Why Oplopanax

For those of you who don’t use Google, Oplopanax Horridus is a shrub related to Ginseng, native to the West Coast of North America. Primarily found in rainforest and wet locations, it grows about 1 to 1.5 m high, has large leaves that look a little like huge maple leaves, grows red berries, and most importantly is covered in small spines.

I chose this plant as my namesake for a few reasons. I tend to like odd, down trodden things that other people find unattractive. Also, it grows in the climate I call home. When I see it, it means I’m in the bush and that’s almost always a good thing. It’s my good omen, and my talisman.

Like a lot of things you love, Oplopanax hurts sometimes. Do NOT use it for self belay when descending steep avalanche chutes in the fall or spring when there’s no leaves and it looks just like slide alder. You will spend the next 4 weeks picking the spines out of your hands.

However, do take the time to enjoy how it looks. Tall, graceful. Notice how the leaves are perfectly flat, and if you look at them edge on they almost disappear. Appreciate the red berries. Stop hating the plant that hurts you, and love what it represents.

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