By Janelle Eklund
I stepped into the morning filled with awakening. The lingering twilight of an arctic sun faded into a distant memory as its bulbous glow rose higher in the sky. The signal of its light roused birds to forage for food and plants to yawn and spread their arms. I walked out onto the deck of the cabin drinking in the calmness of Silver Lake. Dew drops sparkled on the green of summer. Drops that mingled making soothing scents of plant essences riding the still morning air.
I began my walk down the damp gravel road passing ponds filled with life. Ducks waded searching for a delectable breakfast. Water plants were beginning to emerge in their summer beds. A beaver lodge made a solitary mound of sticks emerging from the stillness of the pond. Snow covered mountain peaks reflected in the pond like twin bookends.
Just beyond the pond on the opposite side of the road a shimmering glow of pink in a marshy area caught my eye. The bushes were full of delicately small pretty pink dangly buds. Some had their mouths open as if they were kissing the warmth of the sun. Each bud grew from a pink cane in a cluster at the top of the plant. Below the cluster on this woody shrub grew elongated leaves looking much like - you guessed it - rosemary leaves. Bog Rosemary leaves also mimic Labrador Tea leaves except the undersides are smooth and that of Labrador Tea are wooly.
Despite the prettiness of Bog Rosemary it is very poisonous. It contains a substance called andromedotoxin which can cause low blood pressure, breathing difficulty, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps.
The botanist, Linnaeus named this plant Andromeda after a mythological Ethiopian princess. And they do look like beautiful princesses! Linnaeus wrote that the plant 'is always fixed on some turfy hillock in the midst of the swamps, as Andromeda herself was chained to a rock in the sea, which bathed her feet as the fresh water does the roots of the plant'.
The best way to celebrate this plant is to meditate on its spirit essence.
From my light to yours-
References: Plants of the Western Boreal Forest & Aspen Parkland by Johnson, Kershaw, MacKinnon, Pojar; Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territores by Eric Hultén; Discovering Wild Plants by Janice Schofield.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.