The yellow, bell-like flowers of Clintonia (Clintonia borealis) that were fertilized earlier in the summer are now developing into the blue berries from which their other common name, Yellow Blue-bead Lily, was derived. Transitioning from green to white, and ultimately to a deep porcelain blue, the berries of Clintonia are beautiful to gaze upon, but are said to be unpleasant-tasting and mildly toxic.
A 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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