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Clintonia Flowering

6-13-17 clintonia 166A shade-loving member of the Lily family, Clintonia (Clintonia borealis) forms colonies throughout moist woods of the Northeast. It reproduces via rhizomes as well as seeds, which accounts for its colonial habit. This wildflower has many common names, among them Bluebead, which reflects the brilliant blue color of its summer berries.

Native Americans used Clintonia as an eye and heart medicine, as well as a dermatological and gynecological aid. Of particular note are its thick, fleshy leaves, which made perfect palettes for Chippewa children who are said to have delighted in making designs in the leaves with their teeth. It’s likely they did this with young leaves, which taste something like cucumbers, as opposed to older leaves, which are tough and bitter.

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6 responses

  1. Phil

    Mary, here in the ADKS near Saranac Lake ( Paul Smiths VIC ) the clintonia is fading.

    Question: Last night I had half a dozen yellow swallowtail butterflies settling close together on a bare patch of my “lawn” as the sun was going down. I haven’t observed this before. Could they have been considering bedding down for the night ?

    June 13, 2017 at 6:39 am

    • Hi Phil,
      It’s more likely that they were males “puddling,” getting minerals and salts from the soil to enhance their ability to produce sperm. Usually you see this behavior on dirt roads, but it can take place anywhere they have acess to the soil.

      June 13, 2017 at 7:02 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    Found a patch of those in the woods, near here. In a huge Wildflower book I have, it’s called ‘Corn Lily’, so pretty and delicate.

    June 13, 2017 at 6:51 am

  3. Treah Pichette

    I have a large patch of Clintonia, half of which has narrow leaves & produces a different color blue berry than the other half. The flowers are the same. Have you ever seen this variation? It’s pretty cool to have the 2 kinds!

    June 13, 2017 at 7:01 am

    • I know there are several species of Clintonia, but I wasn’t aware of any other in the Northeast (if that’s where you live). Very interesting!

      June 13, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      • Treah Pichette

        I live in southern Vt. This patch is cohesive but seems separated by type, one side, one type, the other side, the other type. It looks like a mutation to me rather than a separate species. I would welcome a visit to see it if you are so inclined! I also have pictures.

        June 13, 2017 at 4:16 pm

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