Fetid Adder's-tongue, Scoliopus bigelovii, has several common names including Slink Pods and Crooked Foot. The scientific name explains that it is part of the lily family and also commemorates the fact that this particular species was discovered not too long ago in Marin County by a doctor named John Milton Bigelow. It takes it's most dramatic common name from it's rather unusual odor which some folks find to be as foul as an adder's breath. (Never having smelled an adder's breath we have to take their word for it.)

Fetid Adder's-tongue

Fetid Adder's-tongue

The scientists tell us that the smell is attractive to fungus gnats who are the pollinating agents. After pollination, seeds form. The seeds are coated with a fleshy substance that ants find tasty. After the gnats do their bit and seeds form, the ants come by and take the seeds back to their nest where they consume the covering and then discard the seed. If that propagation strategy fails the plant also reproduces by sending out small creepers that can take root a few inches away from the parent plant. It is not uncommon to find patches of these plants all within a short distance of one another.

Fetid Adder's-tounge has a very small brownish flower that tends to blend in with the duff on the forest floor as it rises only a few inches from the rather large mottled green leaves that are much easier to spot. It is one of our wildflowers that likes the deep shade of the forest. While hiking in our forested areas, look for the leaves along the path in a moist area and mark the spot in your mind. Come back in January or February and look closely. If you are curious about what the gnats find so compelling you are going to have to get down on your hands and knees and sniff carefully.

How many folks really know what an adder's tongue looks like or it's breath smells like?