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Alaska Plants

Alaska has an abundance of plants, here are some of the most common

Devils ClubDevils Club
Devils Club is found primarily in mature or old growth forests, and so is sensitive to habitat loss as these forests are disturbed or clearcut for timber. This member of the ginseng family gets its name from its thorny appearance. It is sometimes confused in the literature with its eastern cousin, Aralia spinosa, also known as devil's club or devil's walking stick. Oplopanax has a tradition of use among the Tlingit, Kwaikiutl, Skagit, and many other nations within its range. It has been used as a blood purifier, pain reliever, tonic, and digestive aid.

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

The Skunk Cabbage is a large-leafed plant that grows in wet areas, especially near streams, ponds, marshes, and wet woods. It is easy to recognize, with its huge leaves rising directly from the ground.

The Lupine lives in open habitats like gravel bars, meadows, marshes, and slopes. Like most members of this family, lupins can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia, fertilizing the soil for other plants. Bears love to eat the roots. Some butterflies feed off the lupine and lay their eggs on its leaves. The flowers are produced in dense or open whorls on an erect spike, each flower 1-2 cm long, with a typical peaflower shape with an upper 'standard', two lateral 'wings' and two lower petals fused as a 'keel'. The fruit is a pod containing several seeds.

The common monkshood is a high plant with slim stem and beautiful blue blossoms. It grows on wet grassland, stony or rocky slopes, and near forest streams. During the blooming season, the plant is very prominent against the background of other plants and attracts the eye. The common monkshood is one of the most poisonous plants of European flora. Since ancient times, people have known that it is poisonous and have used it as a weapon by coating their spears and arrowheads with its strong poison. The plant was used for killing panthers, wolves and other carnivores. The ancient Roman naturalist Plinius describes friar's cap under the name "plant arsenic". It was often used for criminal purposes.

Forget-me-notThe Alaska state flower. Forget me not flowers are very fragrant in the evening and night time, though there is little or no scent in the daytime. They can be annual or perennial plants. Their root systems are generally diffuse. Their seeds are found in small, tulip shaped pods along the stem to the flower. The pods attach to clothing when brushed against and eventually fall off, leaving the small seed within to germenate elsewhere. The seeds can be collected by putting a piece of paper under the stems and shaking them. The seed pods and some seeds will fall out.

This coarse, homely American weed is an annual and derives its name from its habit of growing freely in moist open woods and clearings, and in greatest luxuriance on newly-burnt fallows. It has composite flowers, blooming from July to August. Fireweed is a rank, slightly hairy plant, growing from 1 to 7 feet high. The thick, somewhat fleshy stem is virgate, sulcate, leafy to the top, branching above, the branches erect. The young shoots were often collected in the spring by Native American people and old timers and mixed with other greens. They are best when young and tender; as the plant matures the leaves become tough and somewhat bitter.

Bunchberry grows in extensive low patches, with one bunch of leaves at top and just above that, a cluster of tiny greenish flowers surrounded by 4 ovate white or pinkish bracts. The flower cluster resembles a single large flower held on a short stalk above leaves. Bunchberry produces bright red, round berries in a tight cluster. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 10-15 cm tall, with leaves in opposite pairs, 2-4 cm long and 1-3 cm broad. The flowers are small, dark purple, produced in a tight umbel, and surrounded by four conspicuous white petal-like bracts 1-1.5 cm long. The fruit is a red berry.

Douglas Aster
Douglas aster is a patch-forming perennial aster with hairy stems and purple flowers.Aster
This Northwest native grows in both fresh and saline situations. It is a handsome plant with pretty late summer flowers. It is often offered in native plant nurseries. Douglas' aster is a rhizomatous perennial wildflower with erect, usually unbranched stems to 130 cm high. It is highly variable in appearance and may resemble both leafy aster and Eaton's aster. The lower leaves are oblanceolate, tapering to a winged petiole. The leaves of mid-stem are lance-shaped and range from 7-13 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. The blades are smooth and hairless with toothed margins above mid-blade.

Also known as the salmon raspberry, the salmonberry is an erect or sometimes leaning shrub with weakly armed stems, bright pink flowers, and yellow or salmon-red fruits that resemble a cultivated blackberry in all but color. The fruit is juicy and slightly sweet. Salmonberries are found in moist forests and stream margins especially in the coastal forests, where they are native. They often form large thickets, and thrive in the open spaces under stands of Red Alder. Books often call the fruits "insipid" but depending on ripeness and site, they can be considered quite good and are used for jams, candies, jellies and wines by locals. They were and continue to be an important food for native people. Jewelweed

Branching annual with distinctive orange to red funnel-shaped flowers. Touch-me-not is found primarily along roadsides, along the edges of streams and marshes, and in other noncrop areas. Jewel Weed usually grows near water or in shallow ponds. It is often found in areas where Poison Ivy grows and is a very effective antidote for it.

All flower pictures © Dennis Zaki

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