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Week of May 23, 2013 - dwarf ginseng, gold thread, may apple, false hellebore, spice brush and dwarf blueberries

Thursday, May 23, 2013 11:46 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
Dear friends and students,

Welcome back to our native wildflower walk in the deep woods of early summer. If you are just joining us, you may wish to read last week’s ezine first. But you don’t have to. You can jump in right now, right here and enjoy the walk.

Follow me over this wall, around the fallen oak, and past the small quarry pond and we’ll soon come to my secret patch of dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius), [photo 12] one of the finest of the many spring tonics that grow here. Where it grows thickly, I’ll gently cut off a leaf. Here, have half.  Savor it. My mouth waters for this taste in the spring, so I make an annual pilgrimage every May to be with it and nourish myself with its wildness.

And right next to it is gold thread (Coptis groenlandica) [photo 13] in bloom. You and I met gold thread some weeks ago, at the right time to harvest its yellow root/rhizome.  Now, we need only sit here and let our imagination turn the flowers into fairy lanterns that will light the way to the gala fairy ball.

  
  [photo 12]                                                                  [photo 13]
   
We need no imagination at all to see those strange-looking green leaves as large green umbrellas. That’s American mandrake, mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). [photo 14] The leaves are big enough for an entire family of fairies to shelter under in a thunderstorm. The entire plant is quite poisonous, except for the fruit, the May-apple (which usually ripens in July!), but once again, the deer always beat me to them.
   
Jump across this little stream and let’s explore a swampy area. Lok at this patch of big, vibrantly-green leaves all folded up like fans. That’s Indian poke, or false hellebore (Veratrum viride) [photo 15]. Like the mandrake, it is poisonous. Unlike the mandrake, it grows tall, up to eight feet when it is flowering.
   

 
  [photo 14]                                                                  [photo 15]

Stand still and close your eyes. Open your ears. The warblers are back – the myrtle warbler, the palm warbler, the black and white warbler, and the chestnut-sided warbler. Now, inhale. That delicate sweet scent is spicebush (Lindera benzoin) [photo 16] in bloom. All parts of it have been utilized as seasoning for food. The hard berries are similar to cloves, the aromatic leaves, which aren’t out yet, are somewhat like bay, and the twigs are spicy, but not peppery. And it is so beautiful. Altogether agreeable, to all the senses.
       
It’s only a little further to the river. Let’s follow the crows. They’re going that way. Along the way we can visit with the dwarf blueberries (Viburnum anfustifolium). [photo 17] Aren’t their flowers lovely? Each one will turn into a blueberry, but I’ve yet to get more than a berry or two to eat, because the deer always beat me to them (and they eat them while they’re still green, too).

 
  [photo 16]                                                                  [photo 17]
 

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