Saturday, September 29, 2007

Beauty, Beast

Oplopanax horridus.

Even the name hurts.

For those of you that don't recognize it, this is the stem of Devil's club, the guardian of many a fishing hole in SE AK. Some riparian areas are so overrun with Devil's Club that even hardened addicts like ourselves yield to the force majeure and try elsewhere.

But inside that thorny exterior there is a medicinal power that has been harnessed by indigenous folks so extensively that many call it "Tlingit Aspirin". Salves, Creams, Decoctions, Potions...Everything from coughs to major flesh wounds could be treated with Devil's Club.

Because of its tendency to grow horizontally, Devil's Club turns into a nightmarish trail-sweeper when unwittingly caught and released by the errant walker's foot. After the strike, the spines break off in the flesh, causing dermatitis and in some cases weeping sores.

Ironic, no?

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