[ SCOLIOPUS BIGELOVII ]
Obscure and stinky, the fetid adder's tongue of the Northern California coast exemplifies how a small understory flower can survive in the shade of mighty coniferous forests. With two oddly mottled 8-inch-long leaves poking from the forest duff, this inconspicuous cousin of the lily produces several long-stalked flowers that bloom in winter and reek of something foul (hence its colorful name). Because there are no large pollinators such as bumblebees flying this time of year, hordes of tiny gnats swarm the smelly flowers instead. Such hibernal habits let the plant take advantage of the scant sunshine available before the canopy closes over with spring leaves. This schedule allows seeds of the adder's tongue to ripen in early summer when many other species are just starting to flower and ripe seeds are rare commodities.