Most Memorable Moments: Eskimo Potatoes

Wonderful sighting and photos.

Wickersham's Conscience

WC was in Denali National Park in early spring, 2012, en route via shuttle bus to Camp Denali for a meeting. On the flood plain of the Toklat River, just before the bridge, we encountered a grizzly bear sow with a second year cub foraging for Eskimo Potato quite close to the road.1 We pulled over to the side of the road and watched. It was an amazing, intimate view of a legendarily fearsome predator sniffing out, delicately excavating and munching down the nutritious roots.

“Eskimo potato” is a mildly derogatory name for Alpine Sweetvetch. In Yup’ik it’s Marallaq or Masru; In Iñupiaq it’s Masu. In Dena’ina Athabaskan it’s K’tl’ila. Among botanists, it’s Hedysarumalpinum. WC will call it “Maralluk” in memory of growing up in Bethel, a Yu’pik community.

The “potato” is the rhizome, a segmented underground stem that stores energy for growth of roots and stems. As…

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