Monday, May 23, 2011

Plants I've Encountered - Devil's Club

Devil's Club aka Oplopanax horridus

That name, be it the common or the scientific, indicates that this is a nasty customer and it owes that name to the many spikes that grow along the stem and like to implant themselves into the flesh of both unwary travellers and those who have to work in the woods. Once stuck in they can be very painful to remove.

Usually they grow 3 to 4 feet tall but (according to wikipedia) they've been discovered reaching as high as 16 feet tall. The ones I encountered the other day with my buddy Theo were over 6 feet tall.

But like many things in life.. it's not all bite and bad news.

The plant has been used traditionally by the indigenous populations to treat a variety of ailments including adult-diabetes. There are even investigations into, and rumours about, the use of the plant as a mind enhancer.

I myself have encountered Devil's Club often in the woods. The giant broad leaves, pokey stalks, and bunching of red drupes are eye catching and evocative of Dinosaur-land. A few summers ago some friends and I harvested and drank the tea made from it a bunch of times. It has a spicey unique flavour that still comes to mind and palate.

All in all I think it's a fabulous plant and a great inhabitant of this coastal temperate rainforest that I get to wander about in. If you're ever wandering about and see it, I recommend you investigate, muse about how threatening packaging and "bad" things can often contain answers and cures, and allow a bit more of the world's wonder envelop you.

Just don't get too close ;)

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