The Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana) is mostly found in organic soils of woods. It is well-known to most Boy Scout troops that still hike the woodlands.
Small individual flowers clinging to the upper stem are colored in such a way as to be almost invisible. Even the whorled green leaves tend to fade inconspicuously into a background of forest leaf litter. Perhaps this is why only skilled outdoor leaders must point out the Indian Cucumber patch, since most hikers pass it by. Pausing at the species site, the uninitiated should try a taste of the harmless peppery-flavored root.
Gray's Manual of Botany indicates that the genus Medeola is named after the sorceress Medea, for its imagined great medicinal virtues. The specific name virginiana means “of Virginia.”
Copyright © 2004 William T. Hathaway.