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Monday, May 25, 2009

Plant odds and ends

Here are some closeup photos of the leaves and cones of Sequoia gigantea. The leaves are sharp and pointy resembling arborvitae. Notice the new buds in the first photo.

Here's a closeup of a cone.

Here's a shot of the cones and branches.

These next photos show Philodendron selloum. Its a tropical plant and can be grown in certain parts of California, Texas and Arizona. Its a giant relative of the Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum, a common plant of the eastern woodlands. These plants contain calcium oxalate and cause a burning sensation if injested, some more severe than others. I have harvested some corms of jack-in-the-pulpit, also known as Indian turnip, bog onion and wild turnip. The corms are then sliced and dried in a food dehydrator and left to dry in an open container in the dark for about 6 months. This removes the calcium oxalate and makes them safe to eat. It can be ground into flour or eaten like potato chips. The flour has a chocolate flavor. I don't know if the Philodendron has the same edible properties.

I found a rather rare relative of jack-in-the-pulpit called dragon or green arum, Arisaema dracontium which is a much larger plant whose leaves are more divided, kind of like philodendron. It was growing near a stream in Pennsylvania. Elephant ear, Colocasia esculenta, is a related species from the tropics and is the source of taro, an important food item. Skunk cabbage, Syplocarpus foetidus, is a member of this family as well as sweet flag, Acorus calamus, the source of food for many Indian tribes.

An interesting book free from Internet Archives is "TM 10-420 Emergency Food Plants and Poisonous Plants of the Islands of the Pacific" printed in 1943 by the War Department for allied troops. It describes many edible plants from the tropics which our soldiers and airmen could depend on for food in a survival situation. Here's a link:

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