Blue-purple blossoms are scattered among velvety leaves that rise from the ground like the perked ears of some alert subterranean beast. Right now, the young leaves are a beautiful palette of color–pale red veins spread across soft greenish purple. As they mature, the leaves deepen into pure emerald.
This is hound’s tongue, or Cynoglossum grande, a distinctive forest companion in the spring–often seen growing in oak woodlands, sometimes alongside yesterday’s plant, Indian warrior. Once you learn to recognize them, even the leaves are hard to mistake for anything else. Hound’s tongue flowers are simple yet pretty, ranging in color from rich blue to pink to (very occasionally) white. Each petal buckles up along the inner rim, forming a raised ring of humped white bumps around the pistil and stamens.
Indigenous Californians roasted the root as food, and grated it as medicine to treat stomach aches, burns, and venereal disease.