Jun 30 2014
In mid-June I found a blooming Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) that I nearly missed because the flowers didn’t stand out. The top two had already gone to seed and those in bloom were camouflaged in a greenish yellow way.
The bottom whorl of leaves caught my attention. It’s typically five to nine long leaves (this one had seven) suspended a foot or so above the ground. Only the blooming plants have the smaller top whorl too.
I tried to take a picture of this arrangement but even my best photo is confusing. The small flower whorl blends in with a second plant behind it even though the background is beyond the mossy log.
Having paused to take a photo I knelt down to see the flowers. This perennial is pollinated by insects, probably flies. The color green makes sense for flies as they don’t need fancy red, white, yellow or purple to be attracted to the plant.
Indian cucumber root earned its common name when Native Americans taught the settlers that the edible root smells and tastes like cucumber. People still dig and eat it today, thereby destroying the plant. It’s endangered in Illinois and Florida.
Though not threatened in Pennsylvania, I won’t say the exact location of this flower. Only that I found it in the Laurel Highlands, an area encompassing 3,000 square miles.
(photos by Kate St. John)