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Posts tagged “Medeola virginiana

Indian Cucumber Root Flowering & Fruiting

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Indian Cucumber Root, Medeola virginiana, lives up to its name, as its rhizomes have a mild cucumber taste. Equally as enticing are its flowers — delicate and oh so intricate.

This member of the Lily family has one whorl of leaves if it isn’t going to flower (too young or without enough energy to reproduce), and two if it is. If there are two whorls of leaves, look under the top whorl and you will find flowers unlike any other you have seen. The pale petals fold back and from the center emerge three long reddish styles and several purple stamens (reproductive parts). Occasionally the flowers are above the topmost leaves, but typically they are below.

The change in position that Indian Cucumber Root flowers undergo as they develop into fruit is as fascinating as their appearance. The pedicels, or stalks, of these flowers become more erect once the flowers have been pollinated and fertilized, to the point where the dark blue berries mature above the upper whorl of leaves. You can see both stages in this photograph (styles have yet to fall off the developing fruits).

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Indian Cucumber-root Flowering

6-10-15 Indian cucumber-root 150Indian Cucumber Root is a member of the Lily family that grows to be one to two feet tall and has one or more whorls (several leaves coming off stem at same point) of leaves. Plants that are going to flower usually put out two tiers of leaves, with their distinctive flowers arising from the second tier. The flowers nod down below the leaves, while the dark purple fruit that forms later in the summer rises above them. As its name implies, the small root tuber of this wildflower is edible, and resembles a cucumber in both texture and taste, but should be harvested very sparingly.

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Indian Cucumber Root Fruit Ripening

9-25-14 indian cucumber root IMG_3876Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) is a member of the Lily family that grows to be one to two feet tall and has one or more whorls (several leaves coming off stem at same point) of leaves. Plants that are going to flower usually put out two tiers of leaves, with their distinctive flowers arising from the second tier. The flowers nod down below the leaves, while the fruit that forms and ripens in September rises above them.

At the same time that Indian cucumber root berries turn bluish-purple, the cluster of leaves below them turns partially red. Each berry contains several seeds which birds and small rodents are attracted to. Although the Iroquois reportedly used an infusion of the crushed dried berries and leaves to treat convulsions in infants, human consumption of anything but Indian cucumber root’s tuber is not recommended (and the tubers should be harvested sparingly).

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Indian Cucumber Root

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Indian Cucumber Root  (Medeola virginiana) is a perennial woodland plant that’s hard to miss, whether it’s flowering or fruiting.  In May or June, when flowering, it has two tiers of leaves (only one if it’s not producing flowers).  The flower buds first appear above the top tier, but by the time they’ve matured, the yellowish-green nodding flowers are positioned below the top tier.  Once fertilized, the flowers begin to develop into fruits, and in so doing lose their droop.  The flower stalks, or pedicles, straighten so that the (inedible) purple-blue berries stand erect above the top tier of leaves.  This plant gets its common name from the cucumber-like taste and consistency of its tubers, or roots, but Indian Cucumber Root is not overly common so I don’t  encourage harvesting it.