Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Living: Letters to the Editor

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Skunk Debunk

Your article on La Niña (Winter 2012) was fun, but check your local resources for information on skunk cabbage. The plant pictured is Western skunk cabbage, which does not grow here. I understand the mistake. Growing up here, I was always told by my parents that the plant was skunk cabbage, and I’ve spent years trying to correct this information in my herbalist classes. The plant we have here is false hellebore, or cornhusk lily (Veratrum tenuipetalum), which isn’t related. Yes, it’s a snow indicator because it grows tall enough each year for the seed heads to sit above the snow and provide forage for animals. Native peoples did use this plant, but as a poison for arrows or as an insecticide. It was only used medicinally in minute amounts by skilled practitioners; it’s considered toxic and can cause nausea, vomiting and slowing of the heart. I hope any future articles that discuss our local plant communities will be checked with local experts.

— Mary O’Brien, herbalist and permaculture educator

Thanks for the clarification. We did check with several sources, including the Community Agriculture Alliance, so it seems like the misunderstanding is as widespread as the plant. — eds

Changing Gear

Thanks for running the Best of the Boat contest again. Maybe we’ll win something next year (I am assuming we didn’t this year). I also want to remind your readers that gear goes around a lot in this town; something someone bought at a Best of the Boat retailer might well end up on our shelves later. So pass it forward. If you have old, idle gear laying around, bring it on over so someone else can use it. Recycling gear, that’s truly the Best of the Boat.

— Matt Burditt, Boomerang Sports Exchange

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