A skunk-cabbage -- native plant
Driving along a two lane highway yesterday I noticed some bright yellow spots in some shallow waters beside the road. I stopped to check it out and realized it was skunk-cabbage plants -- a harbinger of spring. Although it wasn't the typical maroon-ish color I was used to seeing -- I knew right away it was skunk-cabbage! I snapped a few photos and went on my way. I was familiar with this plant from when I lived in Michigan so it was a wonderful surprise to find it here in Oregon.
Several skunk cabbage plants glowing in the water.
When I got home I grabbed my new book I had just bought titled Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and MacKinnon. On its pages I found out that Oregon's skunk-cabbage was a glowing yellow and can be found only along areas of the Pacific Northwest coastline. And that is where I was driving -- near the coastline.
I also did some searching online about the skunk-cabbage plant and found a fine article written by a Craig Holdrege that thinks highly of the skunk-cabbage plant, you can find it here.
And a bit of a native American tale was provided by Pojar and MacKinnon that I will share with you:
In the ancient days, they say, there is no salmon. The Indians had nothing to eat save roots and leaves. Principal among them was the skunk-cabbage. Finally the spring salmon came for the first time. As they passed up the river, a person stood upon the shore and shouted, "Here come our relatives whose bodies are full of eggs! If it had not been for me all the people would have starved." "Who speaks to us?" asked the salmon. "Your uncle Skunk Cabbage," was the reply . . . (Kathlamet tribe, Native American, Haskin 1934 )
So the skunk-cabbage tale can be included as a type of folkway as it became a traditional story within a defined community over time.
For those of you that live out East where there is still snow -- the skunk-cabbage can grow right up through the snow to wish you a happy spring. So keep looking for possible signs of skunk-cabbage pushing through the snow in natural areas such as a wet meadow. They usually will be a variegated maroon rather than the flashy western yellow.