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猪牙花 zhu ya hua
Katakuri (Erythronium japonicum; Japanese: 片栗) is a pink-flowered species trout lily, belonging to the Lily family and native to Japan, Korea, the Russian Far East (Sakhalin Island, Kuril Islands) and northeastern China (Jilin and Liaoning). It is a spring ephemeral, blooming April–June in woodlands.
Erythronium japonicum has a stem up to 20 cm long, although as much as 30% of the stem may be underground. Bulb is elongated, up to 6 cm long but rarely more than 1 cm wide. Laves are broadly elliptical to lanceolate, the blade up to 12 cm long and 7 cm wide. Flowers are solitary, rose-colored.
Applying the generic common name trout lily may be somewhat of a misnomer, because in the Japanese species, the individual plant may or may not exhibit the flecked dark markings on the leaves, which is emblematic of that common name (see gallery below).
There is mixed reporting on whether it should be regarded as endangered in Japan. One source adds it to a list of wildflowers that should be included as endangered. But the so-called Eco kentei(ja) or environmental specialist certification, run by the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry(ja) (TCCI), has had an exam question in the past, where the correct answer to "Is katakuri an endangered " was "no". The Japanese ministry (MOE)'s version of Red Data Book has not handed down an assessment of the whole species, even though in the RDB compiled by individual prefectures, its satus is evaluated at "near threatened" (jun-zetsumetsu kigu shu) in Hyogo and Mie, and rated vulnerable-endangered in Shikoku, southern Kanto.
It has been pointed out that this woodland plant is more vulnerable, since it has a very short season and is slow-growing. It needs to grow into a 7-8 year old plant before it finally blooms. So they will not rebound in numbers once taken. In Niiharu (Midori-ku, Yokohama), the colony was entirely wiped out (poached) overnight shortly after media coverage about it blooming in the area.
A colony that can be viewed within the confines Metropolitan Tokyo is at Shimizuyama-ikoi-no-mori(ja) which translates approximately to "Shimizuyama grove of respite", in Nerima-ku. This is somewhat in the neighborhood of the Tomitaro Makino memorial garden which also has a small number of plants planted.
The katakuriko (片栗粉 "katakuri powder"?), is a starch that bears the name of this plant, which originally refers to the starch from the Erythronium japonicum bulb. Because of its small quantity, starch from Erythorium japonicum is no longer common, potato starch has almost taken its place nowadays and only the name remains.
This plant is not known to be farmed, and has been harvested from wild colonies by poachers, but probably not by seekers of starch source but by wildflower enthusiasts or traffickers.
A cyberspace rumor has it that the true katakuri starch is available as Traditional Chinese medicine though exorbitantly expensive, but it is hard to find any reference that says it has any extraordinary potency, so it probably would not be prescribed by any honest-dealing pharmacists. Some books say this is sanjiko (山慈姑 "yama-kuwai"?), but this is apparently a mistake for the amana (Tulipa edulis).
The rumor that it is used in wagashi, particularly in the confection called katakuri-rakugan is apocryphal, since historian Kahei Mori(ja) states that this confection, which used to be traditionally presented to Morioka Domain, was made from the starch of lily bulbs.
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- Cf. Kogure 2011. The author does not explicit state this for the case of the apprehended poacher, but it is implicit, as it carries over from his discussion concerning the impact of poaching on orchids (shunran, ebine etc.) and other countryside species.
- e.g., Nanba, Tsuneo (難波恒雄) (1970). 漢方薬入門(Kanpōyaku nyūmon). Hoikusha., though not an authority, gives no mention
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