I spy something kʷal̓iʔ (yellow!)
That’s right! Some of first spring colors to emerge in flowers are YELLOW.
It’s so nice to see the bright pop of color emerging in the greens and browns
of winters melt. We’ve already had many spottings of the Sagebrush
buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus) sčyalm̓n as they are some of the first
signs of spring. Following close behind is the Yellowbell (Fritillaria pudica) or
q̓ áwx̣e who are in the process of budding or producing blooms.
Finally, in the more marshy areas we’re seeing signs of Skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) or timuʔ bringing their bright flowers and pungent odor to the party.
Yellowbell: Fritillaria pudica q̓ áwx̣e are found from Southern B.C. to northeast California,
through Idaho, Montana and western Wyoming. Their species name “pudica” translates to
shy or modest perhaps due to their downturned flowers and small size. In Salish the suffix x̣
is of an interaction between two contrasting positions/states (up/down, inside/outside, etc.)
the root word q̓ aw̓ is to break wood/bones. The meaning loosely refers to the way yellow bells
have a bent over top, not necessarily “broken” but different than standing full upright.
Yellowbells are small and solitary plants, producing one flower ranging from red, orange to yellow and has long linear leaves. They produce a capsule (fruit) pictured below that becomes erect as the flower fades. They can be found in grasslands, sagebrush steppe, and open forest in valleys and montane regions.
The bulb of the yellow bells (below) is actually several tightly packed fleshy scales. Surrounding the bulb are many “bulbets” small rice-like offsets that can break off and become self-sustaining plants of their own. The Syilx people of present north central Washington and south-central British Columbia call the bulbs ʕ’áʔtemn’ or “little tooth” a great description of the small white bulbs and some coastal Salish tribes call them “rice root”. The root is dug up and eaten, it can be raw or cooked.
Fritallaria corms are delicious sautéed in butter with a little salt and pepper
Skunk Cabbage: Lysichiton americanus or timuʔ is one of the few Arum (Araceae) family
native to Montana and the Pacific northwest. Its flowers are found on a clublike stalk (below)
and are surrounded by a bright yellow spathe. Skunk cabbage received its common name by
its distinct odor when in bloom.
Tribal nations, including the Salish utilized timuʔ for food and cooking. Much like other Arums such as Taro, the root of skunk cabbage can be dug and roasted to eat. These roots CANNOT be eaten raw because they contain oxalic acid a toxic compound that causes severe pain to the mouth. When cooked properly (i.e. boiled with several changes of water or roasted for several days in an earth oven) they are a nutritious carbohydrate source. The leaves of skunk cabbage is also used to wrap foods and to layer in earth ovens to cook camas.
Skunk cabbage grows in very wet soil and can be found in spruce swamps, thickets, and marshes.
Following the flowering process the leaves of the Skunk Cabbage will grow large and are usually harvested in summer for cooking other plant foods in.