When you can hear the roar of the wet-weather waterfall from the house, you know the water’s up. If you can see the waterfall from the front porch, it’s a fair bet the creek is way over the bridge.
When the creek is this much into the driveway…
Water in the Wild Ozark driveway.
Yep. Looks like I’ll be staying home another day or two.
I’ve lost a dog over the bridge once years ago. It was a horrific thing to watch and have no way to help. She did turn up downstream some time later, alive and well if bedraggled. But the experience sure drove home the danger of high water in the creeks.
Turbo! Come back!
He stood there and looked at me for a few seconds, all the while the water pushed him closer to the edge. Finally he kicked it into gear and got off the bridge. Whew.
I could take the truck and go out the back way if I need to. But I think I’ll just stay home and write.
It’s been raining off and on here since last night. It seems like it’s been raining every day since I can’t remember when. I’m tired of it and will be glad when the ground is dry and the creeks are passable again, but in the meantime I’ve been writing.
When I’m writing ficiton, it’s hard to write non-fiction, and the reverse is true too. So if there are less blog posts here than before, that’s why. I’ve been working on an urban fantasy novel.
Bounty Hunter is set in a dystopian Ozarks and there will be alternate realms, too, because one of the characters moves between them to get around. I’m 14,710 words into it now and by the time I write “The End” there should be close to 125,000.
Trey and DRSS are the main characters. They’re bounty hunters for a government agency called ARSA. A third main character (the main character from my short story No Qualms) will be introduced later on in the book, possibly not until the second book.
Here’s my 50-word synopsis:
Treya signs on to be an ARSA agent- a bounty hunter. Criminals are hunted to grub stage, which means they need to be killed three times to force the lowest incarnation. What Treya doesn’t know is that she’s on a hit list, too, and the hunter will become the hunted.
Some of the scenes from this book are inspired by photos I’ve taken over the years. Here’s one that inspired a scene in the alternate realm where Treya has pursued her pursuer.
These bone remnants from a real cave in northwest Arkansas gave me the idea for an alternate reality setting for a scene in my novel.
If you’d like to read the first two chapters of Bounty Hunter (and give me some feedback on how you like it), join my private FB group. The first two chapters are loaded into the files section and I’ll load the rest of them as I finish them. Or email me and I’ll send it to you that way.
I took a few pictures today for those of you wondering how the ginseng looks during mid- to late May. I’ll post a link to them over on the Ginseng Habitat Through the Seasons page, too.
Right now some of the flower buds are starting to open. Here’s a 4-prong with a few doing that.
A 4-prong ginseng with flowers beginning to open on May 18.
Here’s the a closer zoom on the flowers. According to the article Ginseng Reproduction at Wild Ginseng Conservation’s website, ginseng is pollinated only by two insects: syrphid flies and halictid bees.
Flowers on a 4-prong American ginseng at Wild Ozark on May 18.
Other ginseng plants in the area still have tightly closed flower buds.
A 3-prong ginseng with flower bud.
If you haven’t found your way around the blog yet, here’s a few links to other pages to do with Ginseng:
There’s a particular woodland habitat at the far corner of our property that I love.
The variety of plants that grow there is amazing.
It’s the perfect place for American ginseng, but those plants have nearly been extirpated by diggers foraging the hillsides of our area. It’s too far from the house for me to be able to keep a close eye on it, so I likely won’t plant any more in that spot.
Instead, I visit and enjoy the company of the plants who do have a stronghold there.
Here’s the path. The phone company ran through here a few years ago but before that it was a logging trail. Now it isn’t used for anything except as a path for my visits.
A carpet of nettles green dragons and cohosh and dolls eyes.
It’s so lush and green I almost want to lie down, but nettles aren’t very forgiving. I wear long sleeves and socks with my shoes when I tread this path. Then I still have to be careful about my face when getting down close to the ground for photos.
Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium)
From a distance all you can see is green, and most of that green is tall wood nettles – and they sting. But there’s a Green Dragon lurking.
Green dragon from above.
When you look closer, you’ll notice there’s more than nettles (left of the dragon) to be found. There’s also a mayapple (just left of center, top) and either a Doll’s Eye or Black Cohosh (top, right), and some wild legume species (lower right) to be found in just this one photo frame.
There was very nearly a whole herd of dragons in the stretch of path in the first photo. One displayed the plant’s namesake.
Last year I collected seeds from a Green Dragon. Below is a pic of the dragon from last year. This year, I can’t find that particular dragon. Instead, there’s a giant Jack-in-the-Pulpit growing where the dragon was. Before I found this photo in my files, I couldn’t remember whether the cluster still had identifying leaves on it or not.
Mature green dragon with fruit.
I was uncertain. Did the berries I gathered come from a dragon or a pulpit? So the photo shows it clearly was a dragon.
Sometimes there’s no plant left once the berries become red. Sometimes the leaves die back and only the stem and berries are standing in fall. The berry cluster of both plants, without leaves to identify, looks very similar to each other.
It’ll be two years before I have indisputable proof, once the additional leaves come on if it is indeed a Dragon and not the Pulpit.
I have a page where I’m keeping track of the seedlings. For the moment I’m calling them dragons. Here’s a link to the Dragon page.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Here’s a pic of the giant Pulpit that’s there now where the dragon used to be. I know that JIP’s can sometimes change sex when conditions are right for successfully producing offspring (proper nutrition, proper moisture levels, etc.), but I don’t believe they can swap species. Both are of the genus Arisaema and they do have a lot of similarities to each other.
Giant jack in the pulpit.
This is the hugest Jack-in-the-Pulpit I’ve ever seen. Have you ever seen one this big?
The blue cohosh was a little difficult to find. When it first comes up, not much else is bushy or fully leafed out. Blue green stems with fronds of similarly hued leaves unfurling on the rise of a small hill were easy to see. Now the Black Cohosh and Doll’s Eyes in the immediate area have grown up around it and nearly hidden it completely. But I remembered it was growing next to a certain pair of trees. When I pushed the greenery aside, there it was, just hanging out in the shade beneath the much taller Black Cohosh. Berries are formed and still green but it won’t be long before the fruits are ripe. Then the plant will probably die on back.
Blue Cohosh Berries
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
The goldenseal have green fruits on them now.
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
On the hill I spotted the purple flowers of a wild geranium. Look closely inside the flower and you’ll spot the little squatter.
Adam and Eve Orchid (Aplectrum hyemale)
I’ve always wondered what the flowers of this plant looks like. This was the first one I’ve ever seen, in all the years of traipsing through the woods. I see the leaves all around but apparently never timed my excursions just right to see the flowers. Either that or I’d always overlooked them.
Just as the leaf is a single leaf and nothing else, the flower stalk is a single stalk and nothing else. No leaves to identify the plant, so it stumped me for a little while until I made a guess and verified it by looking it up on the internet.
Heading Back to the House
Well, that’s the end of the photographic journey into the habitat. I hope you enjoyed your virtual woodland walk. The sun was going down by this time and I’d run out of good light in the deep woods. We’ve had a lot of rain lately and the springs are still flowing hard, as you can see from the puddles in the photo below. Badger is our lead guardian dog and he usually goes out with me on all of my walks. The other two dogs are there, too, somewhere in the bushes chasing rabbits.
Last fall I collected seeds from a large Green Dragon. I put the berries directly into pots and kept them overwinter in the ginseng nursery. The other morning I noticed they were hatching – er, sprouting! The link in the first sentence will take you to a page about the plant. It’s also where I’ll be posting update pictures from the seedlings that sprouted.
green dragon hatchling 2014
Now, I’m pretty sure these are Green Dragons. Except for the problem that I can’t find the original plant again this year. There’s a gigantic Jack-in-the-Pulpit growing near where it was though, so that has me a little concerned that these may actually be pulpit’s instead. But I am absolutely positive that it was a Dragon in that same area last year. So we’ll see. As these little seedlings mature it’ll be easy to tell the difference.
My Clematis is Blooming!
Gorgeous purple clematis blooming at the Wild Ozark homestead.
Ordinarily I landscape with native plants. But I have a weakness for the bright blooms of clematis. This is a flower I could never grow while we lived in south Louisiana, and it took me several years to cough up the money (or rather I asked Rob to cough it up, lol) to buy one at a nursery last year. One reason I like natives so much is that they’re freely available. But after jealously eyeing all the other beautiful clematises I’d seen growing at other houses, I gave in to the envie’ and splurged. I was so happy it survived the winter and started climbing the fence this year again, and the blooms bring me joy every time I look at them.
Feeding in the Rain
Last night it rained hard and plenty. This morning a gentle patter fell and I went out to feed the critters. I love walking around outside when the rain is light and the air is balmy.
Shasta and Comanche eating breakfast.
The horses aren’t too happy about the mud returning to the gate area, though. Seems like it had finally dried out yesterday, and then the rain mushed it all up again last night.
Have a Great Weekend
Hope you’re having a great start to the weekend. I’ll be at the Kingston Fair on the Square if thunderstorms don’t run us out. Come by if you can!
Here’s the online issue of the monthly newsletter that goes out to my subscribers. This month is all about challenges, new discoveries, and a brand new product from Wild Ozark.
Are you often faced with challenging situations to figure yourself out of? It seems I get to encounter “greatest” challenges often. Sometimes they’re tech related, as when I’m trying to learn how to do something new to or correct a problem with my website.
Sometimes the challenges are physical, like when my body thought it could go no longer while we were working on fences here around the homestead.
For the past week and a half, my new challenge has been Mother Nature.
Specifically, it was the wind at the farmer’s market. Today (I’m writing this on Saturday 4/25) the wind was especially brutal. Signs kept blowing over, plants were toppled off of the shelves, and it was blowing from the beginning. I didn’t even bother to put up the television that runs the DVD in my booth. The booth itself tried to blow away (but thankfully that was tied to the truck, and a kind customer held onto one of the legs for me). My business cards have probably traveled on the wind all the way to Newton county by end of day. I had to close up shop early.
Even with the distraction of the wind, the booth is at least a “storefront” and I’ve been enjoying talking to people who come in about ginseng and the habitat where it grows. If you’re in town (Huntsville, AR) on a Tuesday or Saturday morning, swing through the town square and say hello!
What’s for sale at the booth?
Well, not ginseng anymore. I’ve already sold out of all I had. Remember how I’d said my seeds didn’t sprout? More about that, below. What I do have is elderberry, wild strawberry, wild red raspberry, spicebush, pawpaw trees, witch hazel trees, gooseberries, and a few other things. I still bring some bloodroot, goldenseal, wild ginger, and blue cohosh. Once the doll’s eyes and black cohosh blooms, I’ll bring that too. I didn’t label the pots last year, so I’m waiting for blooms to be absolutely certain which is which.
I’ll share my poor planning so you can avoid doing the same thing – I didn’t plant while the weather was still good, and then it started snowing and freezing and by then I didn’t want to go outside much, let alone try to rake leaf litter off of frozen ground. And then once it warmed up again, well, that’s when the rains started.
So it was a major oversight on my part and it won’t happen again if I can help it. If for some reason I do have to hold them longer, I’ll have to give OzarkMountainGinseng.com a call to help me with the proper way to do it. I know it involves a bucket of damp sand in a cool, dark place. But better yet that I not procrastinate again.
Now that the tender woodland herbs are done blooming and would fare poorly in the heat, I’m bringing more of the medicinal and edible plants like yarrow, All-heal, elderberry and some of the shrubs like spicebush and gooseberry. And I bring my books and DVD’s. Lousewort is a new medicinal herb to me and I have a few of those to bring, too. Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis) is an interesting plant – read more about it below.
Rosy colored variety of Pedicularis, with a bumble bee visiting.
A pale yellow-colored lousewort.
Some lousewort, showing whole plant. It gets larger and taller as the season progresses.
An interesting find
Last year was the first time I noticed an interesting plant. Well, I’m *always* noticing interesting plants, so it wasn’t the first time to notice an interesting plant, but the first time to notice *that* one.
It was growing in the cedar grove below the pond and although I’ve walked around in there before I had never noticed the the greenish-gray ferny fronds. At the time it wasn’t blooming, but I immediately recognized it from long ago when I studied with a Master Herbalist in Bay St. Louis, MS. It’s hard to believe that was nearly 25 years ago now. Her name was Amelia Plant and we’ve long since lost touch, but I often wonder what she’s been up to. She had brought me and a few of her other students on a gathering trip in MS and that was one we collected.
Lousewort is a semi-parasitic plant. Its roots feed off of the roots of neighboring plants, but it doesn’t require a host to live. Because of the possibility that it’s feeding from neighboring plants, if you plan to use it as medicine, it’s important to make sure the neighbors aren’t poisonous plants. The variety of lousewort that grows at Wild Ozark is Pedicularis canadensis.
Some of them bloom with a bicolor rosy/white tubular flower and some have pale yellow, nearly white flowers. Medicinally, the above-ground parts are used for skeletal muscle pain. I haven’t tried it yet, but I did just harvest some yesterday to put up for later use. It’s not a narcotic, so the pain relief isn’t likely to be as effective as narcotic drugs.
This herb is reported to combine well with skullcap and black cohosh to make a pretty good muscle relaxer. Black cohosh affects female hormones, though, so be aware of that and perhaps use a different herb, like black haw or skunk cabbage as a substitute if you have a hormone-influenced issue.
Always consult your physician and do your own research before using herbs – the information I provide through my newsletters and website is only meant to be a starting point and is NOT intended to be taken as medical advice. I’m not a doctor, have no medical training, and am not offering medical advice.
Lobelia inflata is another local medicinal herb that would go well with this combination, but the seeds (the part most medicinal) are potent and caution is needed in dosage.
The lousewort plants I found are growing in a moist cedar grove under plenty of shade, but I think it will also grow in more sunlight. If you want to try growing some, I’ll have a few plants at the market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings in Huntsville, AR.
References for my information and more on using lousewort at these sites:
These are 4 x 6” laminated photo-cards of some of my favorite wild Ozark herbs to help with learning to identify and use the useful plants of the Ozarks. They’ll be released in sets.
That’s all folks!
This was another pretty lengthy newsletter, so thank you if you managed to read the whole thing
I hope to meet many of you at the farmer’s market this year. The market is at the Huntsville Town Square, from 7-12. It’ll be every Tuesday and Saturday 7-12 (except May 5 & 9, and the first week in August). I’m usually running the DVD on it during the market hours so if you want a preview before buying it, or just want to hang around and watch the whole thing there for free, come on by and pull up a chair!
Please take a moment to share this newsletter with your social circles
Apparently there’s a snake in the hen-house. Looks like the hens had some stealthy company yesterday. The unwelcome guest left a bit of evidence behind for me to find this morning.
I searched under all of the nexts and behind the boxes and up in the rafters but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Sooner or later our paths are bound to cross, though.
Chicken snake skin
The guilty party is a chicken snake, or black rat snake. They can get quite large. The last one I found stealing eggs and chicks was nearly the same length as I am tall, around 5’7″. The one that left the skin behind looks like it might be a bit smaller. Hopefully it won’t eat all of the chicks and eggs before I catch it.
black maran hen
Right now there are three hens setting eggs and unless I can find this snake before the chicks hatch, it doesn’t bode well. I’ll move the Americauna hen to the brooder with her clutch of eggs, since she’s been setting the longest and her eggs will hatch out first.
A curious thing I’m noticing by selling plants at the market is that people almost always have the same question, phrased in various ways.
It’s often the first thing they ask, in general about any of the plants, when they first walk into the booth. It seems to be a factor in deciding whether to buy something. Almost no one seems to want them just because they’re habitat companions, and most aren’t looking for anything specific, just browsing the booths. I suspect if their usefulness were highlighted, I’d sell more plants because my little collection of companions aren’t spectacular in any obvious way.
Granted, while not in bloom, ginseng habitat companion plants are fairly low-key. They don’t add much to a sidewalk flower bed or provide bright splashes of color anywhere, really. I love these plants just because they love the same habitat as ginseng.
Fortunately, almost all of the plants I bring are “good for something”, I just don’t necessarily highlight that information. I don’t want to get caught in the trap of dispensing medical advice. However, because I’m trying to create livelihood as well as provide value to the community, I will make up some posters to point out how the plants are currently used or were used in the past. I’ll start spotlighting their usefulness.
Herbalism was my first plant-based love. And the Ozarks hosts a host of medicinal plants.
Self-Heal, Heal-All or All-Heal, Prunella vulgaris
A red variety of beebalm (Monarda didyma) that doesn’t grow wild here at Wild Ozark. It does grow in Missouri, though. The one that grows here is Monarda fistulosa, a lavender colored variety.
I’ll start bringing more of the plants I personally use in our home herbal remedy arsenal. These aren’t usually ginseng habitat companions, but grow in more open places. I won’t offer consultations or advice on how to use these plants for your own ailments, but I will tell you how I’ve used them and provide historical/current usage information. The plants I use most often are those that grow right around the house: elderberry (berries), Spicebush (berries and twig tips), Mountain mint (flowering tops), Prunella (flowering tops), Lobelia (seeds and tops), Beebalm (flowering tops), and Echinacea (flowering tops). I do also use the goldenseal and ginseng medicinally, and will use the black cohosh when I have more of it and feel I can spare a root mass to harvest. I’d like to also grow marshmallow, but not sure if it will do well here or not. Slippery elm can be substituted, and it does grow here and I have used it in the past, but I don’t like to strip the bark from trees and will only use it if there’s a suitable limb that can be cut so I can harvest the bark from that. Wild cherries are also on the list of locally procured botanicals that I use. Mullein is a very useful and always abundant plant that grows here. So is passion flower (maypop). So this angle of showcasing “useful plants” offers a good bit of room to expand on what I offer. Ginseng habitat plants will remain the cornerstone of our nursery, though.
One of the plants I’m very interested in right now is Lousewort, or Pedicularis canadensis.
A little patch of Lousewort.
In the May Newsletter (which will be emailed to members in a few days) I have a little write-up about this plant and how it can be used. We have these growing here and I’ve been experimenting with propagating them to see how easily they take to being transplanted and potted. So far, so good. I’ll have a few of them with me at market on Tuesday. I’ll post the newsletter here on the blog next week, but members will get it on May 1. Whenever I make coupons or special offers to members, I don’t post those in the blog. This month’s subscriber special is a free $3 plant if you bring your coupon with you to the market. It will expire at the end of this market season but I’ll also honor it for a bare-root shipment on any of the plants that I’ll be shipping this fall, since many of the newsletter members aren’t local.
Since I don’t have much ginseng to sell at the market, I’ve been dividing and potting up some of the other plants that are abundant here. For the ones I find that aren’t so abundant, I’ll wait for seeds (collecting only a portion of them) or take divisions in fall while they’re dormant. Abundance usually indicates a robustness and ability to adapt, whereas scarcity seems to indicate a plant with much narrower tolerances and more difficulties in propagation. This is not always the case, though. Blue cohosh is a plant considered “Imperiled” in the state of Arkansas. This is one that, although scarce, is very easy to propagate by seed or division. This leads me to believe the reason for it’s scarcity is habitat loss. Bloodroot and goldenseal are also very easy to propagate, and yet they’re also listed as endangered in many states. I believe the reason for these plant’s statuses is over harvesting by wildcrafters, because the range of habitat conditions they require is fairly wide. They can both easily propagate by division, tolerate drier soils and more sunlight than ginseng or blue cohosh, so their demise is not likely due to habitat loss or difficulty reproducing.
* An update for 23 April 2015 was added to this post.
Wild Ozark is honored and excited to be embarking on a project in conjunction with Compton Gardens in Bentonville, Arkansas. This American Ginseng Sanctuary project is made possible, in part, by a grant from the United Plant Savers.
I’ll update this timeline each time we do work on the habitat and hyperlink it to the bottom of the page where more details and photos will be added. When I do that, I’ll revise the post date and it’ll cause this to show up as a new blog post each time.
In April next year we hope to have our very first Unfurling Party and we hope you will attend!
25 Feb 2015 – received email announcing grant awarded
16 Jan 2015 – emailed grant proposal to United Plant Savers
24 Nov 2014 – initial email to Corrin
It all started near the end of November 2014 with an introduction made by a mutual friend, Terry Stanfill. Once he put me in contact with Corrin Troutman, a grand plan began to take root. Corrin is the Director of Operations for the gardens. Luke Davis is the Site Manager. I emailed them my proposal – to install plants that make up a ginseng habitat in a suitable spot in their garden. My desire to do this stems from my own experiences in learning to identify ginseng and the proper type of forests where it likes to grow:
“When I first started learning to identify ginseng I went to the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View. They had specimen plants and also some Virginia creeper so I could see them nearly side-by side while I examined the difference. I know this sort of information may encourage people who seek ginseng for the roots. But it also inspires a love and appreciation for the very unique habitat these plants need to grow. It encourages others who have proper habitat to restore ginseng to it, and those who do intend to harvest can do so with a sustainable frame of mind.” – from my letter to Corrin proposing the project.
The excitement began to build shortly thereafter. Once I knew Compton gardens were on board, I sent a proposal to the United Plant Savers. To my surprise and delight, Dr. Susan Leopold, Executive Director of UPS wrote back and admitted to being excited too!
Why So Excited?
I can tell you why *I’m* so excited by this project. It means an outdoor “classroom” in a public and protected place where I can “show and tell” about ginseng and the habitat. It means that others having a hard time figuring out the difference between ginseng and virginia creeper will have a place to go and see them both, with labels, in real life. It means that I’ll be able to combine my efforts with those of others to encourage stewardship and foster love of something basic to our American heritage – a plant that’s been at the heart of a tradition that spans centuries.
Ginseng unfurling in April
As with most natural resources, when there is a demand, the desire to provide a supply can cause a crisis. Digging by the traditionals isn’t the activity causing the concern. The traditionals have managed their plots for generations without depleting their supply.
Newcomers who may not understand the fragility of the ecosystem ginseng calls home, and those who aren’t considering the future or the impact of today’s behavior on tomorrow’s yield are only part of the challenges presented to the survival of this plant, but it’s a very large part.
Because it needs a specific environment to thrive, when the loss of even one tree can cause an imbalance, development and logging activity have a tremendous impact. And there are still yet other reasons ginseng’s status remains endangered. Rising deer and turkey populations are a threat. Deer nibble the tops and turkey eat the seeds (which destroys it).
Private landowners can offer sanctuary and refuge to this species and Wild Ozark hopes that through this Ginseng Sanctuary Project at Compton we can encourage stewardship of American Ginseng.
“Compton Gardens and Conference Center are named after Dr. Neil Compton, a noted Bentonville physician, writer, photographer, founder of the Ozark Society, and savior of the Buffalo River.” – from the Compton Garden website
It is because of the spirit of this man I’ve never met that Compton Gardens were my first thought when considering where to embark upon this project. The Buffalo River valley offers many natural sanctuaries for ginseng. It seemed only fitting to re-create a sanctuary habitat in the place that once was the home of the man who rescued that river from man-made demise.
07 April 2015
We planted a few things finally! The weather has caused a bit of delay – winter wouldn’t go away and then spring brought copious rain. It was a small start, but I’ll go back in a week or so to bring some of the ginseng and some of the other plants on our wish-list. Today’s new sanctuary residents include grape fern, doll’s eyes, and goldenseal.
Not quite at ground-zero. A few companions already are here: Dutchman’s Breeches, Bloodroot, Giant Solomon’s Seal, and Wild Ginger.
Luke Davis, Site Manager and Little Duke
Madison Woods of Wild Ozark (left) and Corrin Troutman, Director of Operations at Compton-Peel Gardens in Bentonville, Arkansas (right). We were almost color-coordinated that day!
23 April 2015
I brought a starter colony of ginseng consisting of three plants. A seedling, a two-year old, and a three-year-old plant with the beginning of a flower bud. If the oldest one successfully sets fruits this year, then it will have begun establishing a “real” colony here at the gardens. When these fruit fall, they’ll sit under the leaf litter all winter and the berry will decompose, leaving behind the seeds. The seeds will wait until the spring of 2017 to sprout because it needs a full cycle of cold-warm-cold before it receives the cues to begin growing. In the meantime the plant that made the berries this year will again make berries next year and set up the next succession.
So we have the three plants this year. Hopefully we’ll still have the three plants next year, with at least three more waiting to join them. In 2017 we should have at least three new seedlings. The original seedling we planted today should be making berries in 2017, the two year old will be four and making berries and the original three-year old will be five and also making berries. From the three plants installed today, within a few years we should easily be able to see how a sustainable colony can be maintained. That’s assuming they all survive.
Luke had some plants to add, too. In addition to the three ginseng plants, we also planted Maidenhair Fern, Dutchman’s Breeches, Goldenseal, Black Cohosh, Wild Ginger, and Bloodroot.
The area we’re working with is approximately 500 square feet, with room to expand as this first colony fills out.
Trying to differentiate these two woodland herbs, before they come into bloom, has been frustrating. It’s very easy to tell once they begin blooming. But when only greenery exists, they both look so much alike, it’s uncanny. This is the first year I’ve had two colonies of both to watch as they mature. My “intuition” tells me which is which so I want see if I can confirm my psychic inference, lol. In the meantime, I’ve been doing research online to see if anyone else can offer definitive proving methods.
I thought I’d found one way in a study posted online at the Canadian Universe’ Laval site – but in the end it proved inconclusive. The study, while not about differentiating the plants, is quite interesting if you would like to know the metal/mineral composition of various woodland herbs grown under different conditions.
It was the picture that caught my eye- an image of the symmetrical vs. asymmetrical leaf patterns on the cohosh. I’d never noticed that before about them, and though “ah-ha! That might be the difference.” But of course it wasn’t that easy. Both the plants I suspect to be black cohosh and the ones I suspect to be doll’s eyes have this same leaf pattern. It’s probably common to the Actaea genus.
Going to the Woods for Research
So it was time to go out for a little hands-on research. I took the 4-wheeler out to an area where I know both of the plants live. Along with the black cohosh and doll’s eyes, there’s also a bunch of other woodland herbs that enjoy this little ginseng habitat. I was glad to have on long sleeves and pants because the nettles are up a ready to sting right about now.
Sting-filled hairs of a nettle plant.
I moseyed around in the ginseng habitat (this particular habitat doesn’t have any ginseng residents, however), looking at the two that are puzzling me. None of what I think are black cohosh have any signs of a flower stem yet. None of the ones I think are doll’s eyes did either – except one. I did finally find one of those with a small flower stem and bud cluster.
Doll’s Eyes with flower buds.
Now I am going to be curious to see if the ones I think are black cohosh turn out to really be the cohosh.
When I’m in the woods inspecting and photographing plants like this, I am often right down on the ground at eye level with stem bases. It’s hard to get good photos of short plants if you don’t do that, and besides, the bases of stems often have clues like leaf buds and such. And besides all that, I just love being in close contact with the forest floor. The smells are wonderful and it’s usually cooler closer to the ground level on hot days.
Most importantly, though, is that if you’re not close to the ground you’ll miss things like this wild ginger bloom, which only happens at or just below ground/leaf debris level.
Wild ginger flower
The sun slipped over the mountains while I was still crawling around uphill and lying prone among the nettles, black and blue cohosh, and doll’s eyes. The woods were so dark now I needed a flash to get a good photo of this pretty fern on my way out.
I’ll have to wait for the black cohosh to flower, but I think I can see, or rather, sense, the differences early on. The plants *told* me, in that way non-human things “talk” (some of you will understand this, some of you will just think I’m nuts, I know…and some will call it “intuition”), who was who from the beginning, but my skepticism persists. I still do not entirely trust that little voice and the logical part of me wants evidence. It’ll come in a month or two when the black cohosh blooms. When it comes to using herbs medicinally or as food, where a look-alike is deadly, I’ll never rely on intuition alone.
Satisfied enough for now, I got up and brushed off the humusy forest soil and leaves from my clothes and headed home to see how many ticks I’d managed to gather this time.
A Photogenic Anemone
Saw this on my way back and knew it would make a good photo with the creek behind it.
Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)
Huntsville Farmer’s Market
I’m out at the market today from 0700-1200. If you’re local or within a decent driving distance, come out! I’ll have a selection of our native woodland plants. Not too many ginseng plants with me, but I will have goldenseal, bloodroot, blue cohosh, a few pointer ferns, trilliums and a couple of Dutchman’s breeches. Oh, and I’ll have the American Ginseng & Companions DVD’s and the two ginseng paperback books I wrote.