Monday, March 31, 2008
One of the freshest and subtlest signs of the rising sap are the new fronds of broad buckler fern (Dryopteris dilatata) seen here above evergreen ivy and last year's dead leaves. The delicate tracery does not stay long and turns into a rather dowdy fern later in the year. The countryside is so full of the grosser manifestations of early spring - wood anemones, primroses, daffodils - that it is easy to overlook these less strident displays. I think the fronds look good enough to eat and, apparently, the plant has been used as an analgesic, against dandruff and for gastrointestinal disturbances. Dryopteris roots have also, I gather, been used to make an alcoholic beverage called "uh" (great name) in Alaska, a practice the indigenous American Indians are said to have learnt from the Russians. As the roots are considered toxic, they might have had rather more of a buzz than they bargained for - 'uh' indeed.