Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Kansas Buffalo Gourd

This is Labor Day weekend and I am driving along Scenic Highway 177 from Cassoday to Strong City. At Matfield Green I detour off the highway and into town. Then across Sharp's Creek to where the gravel roads lead into the Flint Hills.

Chase County gravel road

I am still in the rich bottom land. There to the left side of the road, next to a field of soy beans lie some uncut native grasses. 

Kansas Buffallo Gourd flower

Within the matted grass are several Buffalo Gourds. It is also known by the name Stinking Gourd because of the foul smell the rotting fruit gives off. The stems of the plant are trailing, in one case wrapped within a fallen gate, radiating a dozen and more feet from the center where a taproot borrows into the ground. The smooth leaves are large, pointed, and velvety. reports that the carrot-like taproot of buffalo gourd can reach 4-6 feet long and weigh more than 100 pounds. Like the native Osage Indians, I believe in the plant's mystical powers; it should not be disturbed. 

The Indians used the gourds for ceremonial rattles ad children's play toys.

A few round gourds, the size of a tennis ball, now yellow with age, but once green with light stripes like a cucumber, hang from the rails of the gate or lay on the ground. It is the end of the flowering period, but a few remain. The flowers are large and yellow like the squash blossom, and, therefore, presumably edible.

fruit of the Kansas Buffalo Gourd

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