This is the late summer appearance of the Corn Lily. The plant grows in wet meadows, stream beds and along creeks and streams. Found between elevations of 3500 – 11000 feet. Native to North-Western United States.
Description: The 4 to 8 feet tall stalk, and many branching arms, are covered with tightly clustered 3/4-inch flowers with green centers.
Toxicity/Edibility: The alkaloids in this plant make it extremely toxic to humans, livestock, and even insects. Ingestion has caused birth defects in animals, and losses in honeybee populations.
Medicinal uses: Historically, corn lily was used as a pain reliever and anti-convulsive (for epilepsy). Native Americans concocted an effective a birth control tea from the roots. Today it is used pharmaceutically to slow the heartbeat and lower blood pressure.
Comments: Because the leaves resemble those of corn stalks and edible “skunk cabbage,” corn lily has been eaten mistakenly with fatal results—the alkaloids paralyzing the respiratory system. Native Americans used the juice to poison darts for warfare, and the powdered root made an effective insecticide.
Photo: Near Doris Lake, Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, USA.