Fragrant along the pond's edge and in the pasture rivulet grow the beds of calamus, the sweet flag. Shining and dark bright green, the ridged, sword-like leaves quiver in the wind and rain, bend flat in a storm, rise again, or are crushed where the. cows on a hot day bed down in the cool and aromatic leaves.
Acorus calamus L.
April - May Swamps, ponds.
Calamus grows in broad colonies, not as a single plant. The traveling rootstock sends up stalk after stalk; the colony becomes an underground mat of white roots with hundreds upon hundreds of leaves standing erect.
In spring there emerge from certain stalks - they look like leaves but properly are not - spikes of yellow, pollen-laden flowers. These are much like the lower part of the spadix of the jack-in-the-pulpit, to which family it belongs, but there is no spathe to curl itself over or around the spadix. The elongation of the green flowering stalk, however, may be called a spathe of sorts, though it does not enclose the spadix at all. Rather, this juts from the stem and gleams in the sun, is host to early insects and then, in summer, forms a tight club of green fruits.
The entire calamus plant is aromatic from the root to the tip of the leaf and the flower itself. It is a pleasant fragrance, enhanced when chewed, and the root for many generations since the time of the Indians has been used as an aid in relieving the discomfort of dyspepsia and colic. As such it is even now in the pharmacies under the old name of calamus.