Saturday, July 09, 2016


The area I've been exploring for the past couple of weeks follows the valley of the Oyster River. On the map, it looks simple; empty forest or grassland with a winding blue streak through it. But zooming in, and zooming in further, it gets bluer. Water is everywhere; there's the Little Oyster River, a bunch of creeks and mini-creeks, sloughs, bogs, miniature lakes, pools, and at least one beaver pond. Any little dip in the terrain is full of water.

And where the ground is always wet, I keep seeing stands of Devil's Club, its wide leaves serving as stern "Keep Off" signs. Oplopanax horridus, they call it; it's well named, both in English and scientific notation.

The leaves get up to 15 inches across.

And the plant can be 15 feet tall, or more. This one was a new plant at the edge of a recent clearing, and only about 8 feet high.

The whole plant is covered with vicious spines.

Really vicious. Up to an inch long, very sharp. They break off easily to an incautious touch, sting and fester.

Even the leaves are spined, top and bottom.

"A piece of Devil's club hung over a doorway is said to ward off evil." (Wikipedia)

But you'd need thick gloves and strong boots to harvest that piece safely. I think I'll stick to vanilla leaf.


  1. the spines were used as fishhooks. Can you imagine being tasked with gathering them? I imagine cedar park mittens were used

  2. "horridus" makes you wonder what the story is behind the name... I'm glad that thing doesn't grow here.


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