Listening for the Northwest UnderstoryBook - 2007
Salal is a unique book about a commonplace plant. Part travel narrative, part literary memoir, part "ethnography" of a plant that usually goes unnoticed, Laurie Ricou's book traces the poetry and culture of salal, while letting readers in on its secrets. Salal's high-gloss leaves and delicate salmon-white flowers are compelling, and as a staple of the floral greens industry its impact is global. Through interviews, commentary, and well-documented research, Ricou tells the stories of salal--how it is used, what it means to writers and artists, how it is gathered by itinerant immigrant workers but also housewives, and what the vagaries of the salal industry are all about. Longtime teacher Ricou records visits to Port Townsend and Pacific Spirit Park, to Courtenay and Victoria, to Calgary and San Antonio, to London and Paris, demonstrating that an uncharismatic plant could become an icon. At once about the West Coast region where salal thrives and the global routes and economy that determine its harvesting, Salal exposes the artificial divide between nature and culture, ecology and the marketplace.