Toad in the Hole

March 01, 2006

Fetid Adder's-Tongue

Early this month, after the rains had slowed down temporarily, Joe and I took a stroll with the new camera in Samuel Taylor Park in Marin County. It's a mixed redwood forest -- redwoods, alders, dogwoods, hazels, and their buddies -- with Lagunitas Creek running through.

Looking for fetid adder's-tongue is becoming a rite of spring for us. I mean California spring, starting in January, still cold and wet, the sky leaden and treacherous, the soil half-liquid underfoot. The damp redwood forest is a fine show of the whole point of water then, and a consolation for the rainy, depressing winter. Scoliopus bigelovii is one of the suite of early bloomers, and a great excuse to get out there once we've seen the ducks and cranes and hawks and shorebirds and winter migrants and vagrants.

Besides, who could resist a flower with a name like "fetid adder's-tongue"? Or its alternate, "slinkpod"? People just seem to think this is an untrustworthy little plant. "Slinkpod" because its multiple flower stems, after bloom, bend down to deposit their fruit on the ground near the parent; "adder's-tongue" after the peculiar pistil arrangement, I guess, "fetid" because the flower smells bad to us, which suggests fly pollinators to me. Honest, though, it's barely detectable even when I get down on my old knees and sniff.


It had company: the first little trilliums:


And the obscene little blooms of pipevine:

Pipevine flower

And mushrooms I haven't begun to sort out, both the "ordinary," if angelic, little white jobs:

Li'l white mushroom

and some rather more startling:

Emerging scarlet mushroom

And everywhere, little rivulets and streamlets and trickles and drips like jewelry over velvet mossbanks, sometimes invisible till you track them down by ear and look closer, watch for light and movement.


And everywhere the water in the air like a kiss on your skin.

Posted at March 1, 2006 02:58 AM


Thank you for this. I can smell it. Where you were walking...

Posted by: Pica at March 1, 2006 03:37 PM