General: perennial, stems mostly 50-100 cm tall, freely branched, hairless throughout (our variety), or sparsely to fairly densely short-hairy with thick rigid hairs on the lower third (the hairs sometimes with reddish base).
Leaves: alternate, ovate to ovate-oblong or oblong-lanceolate, mostly 5-12 cm long and 2-6 cm wide, sharp-pointed, clasping stem, gray-green below.
Flowers: usually 1, sometimes 2, hanging on a slender, kinked stalk from the lower side of each leaf, the stalks hairless, 10-30 mm long. Tepals 6, white but strongly greenish-tinged and rather yellow-green, 9-15 mm long, narrowly oblong-lanceolate, spreading and somewhat curved back at the tips, the inner 3 more or less clasping the stamens. Stamens unequal, filaments of the outer series scarcely 1 mm long, those of the inner series 2-3 mm long. Anthers lanceolate, 3-3.5 mm long, narrowed to a bristle-like, simple or minutely 2-cleft tip. Style 1, thick, 4-5 mm long, the stigma lobes minute.
Fruits: berries, dark yellowish to red, many-seeded, oval-oblong, 10-12 mm long. Seeds about 3 mm long.
Moist forests, streambanks, and mountain thickets, in w. and c. parts of MT. Also from AK to CA and NM, and through most of Canada and the U.S.
The fruit of twisted-stalk is edible, raw or cooked in soups and stews. Juicy with a cucumber flavor, they are reported to be slightly cathartic when growing in certain areas only. The fruit is laxative if eaten in large quantities according to another report. The red, oval berry is up to 15mm long. Tender young shoots, raw in salads or cooked like asparagus, can be eaten too, and have a cucumber-like flavor. The root is edible raw. It is sometimes used in salads for its cucumber flavor.
Several native tribes used this plant for medicinal purposes. The fruit is a powerful purgative or laxative, causing severe evacuation. A tea of the stems and fruit has been used to treat 'sickness in general'. The plant is tonic. A tea of the whole plant has been used to treat stomach complaints and loss of appetite. A compound tea of the plant has been used in the treatment of spitting up of blood, kidney problems and gonorrhea. The root has been chewed in order to induce labor in cases of protracted delay. A compound tea of the root has been used as an analgesic in the treatment of internal pain.
Our specimens belong to var. chalazatus Fassett, which has hairless stems throughout and smooth leaf edges.