Fetid Adder’s Tongue: a soothsayer of Spring
My little family and I have a bit of property just east of the Pacific Ocean nestled in the mighty Redwoods outside of the tiny hamlet of Cazadero. There are many wonders to be found there. The Redwoods, of course, the damp cool air that feels thicker and cooler and more soothing than regular air, and the Fetid Adder’s Tongue! What! You say can this be? Well, I’ll tell you, it is a lovely tiny flower of the lily family. Its growing region is very small, as it likes to nestle among the moist shade of our dwindling redwood forests. Fetid Adder’s Tongue can be found from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the south, up to Humboldt county to the north. I can’t describe it better than Mary Elizabeth Parsons did in The Wild Flowers of California, from1897: “When the flowers first open they stand erect, held in the shining chalice formed by the two sheathing green leaves. Later the leaves open out, showing their beautiful blotched surfaces, and the three-angled flower-stems become limp and twisted as a snake.” But why the fetid you ask? Well the flower gives off a strange odor, but the flower is so tiny and one would have to be so close that the smell is not a significant part of the experience. The petite flower, in fact, it is hard to see at first. It rises delicately above its large mottled leaves and you have to soften your eyes and stop looking to see them (not unlike looking for mushrooms see post from Dec.10, “Mystery abounds”). I know that some of you readings are astounded that I am speaking of harbingers of spring. We in the far west had a bit of a heat wave that discombobulated all the plants into flowering early, and now the winter rains have returned, as they should, leaving us with both feelings of relief and dismay while reaching for our sweaters. But never fear spring has spoken through the lips of the Adder’s Tongue, announcing the splendid array to come (take that Puxsutany Phil!).