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Streptopus amplexifolius (twistedstalk, clasping twistedstalk,claspleaf twistedstalk, White Twisted-stalk, or watermelon berry) is a species of flowering plant in the family Liliaceae, native to North America, Europe and Asia.
It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 40–100 cm tall, with alternate, oblong-lanceolate leaves 5–14 cm long. The greenish-white flowers hang from axils on 1–2 cm thin kinked panicles, each flower with six white tepals, 9–15 mm long. The plants leaves completely encircle the stem, and the stems have a kink at each leaf axil giving the plants stem a "twisted" and wiry appearance. The plants grow in a creeping habit in moist, dense undergrowth.
Twisted Stalk is widely distributed across North America. The plant is most often found near shaded stream banks and in moist thickets of the montane and subalpine zones across most of North America. It is also found in similar locations in Europe and Asia.
Uses and Edibility
Twisted Stalk was used as a food plant by Native Americans in Eastern North America and as a medicine. The plant was referred to by early settlers of Eastern and Western North America as "wild cucumber" and as "scoot berries" for the mildly laxative effects of the plants berries if they are eaten in excessive quantities.
The tender young shoots of this plant were eaten by Native Americans as a salad green. The entire plant is sweet with a cucumber-like flavor. The berries are reported to be juicy and sweet, with a cucumber-like flavor. The juice of the berries was used as a soothing treatment for burns by American Indians. These berries are listed as poisonous by Pojar and Mackinnon, "Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast."
Twisted Stalk has a supercifial resemblance to False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum), but Twisted Stalk produces axillary flowers and fruits along the stem, where False Solomon's Seal produces a terminal inflorescence. Also False Solomon's Seal is always a single unbranched stem, while Twisted Stalk can be branched at the bottom. In fruit, Twisted Stalk is easily identified by its large, juicy red berries which grow from each leaf axil and are highly visible, even in the thickest undergrowth, as they boldly contrast with the surrounding foliage.
When young, Twisted Stalk can bear a frightening resemblance to members of the genus Veratrum, highly toxic plants of the lily family that are distantly related to Twisted Stalk. This plant should not be consumed unless identification is positive.
Media related to Streptopus amplexifolius at Wikimedia Commons
- Blanchan, Neltje (2002). Wild Flowers: An Aid to Knowledge of our Wild Flowers and their Insect Visitors. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
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