by Julie Gomez
It was to be the warmest day of the year. Mount Hood, still dressed in white, stood on the horizon against a cloudless sky. The lake, as black as onyx, held no reflections, its waters caressed by wind, twinkled like stars.
With the sun and wind at my back, I rowed my pontoon boat across the lake and dropped anchor at the edge of the lily pads where the trout were rising. I tied a Big Black Gnat, size 12, onto my tippet, and a few casts later, I was catching trout. I was also catching sunburn for having forgotten my sunscreen.
The air was thick with damselflies and the heady sweet scent of buckbean that, according to some reports, is said to have a foul odor.
Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata)—also called “bogbean,” is a native perennial herb belonging to the Buckbean Family whose name means “three-leaved.”
From submerged rhizomes, rise slender stalks six to eighteen inches tall that produce three oblong, basal leaves two to five inches long.
Flowers bloom late spring to early summer; white, and often tinged with pink, they bloom in clusters at the top of the stalk. Slightly funnel-shaped, the flowers have five, flat, spreading, reflexed petals, and long stamens with purple tips. The inner surfaces of the flowers are coated with long hairs.
Seeds are golden and oval-shaped.
As food: The root has a pungent, acrid flavor, and must be cooked, dried, and ground into powder, and rinsed in cold water before use. The root can be eaten as an emergency food, and has been used to make famine bread. Leaves are bitter, and have been used in place of hops for making beer.
As medicine: Root (boiled) and the tea drunk for a stomach tonic. Leaves (dried) and the tea drunk for indigestion, muscle weakness, tuberculosis, edema, anorexia, scurvy, jaundice, hepatitis, fevers, rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic infections associated with weakness and fatigue; also to induce vomiting, expel stomach parasites, promote urine flow, and for a strong laxative. Root, stems (boiled), and the tea drunk for stomachaches and internal bleeding. Whole plant (tincture) for treating gout.
Warning! Whole plant can irritate the digestive system. Avoid use if diarrhea, dysentery, or colitis is present. The fresh plant or excessive use causes vomiting.
Look for buckbean among bogs, wetlands, ponds, and shallow lakes.
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Julie Gomez’s books “Collecting Wild Herbs, “Deadly Herbs,” and “Medicinal Fruits & Berries” are available at amazon.com. For additional reading and more, visit my blog at naturecronicles.wordpress.com.