Yesterday while on a walk through the woods a friend spotted a small cluster of navy blue berries perched at the tip of a rather slender stem. He wondered what kind of berries they were. I told him they were blue beads and that I had often thought of writing a column about wildflowers that produce striking fruits. Consequently, that's the topic of this week's column.
Although the scientific name of the plant is Clintonia borealis, I've usually referred to it as blue bead lily. Some people know it as clintonia or Clinton's, yellow bead or corn lily.
Yet others know this perennial plant as dogberry. According to "Trees, Shrubs & Wildflowers of Northern Minnesota," the Ojibwe believed dogs could poison their teeth by eating the roots of the clintonia, which made the dog's bite more deadly when attacking prey. Yet a different source, "Northland Wild Flowers," states that the Menomonee placed the leaves on dog bites to 'draw out the poison."
Every spring I look forward to the appearance of the distinctive clumps of lustrous, broad basal leaves, knowing delicate, nodding flowers will soon follow to add dabs of pale yellow to the forest floor. From May to July, the six-pointed bell-like blossoms dance at the terminus of single leafless stalks.
Although they're not found in Minnesota there is also a white clintonia, Clintonia umbellulata, that produces a tight umbel of fragrant flowers dotted with green and purple and round black berries. This close relative also has two to five wide basal leaves that are similar to those of yellow clintonia and it blooms during the same time frame. The two sometimes shares the woods in the eastern part of the U.S., where their ranges overlap.
These lovely members of the lily family inhabit the cool woodlands and open mountain slopes throughout Canada, the northern U. S. and south into the mountains of Georgia. Relatives include false Solomon's seal, lily-of-the-valley and wild leek.
I enjoy seeing the sturdy berries of the blue bead lily as much as I take pleasure in the delightful blossoms that usher in summer. It is one of the few wildflowers where I can readily witness the reproductive beauty of Mother Nature.
This year has been a spectacular year for wildflowers. Take some time to wander through the woodlands and soak in the splendor of the beautiful blossoms. It will do wonders for your heart, mind and soul.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.