Lily-like Leaves )
Lily Family (Liliaceae)
Habitat: Montane on both sides of Continental Divide
Height: 30-80 cm
Description: This tall plant, has typical lily-style leaves which clasp tightly to the stem. The leaves are wide and almost heart shaped. The stem often forms very angular joints with leaves growing at the joints. The dangling, bell-like flowers, from which the plant takes its name, begin as closed bells, but soon open and rapidly fade. Usually, 1-4 flowers will grow together in a hanging cluster. The leaves are later replaced by red, velvety berries.
Flower: Fairybells earn their name from their cream coloured white flowers. The 6 petaled flowers occur in groups of two or three at the plant's tip. There are 6 petals (tepals) and 6 yellow stamens emerging from within the cream coloured petals. They flowers form a bell-shape and may be largely obscured by the leaves.
Leaf: The soft, clasping leaves of rough-fruited fairybells reveal several prominent veins that run parallel to the leaf margin. The leaves vary from ovate to lanceolate and are 4-9 cm long. They are wide near the base, tapering gradually to a sharp tip. The margin is smooth.
Fruit/Seed: Fairybells produce velvety red berries 8-10 mm in diametre, usually in groups of two or three. As the berries ripen, their colour varies from green, to yellow, orange and finally a bright red colour. They may also display a slightly warted appearance on the surface. They are edible, but mealy and tasteless - better to leave them for the grouse and rodents that find them tasty.
Similar Species: In the southern Rockies, there is another species of fairybells called Hooker's fairybells (D. hookeri). Hooker's fairybells occur only in the southernmost tip of the Canadian Rockies, so in most cases range can be helpful in ruling out this plant. The young leaves on Hooker's fairybells tend to be slightly hairy above as opposed to the smooth upper surface fo rough-fruited fairybells. Also, the berries lack the warty texture of rough-fruited fairybells.
Once you become familiar with fairybells, they are quite distinctive. Novices may confuse them with two other common wildflowers, the clasping-leaved twisted-stalk and the false Solomon's-seal. Twisted-stalk takes its name from the fact that its tiny, bell-like flowers hang from short stems that display a distinctive bend along its length. The flowers are also much smaller than those of the fairy-bell. The red berries of the twisted-stalk also hang very distinctly beneath the leaves at the end of the same twisted-stalk.
False Solomon's-seal is also very distinctive. The flowers form a dense cluster near the tip of the unbranched stem.
Range: Look for rough-fruited fairybells throughout the Canadian Rockies, and spreading east and west through central British Columbia, Alberta and eastward all the way to James Bay. Southward, it can be found from Oregon to Nebrasca.
The Blackfoot would place rough-fruited fairybell berries in the eyes overnight with an infusion of bark as a treatment for snow blindness. The dampened, bruised leaves were also used as a bandage and treatment for wounds.
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