Nature Notes

Volume II No. 2 - August 1, 1929

Notes On Three Amphibians
By Berry Campbell

At the foot of the new trail to the Lake, three species of amphibians were found on July 1, 1929. The first was the Longtoed Salamander, Ambystoma macrodactylum. This is a chocolate colored lizard-like animal, about four inches long, with a bright wheat stripe down its back from its neck to the tip of its tail. On its head are several more blotches of wheat. The adults are abundant under the rocks at the shore of the Lake, while in the small bays and pools, the larvae may be seen swimming about.

The Pacific Water Dog was also found. All of those seen were just losing their gills and metamorphosing into adult salamanders and, consequently, they were not as large as one would ordinarily find them. Those measured three and one-half or four inches but they grow to be twice that long. They may be recognized by their light orange stomachs and by their rough skin. The Water Dog is found along the whole Pacific Coast from Southern California to British Columbia.

The third amphibian was the Northwestern toad, Pufo boreas boreas. The specimen that we found was a young one, about two inches long; the ordinary length is about four or five inches. These toads may be recognized at once by the warts on their skin and the white stripe down their backs. They are found all over northwestern United States.

By F. Lyle Wynd

The False Green Hellebore (Veratrum viride Ait.) is blooming in profusion on the camp ground at the Rim. Its large green leaves cause tourists to frequently mistake it for skunk cabbage.

poison symbol

The Hellebores have long been know to be very poisonous. All parts of the plant are lethal. As far back as the time of Pliny the deadly properties of this genus of plants were know. Pliny himself tells us how oxen, horses, and swine were killed by eating the foliage. On our own Pacific Coast, far from the time and place of Pliny, there is considerable loss among foraging stock when the grazing is short. The fine green leaves are very tempting to animals, although it is rare that they will eat them unless pressed by hunger.

The number of poisonous substances in the tissues of the Hellebores is very large indeed. Of these the so-called "veratrin" having the chemical formulae C32H19NO11, has a violent physiological effect. It causes severe sneezing and dilates the pupils of the eyes. Recently this substance has been reduced to several which were unknown to the earlier investigators. Of these the base, "cevadin", is very toxic. "Veratridin" and "sabadillin" have also been separated from the "veratrin" of the earlier writers. There have been many other poisonous bases, alkaloids, and glucosides found in these plants by toxicologists.

Most cased of poisoning from this plant are due to over doses of the drug made from them.

The Indians used this plant as an emitic.

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