Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Licorice Fern

Erika and I identified a Licorice Fern at the Nisqually national wildlife refuge on 8 March 2021. These plants are super common in the Pacific Northwest, from Alaska to northern California. They thrive in rainforests, as an epiphyte growing on Bigleaf Maple trunks (as well as on logs, rocks, and mossy ground). Native people used these ferns, both raw and cooked, to fight respiratory ailments. Fern rhizomes taste like licorice (Slater Museum of Natural History). The scientific name is Polypodium glycyrrhiza—“glycyrrhiza” means “sweet root.” I will investigate how the rhizomes taste the next time I encounter one, and, assuming I survive, I will report back to you. (Famous last words: I am unaware of any poisonous ferns.)

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