do without it and devil's club!!

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  8. HI Todd- I did a number of interviews with the local fishermen- two of whom have passed away and of the others, I think only two are still fishing. I wanted to get some of their stories before they passed on. The fishing scene, like everything else is changing and I wanted to capture their stories.

    Hi Amber- I can't recall ever picking it up. I guess it must smell, hence the name. I was reading that in dire times some of the natives would use it as a food supplement in small quantities, but too much could prove deadly I guess. There are several native ladies in town who make salve from the devils club. I think they do a pretty good business selling it to tourists.

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  9. Hey Boys- if you read these comments, leave us your email address- your mom wanted to send you both a message. Thanks guys.

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  10. ben's personal email: shuturmouth8338@yahoo.com
    work email: benjamin.botts@us.army.mil

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  11. You like skunk cabbage and I like dandelions, both surefire signs of spring. Besides, I like yellow. Same publisher?

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  12. Hi- I just happened to be checking the older posts and saw your comment. I looked on your blog but didn't see any text. However, the picture is breathtaking. Nice job.

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