observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

Cattail Gold

I’m in love with light. When I showed this set of images to my granddaughter, she wondered what those were and she said, “It’s really pretty.” Pretty because of the light.
I’ve always enjoyed cattails. These are how they appear after being ravaged over our harsh winter. Beneath the dry golden stalks are young sprouts in the water, soon to emerge. There was a time when they served more than a pretty image for photographers or sturdy stalks to be picked in early autumn for their aesthetic appeal in home decorating. People used to rely upon them as a staple vegetable.

They’d pick the mostly white, tender spring shoots. The Chipewyan called them tlh’oghk’a (grass fat) because the spring rhizomes looked just like white fat. They would peel and eat the rhizomes raw or roasted; others were dried and ground to later be cooked like porridge. Just like different cultures these days are known to cook or prepare a food item in different ways, so too did the native peoples. The Cree, for instance, collected the rhizomes after they bloom (in early autumn rather than spring) and would either eat them raw or dipped in boiling water. Sounds like an appetizer.

Something I recently learned is that the flower stalks were also eaten. I’m sure they would look at these and think of what a waste it had been. If you’ve ever noticed cattail stalks in the autumn you’ll have noticed they are more mature at the top (male flowers) and tighter and somewhat green (female flowers) at the bottom of each stalk. The female flowers were boiled or roasted right on the stalk, much like corn on the cob, and eaten in the same way. The male flowers are heavy in pollen so were added to flour to be made into a variety of baked items such as biscuits, pancakes, muffins, and even cookies. Such a versatile plant.

For the curious, here is an image where I changed the focus away from the cattails to reveal who was in behind all the while I was taking these photos.
Do you have a favourite plant that has an interesting history or background?

Diane is a lifestyle photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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DIdier - May 21, 2009 - 11:46 pm

You have a very nice place to present your beautiful images . I spent here a very pleasant moment . I will come back to see some more beautiful photograph

Toni - May 22, 2009 - 2:38 am

Excellent captures, Diane. The light is the key, isn’t it? I’ll have to think about a favorite plant, although I love daisies and Dahlberg daisies.

Deborah Carr - May 22, 2009 - 6:54 am

You do play with light so evocatively, Diane. I, too, find my eye drawn to the ethereal nature of back-lit cattails.

You’ve done a magnificent job with your new site and blog. I know how much hard work and patience has gone into this project – take some time to pat yourself on the back! Well done, girl-friend-across-the-miles!

Marcie - May 22, 2009 - 7:05 am

Gorgeous color. Love the cattails..and the ducks in the background. It does remind me of the one I posted a few days back.

Junie Moon - May 22, 2009 - 9:36 am

I’ll have to remember to change the link to your blog in my blogroll list … am making a note to myself to do so.

Cattails are amazing plants, I so agree. And I love the play of light on the cattails in your photograph. It’s also fun to see the the other photo depicting the background subjects.

I can’t say I have a favorite plant with an interesting history as I’m all over the place in liking most everything. For me, it kind of depends on how I feel on a certain day, what the light is doing or not doing, how something interacts with whatever is going on in my life at the time, and so on. I guess what I’m saying is that I haven’t any focus. Hmmm…I hope that doesn’t imply some deep-seated character flaw.

sherri - May 22, 2009 - 9:05 pm

I remember years ago (like 25 years ago, back in the old days:-) we used to cut cattails, spray them with hairspray, and use them to decorate our houses. I’ve always loved them, but realize they look best growing wild:-) Your images are really nice with the natural backlighting and the way they’ve split open. I can see why your granddaughter thinks they’re pretty. I knew some cultures used these for stuffing beds and such, but didn’t know anyone ate them. Very interesting. (as for the size of your font are you speaking of this blog or your web site? you can email me)

Maya@Completely-Coastal - May 24, 2009 - 8:15 am

I love light too…, when it hits the water, nature, anything really. Without it our eyes wouldn’t see anything really. Beautiful!