August 01, 2006

August in Alaska

For Alaskans, the month of August means hiking, relief from mosquitoes, salmon runs, berries, and an end to the explosion of wildflowers that sprout up during July. Taking advantage of a rainless morning this weekend, Sonja and I took the dogs for a walk to enjoy one of the last peaks of the flower season along the Ptarmigan Lake Trail in the Chugach National Forest north of Seward. Here's a sample of some of the more unique flowers we encountered.

This is called Alpine Bog Swertia. According to the book I had, either it (or something very similar) is an introduced species. It wasn't clear exactly which was which, however, so I'll pretend that it was the other one. Cuz this flower is way cool.

Listed as "Single Delight", "Shy Maiden" or "Wax Flower", I'll let you decide which name you'd like it to be. It's a cool little flower that's only a couple inches tall. Sonja thinks it looks weird.

This one's my favorite...the Chocolate Lily. I stuck this in here even though we didn't see it on the Ptarmigan Lake Trail. Rather, this particular flower is actually growing about two miles up the Harding Icefield Trail. But it's so swell that I just had to include it. It's name apparently comes from the color of the flower and not because it smells like chocolate. That is, unless the chocolate you eat smells like ass.

Monkshood, Wolfsbane, Weird Purple Flower That Can Kill A Whale...whatever you want to call it, this flower is way neato. One of the most poisonous plants in North America, the neurotoxin in its roots and seeds is so potent that the native Alutiiq people of the Kenai Penninsula would use it on their harpoons to help them kill gray and humpback whales from a kayak, mixing the monkshood with human fat to give it more magical potency. They'd spear the whale near the base of its tail, which would become paralyzed by the poison, causing the whale to drown. They would then wait for the current to push the whale to shore where they could harvest it for their village. Early settlers in the western U.S. would also use it to poison carcasses in order to kill wolves, bears and eagles. Hence the name "Wolfsbane." That dark blob in the background is Harvey diving for rocks in Ptarmigan Creek.

So there are some cool Alaskan flowers for your Tuesday morning.


Janine said...

Cool purple flower! too bad it's so poisonous, you could of sent sme seeds to put in my perinal garden!! have a fun visit with Mom this weekend!!!
:o) Janine

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