Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/44

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34
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

one which has a round or oblong, white, farinaceous root somewhat like a small parsnip. It is called couse, or biscuit-root, by the Oregon Indians, and is quite an important source of food among them. It is gathered and dried for winter use, is then ground between stones to a kind of flour, and of this a palatable and nutritious cake is made. It is also sometimes boiled with meat.

6. Apios tuberosa (ground-nut). In all the United States on or east of the Mississippi the twining stem and purple flowers of the ground-nut are well known to the country boys, for they have learned that at the base of that stem are tubers which may be eaten and with a little make-believe enjoyed. These tubers were quite as well known to the aboriginal inhabitants, and to them they were a more important article of food. They are, however, small, somewhat woody, and in all respects inferior to the potato, which superseded them wherever attainable.

7. Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke). This plant is usually supposed to have been introduced from Europe, but Dr. Gray has given good reasons for believing that it is a native of this country, and that its tubers were used by the Indians of the Mississippi Valley for food. It has been said to be a variety of IL doro7iicoides, but is probably a form of H. giganteus.

8. Helianthus annuus (sunflower). In the central part of the continent—Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming—are large areas of open ground which sustain a vigorous growth of the sunflower. It is always an evidence of good soil where it grows, and the magnitude of the stem, which is often six or seven feet high, and the flowers four to five inches broad, measures the richness of that soil. Nowhere in nature do the flowers become so large and the seeds so abundant as in the cultivated variety, but the seeds have long been used for food by the Indians, and it is probable that the plant grew larger about their villages than we now find it in the dry and comparatively sterile regions of the Far West. The Indians use the seeds for food, and sometimes extract an oil from them which is employed for the hair, or to lubricate or paint the face or body.

9. Wyethia robusta (Nutt.). In Oregon and Northern California I found the Indians gathering the seeds of a species of Wyethia, which Dr. Gray considers that described by Nuttall. On the east side of the Sierra Nevada, several species of the genus are very widely distributed, the larger ones having flowers which resemble those of Inula, and in many dry regions for a brief interval in the spring the surface is quite covered with their broad ovate leaves, and the scene made brilliant by their showy golden flowers. Their glory is, however, short-lived, for early in the summer the flowers disappear, the leaves become dry and brown, and rustle under the feet like those which fall from the trees in our forests with the autumn frosts. The achenia of Wyethia are relatively large, and contain a sufficient amount of