It is difficult to believe that the lovely pink flowers of Indian rhubarb (Darmera peltata) grow directly from the thick mass of fleshy, dark rhizomes pictured in my previous post (“Alien” Wildflower on 04-30-2018).
Each Indian rhubarb leaf arises directly from the rhizome on a long petiole and is peltate, meaning that the petiole (stem) is attached to the center of the leaf, rather that at the base or the margin. The leaves arise near each other and form small clumps. Reaching their greatest development after the flowers are past, Indian rhubarb leaves can grow from 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 feet across. The leaves are coarsely toothed and conspicuously veined. The leaf blade forms a large cup that collects and holds small pools of rainwater. Green in the summer, Indian rhubarb leaves turn red in the fall. The huge leaves give D peltata another colloquial name, umbrella plant.
The Indian rhubarb inflorescence appears before the foliage atop a scape. Scapes are leafless peduncles (stalks) that grow directly from the rhizome in acaulescent plants. The scape is thick, hairy and cinnamon in color. The inflorescence is a cyme, or branched flower cluster with the central flowers opening first. Each pink to white flower has 5 sepals that become reflexed with age, 5 broadly spread petals, 10 stamens and 2 carpels.
Indian rhubarb fruits are follicles (a dry capsule that opens only on the ventral side) that turn reddish with age.
The common name, Indian rhubarb, comes from the young shoots that can be peeled and eaten raw and the older shoots that can be boiled and eaten. The shoots are rather bland and tasteless, perhaps akin to celery or cucumbers.
Pregnant Native American women used an infusion of the roots to keep the fetus from becoming too large.
I would love to see red Indian rhubarb leaves in the fall. Leonard and I will need to return to Squaw Creek Valley Trail later in the year.