American ginseng in the Wild Ozark woods in June.

Potted Ginseng Seedlings in Arkansas

So I have some help this year with the ginseng nursery from a pair of young organic, permaculture enthusiasts who are ready to learn about being good ginseng stewards. That means I will after all have some potted ginseng seedlings available throughout spring! They’ll have to be picked up in the Kingston square, by appointment.

If the new ginseng stewards decide they will do it again next year, we’ll have an even better offering of ginseng and companions in spring 2020. I’ll let you know how it went by the end of season this year.

Prices

1rst year- $5/ea
2nd year- $10/ea
Habitat collections with 3+ year ginseng and bloodroot, wild ginger, and goldenseal in larger pots: 3-prong, $75/ea or 4-prong, $100/ea

Order by emailing me and I’ll send you a PayPal invoice.

[email protected]

The Wild Ozark booth will also be at the Kingston Fair on the Square with ginseng plants on May 11, 2019. I won’t be there but will have some helpers operating the booth. Email to reserve plants for pickup there.

American ginseng in July.
American ginseng in July.

Early April in the Ginseng Habitat

Every year the same flowers bloom in pretty much the same order. And although I have hundreds of images in my files, I can’t help but start heading out with the camera. The blooms start in early April in the ginseng habitat.

The first flowers that bloom are usually the toothwort (formerly of the Dentaria genus, now Cardamine concatenata). I wish they would quit changing the botanical/latin names of plants. It gets hard to keep up sometimes.

Not quite blooming yet at the time of this photo, but they’re all in full swing now as we enter the second week of April.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is ordinarily the next in line to show off.

A poster of bloodroot showing the interesting features of this plant. It blooms in early April in the ginseng habitat.
This is a poster I made a few years ago to show all of the different things about bloodroot that I find interesting. The leaf shape and root color are as enthralling as the flowers.

Trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) show leaves a little while before the flowers begin to appear. It grows in large colonies, but they don’t begin blooming for sometimes five years.

Trout lilies grow in large colonies, but they don't begin blooming for sometimes five years.

Named for the mottled appearance of the basal leaf, it sort of resembles a trout under the water.

Rue anemone and False rue anemone are blooming now, too. So far this year, I’ve only found Rue anemone (Halictrum thalictroides). The false has more deeply lobed leaves.

Rue and false rue anemone are among the early bloomers in April in the ginseng habitat.

Purple (or ‘wild blue’) Phlox (Phlox divaricata) is brightening up the woodlands everywhere, not just in the ginseng habitats.

Phlox grows in many shady environments, not just in the ginseng habitats.
Not limited to the deep moist woods, but it too shows up in early April in the ginseng habitat.

Dutchmen’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria ) is always a challenge to photograph. The flowers and the leaves are not always on the same focal plane, so it’s hard to get them both clear at the same time. These do only grow in the rich moist soils, so is a good sign to look for in early April in the ginseng habitat.


This one was leaning over an embankment, which made the effort a little easier.

While this one isn’t a flower yet, the leaves of wild hydrangea (
Hydrangea arborescens ) are starting to open up. These plants are a frequent resident in the ginseng habitat.

Wild hydrangea starts to put on leaves early in April in the ginseng habitat.
Wild hydrangea cuttings coming up in the Wild Ozark nursery and Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden.

What about the ginseng?

Ginseng usually begins to unfurl here toward the end of April. At the earliest, maybe late in the second week of April. Click here to see some posts from previous years’ unfurling watch.

Madison Woods is an author, artist, and Paleo Paint maker living
with her husband in northwest Arkansas far off the beaten path. She uses Ozark pigments to create her paintings.

To see her paintings click here.

Contact Info:
Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @wildozark
Facebook: @wildozark

If the Creeks Don’t Rise… Springtime in the Ozarks

Wild Ozark will be at Terra Studios tomorrow.

But with the rain we might get overnight and in the morning, the odds are looking poor. If I can’t make it there on Saturday, then on Sunday I should be able to make it. Springtime in the Ozarks usually means more rain.

UPDATE: I made it out in time so I’ll be there today 😁

Ordinarily we do get a lot of rain in springtime. But we’ve been getting a lot more rain than ordinary since *last* spring.

Framed some Paintings

All week I’ve been getting ready for this weekend’s South x Southeast Art Tour. I’ve framed a few more paintings, with the intention to sell some original art this time.

When I framed the last one, I thought I might do something a little different. The painting is a monochrome using only the pigment from a red sandstone. I named the paint “Intoxicating”, which is also what I named the painting.

So I added a little nugget of the same kind of sandstone to the frame, so the owner can see the kind of rock I used to make the paint.

Paleo Painting with the rock used to make the paint on the frame.
I think I’ll make a point to save some of the stones from each of the paints I make so I can add more interest to the frames. Paintings using more than one color will get graced by more than one stone.

Springtime in the Ozarks

Springtime in the Ozarks means trout lilies blooming.
Springtime in the Ozarks means trout lilies blooming.

Just in case I don’t get any pictures this year of the ephemerals, because springtime in the Ozarks sometimes has a tendency to knock the blooms down before I get to take their portraits, here’s a link from previous year.

Black Gum autumn leaves, leaching plant pigments

Plant Pigments- in search of a stable green, the latest painting and the next show

Between getting the house clean today, since it’s raining and I couldn’t be outside weed-eating, I’ve been making a mess in the kitchen. People have to not take things at face value in this house. What looks like refreshing tea… just might not be. My kids know by now that not everything they see in my refrigerator or on the counters is meant to be eaten. More often it’s something to do with an herbal remedy in progress. Or plant pigments. Or rock dust tea.

It might look like something delicious... but it's pink sandstone dust. Gritty.
href=”https://www.wildozark.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/rock-dust-tea.jpg”> It might look like something delicious… but it’s pink sandstone dust. Gritty.[/
The pink sandstone project was a few weeks ago. Today I had the same equipment out to do some separating of some different ‘teas’.

Still Looking for Green

I’m always on the lookout for some plant or rock that will give me a green or blue paint. Today, entirely coincidentally, I might have found my green.

Will it last? This new paint made from plant pigment will undergo light-fast testing to see if it's stable. Fingers crossed!
“https://www.wildozark.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/green.jpg”> Will it last? This new paint made from plant pigment will undergo light-fast testing to see if it’s stable. Fingers crossed![/captio
So we’ll have to wait about a month to know whether this is a success or failure in my quest to find a stable green color for my palettes. If you want to stay updated on that, check back here or check out my new blog dedicated to the making of Paleo Paints. When I get the post up there, it’ll go into a lot more detail on how I’ve made the paint and what I do to light-test.

Update 8/17: I’m sad to report that it won’t take a month to know the answer. It isn’t going to last. Both the exposed and the strip in the dark are showing degradation.

My Latest Painting

I finished this fox the other day. Originally, my plan was to do three of them quickly so I could give them to the grandbaby girls for Christmas. But this little fox wasn’t easy and it took far longer than I thought it would. So what I’ll do is make prints of this one for them instead.

All colors are from paints I made using local resources right around the house. All but the brown-brown are in Collection No. 1.
://www.wildozark.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/finished-low-res.jpg”> All colors are from paints I made using local resources right around the house. All but the brown-brown are in Collection No. 1. The reddish brown is Nirvana and Intoxicating, which are in the collection. You can see all of the work I’ve done so far at my gallery page.

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The next Appearance

The Burnt Kettle booth will be at War Eagle this weekend, so come out to say hello. I’ll be there, probably shivering and hiding out from the rain inside the booth.

Next stop for Wild Ozark is at the Walton Arts Center Holiday Gift Market. I’ll have prints, paints, cards, and stickers available for sale. The cards are an affordable way to get a print, if you frame them rather than send them 🙂 I’ll have signed/numbered prints of Kestrel No. 1, Pelican No. 1, and Kestrel No. 2. Maybe I’ll have the prints back for the fox and crow by then too, but not sure. The dates for that show is Nov. 23 through Dec. 16.

The Color of a Plant Does Not Equal the Color of a Paint

I’ve been experimenting with local plants to get a nice, stable, green color for my handmade watercolor paints. Most of the things I’ve tried in my quest for green has resulted in gray or brown. Lamb’s Quarters, a common edible weed turned out to hold green promises. Blue is the other elusive color on my list, and with Thai Butterfly Pea Tea I might have a source for that if I can grow it here.

Nature offers me lots and lots of stones and clay right here at Wild Ozark. Those yield very nice shades of browns and I love them. Plants offer lots of shades of yellow. But I need blue and green to complete my custom Wild Ozark palette, and those are proving hard to find.

"Sandstone

Color From Plants

People have used plants to make dyes for fabrics since the beginning of our time on earth. So I wondered if I could use them to make paint, too. Plants offer an abundance of various shades of yellow. But green and blue colors are especially hard to make into paint (or dye) without using materials I have to purchase.

I’ve been on a nearly obsessive quest to find local sources for green and blue color, but even if I find them, the likelihood that the resulting paint will fade in time is high. Ideally I will find a plant or something that occurs naturally here to use as pigment for a color-fast blue and green paint.

What You See is Not Necessarily What You Get

You’d think with all the green plants growing around, green would be an easy color to make. Not so. Just because a thing is a certain color, that doesn’t mean the paint (or dye) made from that thing will also yield that color.

There aren’t many blue things to experiment with, but the things that are blue are such beautiful shades. I long for color palettes loaded with such saturated colors, especially if those colors were naturally produced from my local surroundings.

Chicory flowers are a pretty blue-purple, but the paint I made from them didn't even come close to capturing that color.
Chicory flowers are a pretty blue-purple color.

Take chicory flowers, for example. What a nice pretty color those flowers are! That would make a nice blue paint, right?

Ummm. No.

It makes a nice sort of umber color, though.

The color of paint that chicory flowers made.

The same goes for greens. Most of the things that have chlorophyll in them are green. And most of the time that green turns brown as soon as it is parted from the plant.

You can see some of the work I’ve done with the sandstone, yellow, black and gray I made earlier at this page. Eventually, I’ll organize the colors into palettes and make demo art cards to go with each set.

Promises of Green Color

So I’ve been experimenting. When I pass a plant, I’ll rub the leaf between my fingers and see what happens. How long does the smear stay green on my skin? Does it even make a color transfer to my skin? Does it make a completely different color stain, like the dark brown of green walnut hulls or perilla leaves?

Today I pulled an errant weed from one of the potted peppers on the porch. Turns out the weed was an amaranth, not the pigweed with thorns, or the goose foot lamb’s quarters, but some other amaranth I didn’t know. Before I tossed it over the side, the thought occurred to check the color. I rubbed a leaf, and wow, what a nice green smear. A few more of those plants would be enough to make a decent test batch so I went out to look for more.

Of course there wouldn’t be any. But I did find the lamb’s quarters and tried one of those leaves. The green color in that smear was even brighter than the first plant, so I gathered some of those and headed back to the house. Now, I know these plants are nutritious and tasty wild foods, so if making paint or dye isn’t your thing and you have these ‘weeds’ growing around you might give them a try as food.

Here’s the experimental green paint I made from the leaves.

Green handmade watercolor paint from lamb's quarters leaves.

Right now it’s drying on a blotter card and hanging on the line in the sun so I can see if it’s going to turn brown or fade from sight. After one day, it’s still bright green so there’s hope.

Blue Color from Spiderwort and Butterfly Pea Flowers

I smashed a spiderwort (day flower) yesterday and it left a very blue stain on my finger. Unfortunately, there were only three or four flowers blooming that I could find, so I didn’t get very far with that experiment.

But I have some blue butterfly pea (Thai) for making a medicinal tea, and those flowers stain the water a very bright blue. As it turns out, the butterfly pea flower has the same compound in it and research is taking place on it as a dye plant. So I used the tea to make a test batch of paint. I used alum with part of it to see if it makes the color more stable, but the alum turned it away from blue. Still a useful color, but not what I wanted.

The butterfly pea swatches after drying overnight.
The butterfly pea swatches after drying overnight.

The compounds in the butterfly pea and the amaranth are due to compounds in the plants called anthocyanin (blue) and betalains (green). What gives me hope is that those compounds are pigments and might be more stable. If the spiderwort flowers also contain the anthocyanin, then these two plants just might work for as local sources my green and blue handmade watercolor paints!

So far the results are very promising that I’ll actually have a green and a blue paint to add to my palette. The question is how light-fast will that color be over the years?

Testing the Stability

I’m doing a test to help me see how badly the colors I have so far will fade. I painted a swatch of each color all the way across the page and labeled it twice. Once on either end of the swipe. Then I cut the page down the middle. One half is hanging on the window outside so that it is exposed to sunlight. The other side is in the dark closet. In four weeks I’ll put the two halves back together and compare the colors. I’ll update this post to let you know the results.

All the colors I have so far, hanging in the light for four weeks to test stability.
All the colors I have so far, hanging in the light for four weeks to test stability.

Today I was supposed to be a cleaning and organizing day. This experiment totally derailed yesterday’s plans but now I’m going to try and get back on track.

Update on the Light Stability

082518 – Such sad news! All of the plant based colors failed – except the sassafras. That single one performed brilliantly, and even intensified a bit, so I’ve added it to my arsenal of earth pigments. I’ll just stick with the rock-based colors until I have more time to experiment.

 

A sign I put up to protect the Virginia snakeroot plants.

Oh no! The Virginia Snakeroot babies are all gone!

Virginia snakeroot at the Wild Ozark Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden.
Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria)

I went out to check on the Virginia snakeroot nursery the other day and was mortified to find nothing. Not. One. Plant.

Virginia Snakeroot … What’s That?

Now, you might be wondering just what’s so important about a plant that really looks like nothing much more than a weed in the woods. It’s a plant of interest to me for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a medicinal plant with a history of being used to treat snakebites and mad dog (rabies). I’m not likely to use it for either of these, but I do have an affinity for medicinal plants.

Second, it’s harder and harder to find because there’s actually a market for the roots. People dig them and then sell them to botanical purveyors who then sell them to pharmaceutical or herbal companies.

It Even Has Look-Alikes

There’s another plant that has very similar leaf shape, but it isn’t snakeroot.

Not Virginia snakeroot. Not sure what it is, though I know what it isn't.
Not Virginia snakeroot. Not sure what it is, but I know what it isn’t.

There’s a long article on the plant and how it was once used at the Herbs2000.com website.

For the past several years I’ve searched our property for this plant and never could find any. In 2015 I found the first plant, but then a major flash flood erased it from the site. Then last year while I was making trails in the Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden, I noticed a whole mess of the plants on a little knoll under the cedar trees.

I was so excited. I’d even placed a sign at the entrance to warn visitors not to enter that part because there were so many it would be hard to walk around them without stepping on some. I wanted to collect seeds and propagate more of them.

Poof!

And now they are gone. Completely disappeared. The ground had been disturbed by an armadillo, but I don’t think an armadillo would eat snakeroots. I didn’t see any footprints that might indicate some roaming root digger had come by. Virginia snakeroot is one of the wild plants that botanical buyers purchase, but these plants were so small it would take a ton of the little roots to earn the $30 or so per pound that they can fetch.

Besides that, there were ginseng plants in the vicinity and I can’t see a poacher taking the snakeroot without also taking the ginseng.

So what happened to them?

I think I figured out the answer.

Butterflies.

Or more specifically, caterpillars of the Pipevine Swallowtail. These butterflies are not the pollinators for Virginia snakeroot, but the pipevine plants are the host plants for their larvae. Virginia snakeroot is one of the pipevines, as is wild ginger and Dutchmen’s pipe vine.

While we have lots of wild ginger around, we don’t have many of the Dutchmen’s pipe and I’ll bet what happened to my plants is that they were eaten by the larvae of butterflies. Actually, they weren’t ‘my’ plants. I’m sure the butterflies were excited to see them and call them theirs, too.

It’s the explanation that makes the most sense. If that’s the case, they’ll be back next year. I can find a way to protect a few plants and share the rest with the butterflies. Keep your fingers crossed!

The flower isn't mature yet in this photo. It was when I went back out there to get another photo of the flower that I noticed they were all gone.
The flower isn’t mature yet in this photo. It was when I went back out there to get another photo of the flower that I noticed they were all gone.

 

Ginseng looks a lot like buckeye saplings.

Learning the Difference: Ginseng or Buckeye?

Is it ginseng? No, it’s buckeye.

There are a few plants that grow here in the Ozarks that make it really difficult for newbies to identify ginseng. That’s because these look so much like ginseng to the inexperienced eye. These are called ginseng look-alikes. One of the look-alikes is Ohio buckeye (Aesculus flava).

This is a tree native to the Ozarks. It begins blooming in very early spring with pale yellow flower spires at the tip end of branches. The leaves are palmate, meaning it has five leaves or leaflets.

When the buckeyes are young, the saplings are only about a foot tall or sometimes even less. The little trees have a few branches on them already, spreading out to look a lot like the prongs of ginseng.

A common ginseng mis-identification culprit: Ohio buckeye
A common ginseng mis-identification culprit: Ohio buckeye

How to tell the difference

Although the leaves of buckeye are similar to ginseng, there’s some telling differences. At first glance they look alike. But look closer. American ginseng leaves are also palmate, but the two lower leaves are a lot smaller than the other three leaves. The ginseng in the photo is just finished unfurling so the leaves are still a little wrinkled. They’ll smooth out in a day or two.

On each palmate leaf, ginseng's lower two leaves are much smaller than the other three.
On each palmate leaf, ginseng’s lower two leaves are much smaller than the other three.

Aside from the size of the two lower leaves, the stems to each of ginseng’s prongs all meet up at the exact same spot on the stem. Not so with the buckeye. The branches (they’re not prongs) attach to the trunk (it’s not necessarily a stem, even if it is still small like one) at various points.

And a third way to tell is to examine the nature of the stem/trunk. Ginseng stems are not woody. Buckeye stems are. If you are careful, you could dig up both plants to take a look at the roots too. Buckeye roots resemble small tree roots (larger main roots with smaller roots attached) and they’re tough and covered with a sort of bark.

Ginseng roots have one main root, sometimes branched, but it does not have a bark sort of coating. The buckeye stem/trunk never dies back once it has begun growing. Ginseng stems die back every year and the root sends up a new one each spring. In fact, next year’s bud is already in place and waiting at the base of the ginseng stem. Buckeye will not have this bud.

Hands-on Get acquainted with Buckeye

Join me at the Nursery and Habitat Garden on May 6 if you’d like to get up close and personal to both ginseng and the look-alikes like buckeye. The “Pot 10 Keep 1” event will be going on and if you help me out by potting up ten ginseng seedlings for me, you’ll get to keep one to bring home. If you pot up a hundred, you’ll get to keep ten.

Or you can buy however many you want for $5/ea.

While you’re here you can walk the trails of my Ginseng Habitat Garden and learn to tell the difference between the look-alikes and the ginseng. The garden itself is not large and the trails are not long. It’s an accurate example of what the average habitat area looks like here, except this one has been restored. Years ago this land was logged, and this is one of the spots that is just now getting back close to habitable for the shade-loving plants like ginseng.

It’s not yet ideal, but close enough to work with.

You can get ideas for how to do the same thing on your own property and create a little sanctuary or lots of little sanctuaries as I’ve been doing.

How to Sign Up

Join the mailing list for this event so I can send you the address and update you on schedule changes. If it rains much the day before or the day of, we’ll have to reschedule. The garden is across the creek and if it’s high then it’s too hazardous to walk across it.

It’s completely free to participate! The garden is only open by appointment during spring, summer, and fall. During events like this one, I’ll be out there already, so no appointment necessary. All visitors are required to sign a hold-harmless liability waiver. Because nature is what it is. There are rocks, ticks, snakes, and treacherous footing all around and I can’t guarantee you won’t fall while crossing the creek or encounter some of our less friendly wildlife. But I can guarantee an experience hard to find elsewhere.

Sign up to join me on Potting Day




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Want to Read More?

Here on the website I have a lot of information about ginseng and the look-alikes. Here’s a good starting point: Ginseng Articles and Headlines.

Since so many people have a hard time telling the difference between ginseng and plants like buckeye, I wrote a small book dedicated to the main look-alikes. It’s purposefully short and sweet. You can pick it up from Amazon in both ebook or paperback:

A joyful splash of color from the purple phlox blooming right now in the Ozarks.

Enjoy Nature: Phlox and Fiddleheads

Here’s a little inspiration to get outside on this beautiful sunny day and enjoy nature.

Phlox is blooming and casting joyful purple splashes all around the Wild Ozark hills and woods, and the fiddleheads are unfurling.

Enjoy nature - take a walk in the woods and you'll find these fiddleheads of the Christmas fern unfurling in spring.
Christmas fern fiddleheads.

Lousewort, Bumblebee Food and Medicinal Herb

Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis) is an interesting plant. It’s a medicinal herb said to be effective at muscular pain relief. The bumblebees love it!

Rosy colored variety of Pedicularis
Rosy colored variety of Pedicularis, with a bumble bee visiting.

A pale yellow-colored lousewort.
A pale yellow-colored lousewort.

Some lousewort, showing whole plant. It gets larger and taller as the season progresses.
Some lousewort, showing whole plant. It gets larger and taller as the season progresses.

An interesting find

In May of 2014, 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 lousewort.

It was growing in the cedar grove below the pond, in the same area as the rattlesnake plantain and twayblade orchids. 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 semi-parasitic

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. Use caution in dosage.

Where to Find Lousewort

The lousewort plants I found are growing in a moist cedar grove under plenty of shade. I’ve also seen them growing in partly shady areas alongside our county road. This spring I’ll be trying to propagate some of the ones here. If I’m successful with that and you want to get some, let me know. If I’m able to get in, I’ll be at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market this year. Otherwise you’ll have to make trip out to the Wild Ozark Nature Farm 🙂

References for my information and more on using lousewort at these sites:

  • http://7song.com/pedicularis-lousewort-monograph-pedicularis-as-a-skeletal-muscle-relaxant/ (sorry, can’t link directly because it’s not a secure website, but it is safe if you want to copy and paste the URL)
  • https://www.altnature.com/gallery/woodbetony.htm

Watching a Ginseng Habitat Mystery Plant Unfurl

I have a mystery plant to decipher. Last year I went to the woods and took a root division of a plant I wanted to grow in the Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden. I put that root cutting into a pot and placed it in a sheltered spot in one of my nursery terraces.

The summer faded away and fall came around. One day I went out to the nursery spot to check on the plants I’d tucked in for the season.

That plant I’d divided and potted was on the ground.

Just the roots.

I re-potted it. Checked on it again the next afternoon.

On the ground, bare roots. Again. Something – most likely a squirrel – did not want that plant in that pot.

By now I’d forgotten which plant it was. And of course I forgot to label the pot. I can’t even remember which plants I’d taken cuttings from during the year, but I have a few possibilities to choose a “most likely” candidate from. Now it had become a mystery plant.

I know it’s not ginseng and I know it’s not bloodroot or goldenseal. Those are three I can recognize on sight, with or without leaves. It could be doll’s eyes, black cohosh, or a fern of some sort. Or some other interesting plant I found while out taking a walkabout in the woods.

Anyway, I put it into the pot again, covered it up with soil and leaves, and brought it into the house. Foiled the squirrel, finally. But I still don’t know what the plant is.

It began to unfurl the other day. Soon I’ll have the answer to my mystery – unless it’s doll’s eyes or black cohosh. I still have a hard time telling those two apart until the plants are mature. But at least the choices will be narrowed down.

Here’s how it looks today. Watch this page if you want to watch the mystery plant unfold, too.

Madison's Mystery Plant
Madison’s Mystery Plant

Three days later…

 

 

 

Still watching my mystery plant unfurl.

Now it’s beginning to look like something, but I still don’t know what!

Here it is again, now 18 days later:

I still don't know what it is, but it's beginning to look more and more like perhaps a rattlesnake fern.
I still don’t know what it is, but it’s beginning to look more and more like perhaps a rattlesnake fern.

 

 

2018 Spring Awakening Watch – First Native Flowers of the Ozarks

It’s mid-March 2018 and I’m watching for the first native flowers of the Ozarks to start blooming. I particularly love the ephemeral blooms of early spring, like the bloodroot and Dutchmen’s breeches. Scroll down to see pictures and keep up with what’s blooming at Wild Ozark. If you’re looking specifically for the ginseng unfurling/blooming, you’ll find that on the Ginseng Unfurling Watch 2018 page.

Native Flowers of the Ozarks at Wild Ozark

3-26-18 The false rue anemone is blooming along the driveway. Farther from the house, down the road heading to pavement, I saw the bloodroot finally making an appearance. It’s not up yet here, but should be soon. Toothwort is abundant, corydalis still is blooming. The only photo I was able to get so far was of the false rue anemone, with my cell phone, and it didn’t come out well enough to bother posting it on the website. Once the rain clears out I’ll try to get down the driveway with the real camera.

3-20-18 Today I spotted one of my favorite spring flowers blooming along the roadside. So, while it’s not technically ‘at’ Wild Ozark, I consider it to be ‘Wild Ozark at-Large’, since it was only down the dirt roading leading here 🙂 Everything here is a week or two behind the surrounding area. We live in a little microclimate.

One of my favorite native flowers of the Ozarks, Pale Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum)
Pale Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum)

Not much else blooming yet at Wild Ozark proper, but I did find this Cutleaf Toothwort getting close.

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenate)
Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenate)

3-18-18 Not a flower yet either, but the buds of the Redbud (Cercis canadensis) tree are swelling. The flowers are edible and make a colorful addition to salads. Here’s a  pic from this morning that I took while we were bringing hay to the horses. It’s a terrible pic, but the limbs were swaying and I didn’t have the good camera with me. I pulled a muscle in my back yesterday and moving around is a bit of a problem today, so it’s not likely I’ll be going back out there to get another photo before the flowers open, so this one is the best I’ll get for now. Next pic will be of flowers, not buds.

Redbud buds. The flowers bud out and bloom on this tree before the leaves even begin to swell.
Redbud buds. The flowers bud out and bloom on this tree before the leaves even begin to swell.

 

3-17-18 Not a flower, yet, but the first leaves of one of my favorite native flowers – Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum). When it blooms it too will be yellow. I’ll post the picture of it as soon as I see it.

Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

3-15-18 Noticed that the Pale Corydalis (Corydalis flavula) is blooming along our morning mile hike route. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me to capture it. Today we have appointments in town and tomorrow is the first market day of the season. So unless I can get out there this afternoon before it’s too dark for a photo, it’ll be a few days before one shows up here! (update – got a pic, see below!) The flowers are small and yellow with foliage that looks a lot like Dutchmen’s Breeches (ferny and dissected). It’s a relatively small plant and is one of the first native flowers of the Ozarks to bloom. If not for the bright yellow color of the flowers, it would be easy to miss. Corydalis grows in the shady edges of the woods.

The one pictured below is growing in a bright sunny spot that opened up when we had more of the landslide come down this past winter. It’s not happy in full sun, though. I’ll probably move the ones located here to pots for the nursery.

Corydalis belongs to the same Family as poppies. Like poppies, Corydalis is full of alkaloids, compounds which usually mark a plant as being medicinally active. It was used by native Americans and early American doctors, however, the plant is toxic and even small doses can cause tremors and convulsions. This could be caused by incorrect preparations (i.e. water extract versus alcohol or oil), but it’s not one I’m inclined to experiment with and I can’t recommend it as a native medicinal option. According to the reports I’ve read, the way native Americans used it was to burn the plant on coals and fan themselves with the smoke. It was said to “clear the head“. I haven’t found any references to explain what that means or how it worked.

Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis flavula) is one of the first of the native flowers to bloom at Wild Ozark.
Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis flavula) is one of the first of the native flowers to bloom at Wild Ozark.

3-8-18 Usually the first plants to show signs of life with blooms here are the Vernal Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis). These sometimes bloom as early as January and February. This year they bloomed in March.

Vernal Witch Hazel flowers
Vernal Witch Hazel flowers

American Hazelnut(Corylus americana) is blooming right now too:

Male flowers of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana)
Male flowers of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana)

I’m watching for bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), and Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
to show up soon. None yet when I checked yesterday, though (Mar 13). Add this page to your RSS feed or check back often to see what’s blooming next!

What’s your favorite flowers of the Ozarks?

What’s the Difference between Native and Ornamental?

Native flowers grow in the area naturally. They are plants that evolved with the local habitats. Ornamental plants are imported, hybridized or modified in some way to highlight the showy features of the plant. Unless you’re shopping specifically for a native plant, at a nursery you’ll most likely get something that originated elsewhere. Nurseries stock plants most likely to sell to the public and often that is a bright, showy flower. Some nurseries, like Wild Ozark, specializes in native plants. We specialize even further – native woodland plants of the American ginseng habitat. I’ll start bringing plants to the market in April, so keep an eye on the calendar if you want to know where to find the booth.

‘Naturalized’ plants are mostly foreign plants that found their way to new habitats here in the US a long time ago. Some were brought with the settlers, some purposefully and some accidentally. These plants adapted so well to the environment that they began out-competing the native plants. Japanese honeysuckle and Chinese privet are two examples of this type of plant. Autumn (or Russian) Olive is a third.

Ginseng Seedlings Coming Up Early in Arkansas

There are ginseng seedlings coming up early this year, at least in Yellville, Arkansas. I haven’t seen any here at Wild Ozark, yet, but a few hours to the east, my friend Suzanne is reporting that hers are all coming up already. Here’s a pic she sent this morning.

Ginseng seedlings coming up early in Yellville
Ginseng Seedling in Yellville

I’ve never had them come up before bloodroot and Suzanne reports that her bloodroot hasn’t bloomed yet, either. How about any of you out there? Have you noticed your ginseng seedlings coming up early too? Let us know and send pics if you want!

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I’ll have seedlings at the Huntsville farmer’s market and possibly the Fayetteville market beginning in May. This year I’ll also try shipping them, but if the first attempts result in damaged or unhealthy plants, only local pickup will be available. I’ll refund any damaged orders.

Buy your first year ginseng seedlings from Wild Ozark

Ginseng in spring, a little more unfurled by the end of the day.

When Does Ginseng Come Up? 2018 Ginseng Unfurling Watch

When does ginseng come up?

It’s always around this time of year when people start wondering. When does ginseng come up? Usually that happens here at Wild Ozark from mid- to late-April. Today is March 14, 2018. This is the page where I’ll post the photos of our wild-simulated and true wild ginseng unfurling as it begins the growing season of 2018.

I’ll have ginseng seedlings with me at the farmer’s market as soon as they’re ready to be potted. Watch the schedule calendar to know when I’ll be where and with what.

Check back here in April for the ginseng unfurling, or add this page to your feed readers. In the meantime, I’ll be posting pictures of the other native plants of Wild Ozark as they start to bloom. Those will be posted on the 2018 Spring Awakening Watch page.

Seedlings Unfurling

042218 – The first year seedlings began sporadically unfurling over the past few days. None of the older plants are up yet.

The hazelnut and husk, straight from the tree.

Vernal Witch Hazel Flowers and Hazelnut too!

Today I went out to take cuttings from the Ozark Witch Hazel in the hopes of rooting them. I wasn’t looking for an American Hazelnut, but that’s what I found! I found the Witch Hazels, too. But I already knew those were there. New finds are always so exciting to me, but I think most people probably think I’m a little strange to be so thrilled over finding a  plant.

While I was scanning the creeksides for the witch hazel blooms, I happened to notice a small tree/large shrub on the uphill side of the road. On the opposite side of where I knew the witch hazels to be. From a distance, it looked a lot like it was covered with the American hazelnut male flowers that I saw on Steven Foster’s FB post the other day. My heart beat a little faster and I got out to take a closer look.

American Hazelnut (Corylus americana)

Sure enough, there were the ‘catkin’ male flowers.

Male flowers of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana)
Male flowers of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana)

And teeny tiny little fushia colored flowers at the ends of some of the branches. The flowers are very similar in appearance to the witch hazel, just a different color and a LOT smaller. I couldn’t get a good photo of them, but here’s what I have:

Male and female flower of the American hazelnut. The female is that tiny little frilly thing at the tip end of the branch.
Male and female flower of the American hazelnut. The female is that tiny little frilly thing at the tip end of the branch.

Now, to see MUCH better photos, take a look at Foster’s.

I poked around in the bushes for a bit and found one of the hazelnut shrubs that still had a leftover nut on it. The nut was tremendous in comparison to the small ones produced by the witch hazels, but it is still a fairly small nut compared to the ones you’d buy in the stores around Christmastime.

Smallish or not, I’d be willing to crack and shell them if I could gather enough. In fall, the new crop of nuts will be on the tree and you can bet I’ll be there trying to get them before the wildlife.

The hazelnut and husk, straight from the tree.
The hazelnut and husk, straight from the tree.

 

Surprise, Surprise

I’ve lived here 13 years now and never noticed this small tree. I know it’s been there longer than I’ve lived here.

It always surprises me when that happens. I just this year saw the biggest beech tree I’ve ever seen out here and it obviously has been there fifty years or more. Same thing happened with a deciduous magnolia. Found it, for the first time, last year right on the side of a trail I commonly use, and it too has been there probably fifty years.

Who knows how many more as-yet undiscovered plants are out there waiting on me?

Vernal Witch Hazel

The Vernal Witch Hazels are also known as Ozark Witch Hazels (Hamamelis vernalis). They bloom in late winter or very early spring (hence, the ‘vernal’ part of their common name). We have another variety called simply ‘Witch Hazel’ (H. virginiana) that blooms around October. Those have yellow flowers. The vernal ones have maroon and yellow flowers.

I think I almost missed the blooms on these this year. Or maybe they’re just getting started. I’ll have to check again in a day or two and see if the flowers are more developed, or completely withered.

Vernal Witch Hazel flowers
Vernal Witch Hazel flowers

I don’t really do anything with the Witch Hazel medicinally. They’re good for making an astringent wash to treat hemorrhoids and they make a good facial tonic. I just like the flowers and it’s one of my annual ritual photos I like to take to mark the passing of time. If in the future I need to use them for a remedy, I know where to find them.

When I finished getting my pictures, I took some cuttings and will try rooting them to see if I can make new plants from them. I tried this last year, but it didn’t work. Ever the optimist – that’s me. I’ll keep trying.

Have you ever tried eating the American Hazelnuts or using the Witch Hazel? Let me know how it went. When I was a teenager I used to use the Witch Hazel tonic for acne, but I’m not even sure they still sell it on the shelf like they used to do way back when.

More Information

Hazelnut: https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/american-hazelnut

 

Products of Wild Ozark's nature farming.

What is Nature Farming? What does a Nature Farmer Grow?

What I mean by ‘Nature Farming’ is not the same as ‘natural farming’, ‘organic farming’, or ‘natural farming methods’. Explanations for all of these things come up when you do a search online for ‘nature farming’. But nothing turns up for true nature farming. Hopefully this post will show up in the search engine results list soon.

I am literally farming nature.

I’m not doing conventional farming using natural techniques, or practicing organic or permaculture farming (although where I do actually grow things on purpose, I do adhere to those principles).

The more people who interact with my blog, the more quickly it’ll turn up in searches online. Will you help me get it noticed by sharing this post?

Wild Ozark is a Nature Farm. They are literally farming nature. Click To Tweet

 

What I’m farming is already present there in nature.

For the most part, the plants I use in my business already grow here naturally. I encourage some of them to multiply by dividing or transplanting or seeding them in more areas, but the habitats to support them already exist here. No tilling involved, though sometimes I do make nursery beds by creating rock wall terraces on the hillsides.

The terraces are in the deep shade under trees with the kinds of leaves that make good mulch for ginseng. They keep the pots from washing away during rains and when the creek floods, provides easy access for seedlings when I need to fill orders, and is a staging/holding area for the items I bring with me to market.

Things I keep in my nature farming nursery beds. A ginseng habitat in a pot! This one includes a 3-year old American ginseng with a handful of companions for $75. Available only for local pickup at the nursery, or the Rogers Downtown Farmers Market on Saturdays or the Huntsville Farmers Market on Tuesdays. Reserve in advance to make sure I have one with me by emailing madison@wildozark.com.
A ginseng habitat in a pot! This one includes a 3-year old American ginseng with a handful of companions for $75. Available only for local pickup at the nursery, or the farmers market booth (check schedule). Reserve in advance to make sure I have one with me by emailing [email protected] Bare root collections can be shipped in fall.

American ginseng seedlings are the main things that use the terraced beds. I transplant the seedlings to the other habitats and I also put them in pots sell them at market. When it’s not growing season, I sell them as dormant, bare root plants. Wild Ozark is the only certified ginseng nursery in Arkansas. Wild ginseng lives here naturally, and I’ve purchased seeds to grow even more of it. I keep the wild populations separate from the wild-simulated.

When I say ‘wild-simulated’ that means I’m growing the ginseng in the same way it would grow in the wild. All I do is plant the seed in a space where it can flourish. I do have one small area set aside as a teaching environment. It’s my Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden. It’s not quite a natural area yet, because it is still recovering from being logged many years ago. As the trees get bigger it will return to a natural dense shade forested habitat.

In addition to the ginseng seedlings and habitat pots, I also keep many of the companions in propagation beds so I can easily transplant them to pots and sell them, or harvest bare root plants for dormant shipping. Those plants include goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, blue cohosh, a variety of ferns, spicebush plants, pawpaw tree seedlings, and doll’s eyes. I also keep some of my other favorites like trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, and trout lilies, too.

Stewardship of Mother Nature versus Stewardship by Me

The Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden is not left completely to nature because I’m taking out things like honeysuckle and wild roses. I’m thinning some of the trees I don’t want there to favor some of the ones I do. The reason for that is to speed up the process that will make it a better habitat for the American ginseng and the companion plants that also grow in the same sort of environment. While the rest of Wild Ozark is pretty much left up to the stewardship of Mother Nature, this demonstration garden is being tended by me.

While the garden isn’t an ideal environment yet for the ginseng, it will eventually be so and the plants are doing well enough in the meantime. My process of doing this is helpful to others who want to do the same thing on their own property. Additionally, and the main reason I chose this spot, is because it is in a location close to the front gate and I don’t mind sharing that location with visitors.

Nature Farming means Harvesting Nature

I harvest things provided by nature. Things naturally growing, dropped to the ground, or dried on the stem. Wildcrafting is the gathering of wild plants. I’ll make ointments or extracts and teas from the medicinal plants. Some of them I’ll sell, and some of them I keep for our own household use. The parts I gather include fruits (persimmons, pawpaw), flowers (echinacea and beebalm), berries (elderberries, spicebush berries, raspberry, blackberry, etc.), seeds (lobelia), nuts (hickory, acorns), stems (witch hazel) or roots (ginseng, goldenseal).

 

Using Nature Farming Products to Create Art

So here’s where my nature farm departs from what most people normally think of when they think ‘farming’. The bulk of what Wild Ozark produces is botanical items most people barely notice. Usually it’s lying on the ground in the process of decomposing so it can return to the soil. Sticks, vines, leaves, bits of bark that fell from a tree… all treasures to me.

These harvests include things I use in my arts and crafts, like mosses and lichens and bark. These are things I simply pick up and put in my bucket during my morning walks.

A bucket full of nature farming produce. Some botanicals from the last gathering foray.

I use all of these things to create my Forest Folk, Fairy Houses, and Fairy Gardens. These are very popular and I even hold workshops on how to make these things so anyone can learn how a bit of nature farming can lead to beautiful Nature Art. I sell the small ferns for fairy gardens, bags of moss and preserved leaves, too. You can see where I’ve used twigs, acorns, leaves, dried grass, moss and small ferns in the following photos.

Bark from the Shagbark Hickory

One of our Nature Farm harvests is the bark of a certain tree. Burnt Kettle, my husband’s company, uses the bark from Shagbark hickories to make a delicious syrup. These trees grown naturally all around here.

Eventually we’ll harvest the wood from certain trees for my husband’s woodworking projects. He needs a bandsaw and sawmill to make boards from the abundant cedars that grow here.

Indirect Harvests from my Nature Farm

Art, photography, stories and workshops. Being around nature all of the time inspires me to write, draw, and take photos. I love sharing what I learn and enjoy with others, so I’m always happy to be contacted about doing workshops on topics like nature journaling, ginseng growing or habitat identification, and creating nature art. I’m not an expert on photography, so I’ll leave workshops on that to the ones that are. The outstanding photos from the ones I take are available for sale but I don’t have most of them listed at the shop yet.

Thanks for visiting with Wild Ozark website and taking the time to read about what I do here. Come by and visit the Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden if you’re in the area during spring and summer or come by the market booth to see the Forest Folk and Fairy Gardens! The market schedule will be kept current so you’ll know where I’ll be and when, but you can always email in advance if you like. Click here to get all of my contact information.

Virginia Creeper seedling

Virginia Creeper Seedling in my Ebony Spleenwort Fern

There’s a Virginia creeper  (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) seedling creeping up toward the light in my spleenwort fern (Asplenium platyneuron) container. I watched it for a few days with a suspicious eye as it unfurled, because I thought it might be a poison ivy.

Virginia Creeper

This isn’t one of my favorite plants. I’m only fascinated with it because I’ve never seen the creeper at this stage before. Actually, I did get online to make sure it wasn’t something else I suspected it could be, but the seedlings of that other plant look nothing like the seedling growing in my pot.

Virginia creeper seedling a little less zoomed. Virginia creeper seedling

Virginia creeper is the plant most often mistaken for ginseng. This seedling looks nothing at all like ginseng seedlings, though. Here’s what a ginseng seedling looks like on day 2:

Ginseng seedling day 2
A first year ginseng seedling the second day after unfurling.

I think I’ll keep my little seedling and bring it with me to my market booths for show and tell. But it’s going to have to get in its own pot soon.

Ebony Spleenwort

I need the little fern in its own pot, free of the creeper. These little ferns are called Ebony Spleenwort, and they adapt well to the fairy gardens in globes, bowls, and other containers. I do love these. They’re very plentiful here at Wild Ozark, but I’ll begin propagating them in woodland beds this year. That’s more sustainable than taking them from their wild homes.

Here's one of the Bowl Terrariums with a maturing Ebony Spleenwort growing in it.
Here’s one of the Bowl Terrariums with a maturing Ebony Spleenwort growing in it. I sell these as kits at my Etsy shop, and I’ll have them at the market booth this year.

Any plant with ‘wort’ in its name was once used for medicine. This fern was used for promoting menstruation and for chest congestion. The leaves are supposedly used as a tea. I have no plans to experiment with remedies using this plant. I like it for the fairy gardens mostly.

Vernal Witch Hazel

The other day I spotted some male flowers on the witch hazels down at the creek, but I didn’t have a camera on hand. I’ll try to get some pics of those before they disappear. That, too, is a new thing for me. Until Steven Foster posted his photo of one on FB the other day, I didn’t know witch hazel even had male and female flowers.

I think I may have missed the female witch hazel flowers on the vernal variety. I’m not sure how that happened, since I pass them everytime I go to town, but maybe I have been less attentive than usual in February. Or maybe they bloomed earlier and were knocked off by rain before I had a chance to see. No telling. I’ll try again next year.

Find us at the Fayetteville Farmers Market

I’m so excited! We just got the approval notification for our application to the Fayetteville Arkansas Farmer’s Market. This is a juried market. Last month we had an appointment with the review board. We brought our crafts for inspection – the fairy houses, fairy gardens, forest folk, and keepsake boxes. We have another review for the syrup and ginseng/woodland plants, but those are also fairly unique and so should be accepted as well.

The schedule? That I don’t know yet. Early in the season we’ll likely be there every Saturday starting March 31. Later in the season, they may boot us out to give space to the more tenured vendors with produce just coming in. Watch my schedule page or email me to inquire if you need to know whether we’ll be there on any given Saturday.

Namesake of the Dragon – Another Green Dragon Drawing

Here’s the second of the Green Dragon drawings I’ve been working on. I posted the first part of it last week. This part is called the spathe (the hood) and the spadix (the long ‘tongue’) and it is the namesake of the dragon. This part of the plant is what becomes the cluster of red berries after fertilization occurs. You’ll see it in spring, before the plant has finished unfurling the horseshoe-shaped umbrella of its leaves.

Namesake of the Dragon - the spathe and spadix
Namesake of the Dragon – the spathe and spadix. Prints available.

If you’d like to know more about this plant, I have a few posts here on the blog about it. This is one of my favorite woodland plants.

Armadillo Dilemma: To Kill or Not to Kill

Armadillo hide-out.
Armadillo hide-out.

So last summer I noticed an armadillo had moved into one of the ginseng nursery beds. It’s been a destructive force in the area since it arrived a couple of weeks ago. I wrote this post while trying to decide what to do the situation. I thought it would be a good time now to update and let everyone know the outcome.

What would you do? Kill the armadillo or let it live?

Why a dilemma to me?

First of all, I don’t like to kill anything unless we’re going to eat it. I’m not going to eat an armadillo.

But the armadillo is causing havoc. Wild Ozark grows wild-simulated American ginseng, which is indistinguishable from wild except on a genetic level.

The critter isn’t eating the ginseng, but the earthworms that live in the ginseng patch.

If I let this go and allow Nature to determine what happens next, the armadillo will continue to tear up ginseng rootlets as it hunts earthworms at night.

Armadillos are not native here. Neither are the earthworms. Am I native here? At least on a human-level, I think I am.

There is evidence that humans lived here many thousands of years ago. Not so for the cute little leprosy-hosting armored bandits. They migrated up from Texas, along with their road-runner friends.

At least the earthworms are beneficial and don’t harm the plant that is the  basis of our livelihood.

But the armadillo is also eating grubs, which are the larva of an insect (Japanese beetle) that also isn’t native. And the grubs do eat the roots of plants possibly including the ginseng.

So it could be doing me a service even if it is very destructive in the process.

Don’t fear the Armadillo-Leprosy connection

As a side-note, there’s no need to worry about the leprosy unless you’re cuddling armadillos. You can’t catch the disease just by inhabiting the same piece of ground. If you tend to eat armadillos, be sure to cook the meat thoroughly. There have been cases of it caught from undercooked armadillo meat.

What’s this about leprosy??

Our nine-banded Armadillos are the only mammal that can host the leprosy bacteria that has plagued humans for centuries. They’re used to study the disease in laboratories. I once turned down what might have been a very interesting lab job at Carville, Louisiana where leprosy is studied on the campus of what used to be the last remaining Leper’s Colony in the United States. The laboratory has since moved to nearby Baton Rouge.

If you do tend to play with wild animals, however, I’d leave the armadillo off of your list of critters to cuddle. Just in case. At least leprosy can be treated nowadays.

But that’s about as comforting to me as knowing that I can get rabies shots if I’m bitten by a rabid animal.  I’d just rather not.

Armadillo Decision

If I kill the armadillo, then I have interfered with Nature, right? If I don’t kill it, maybe it’ll help cut down on the Japanese beetle problem.

If I let the it live, then it will likely produce offspring, if it hasn’t already. Then those in turn will turn up even more of the nursery beds.

Even if it eats every last one of the grubs it’ll never run out of earthworms to devour. The grubs aren’t so much of an issue in our woods. The earthworms are doing a helpful job.

I feel that I myself am a natural part of Nature, and therefore have a right to defend territory I’ve marked as “mine”.

I’ll tell this to the invader later today. Then it can either leave or stay and face the consequences.

First I’ll try the live trap and relocation. If that doesn’t work, it’ll be on the hit list.

Update 2018: This past summer we had the largest invasion of japanese beetles I’ve ever seen here. I decided to leave the armadillo alone. Although many areas were uprooted and the ground was turned up, I did not notice a significant amount of loss of seedlings or mature plants. That armadillo probably ate more than its weight in japanese beetle grubs, though, and for that I am thankful. And willing to sacrifice a few plants.

A Green Dragon Drawing

I’ve been working on a Green Dragon drawing for the cover of NANPS’s summer issue of Blazing Star. There will be another of the spathe and spadix to do next. That one will be used in the article.

Here’s the photograph I worked from. I used more than one photo because I didn’t have a single capture that showed the plant and all of its leaves AND the ripe fruit cluster.  I used this one because it at least showed all of the leaves.

Green Dragon in July
Green Dragon in July

Here’s the progression of the drawing in stages:

Green Dragon Drawing
Green Dragon Drawing. Prints available from the Wild Ozark shop.

 

Click here to see my drawing of the Namesake of the Dragon. If you’d like to know more about this plant, I have a few posts here on the blog about it. This is one of my favorite woodland plants.

Elderberry blossom

Build your Herbal Armory!

Useful plants grow all around us. It’s time to start building your herbal armory of plant allies now.

My book, 10 Common Plants worth Knowing in a Long-term Survival Situation, will introduce you to ten at a time. I’ll help you make allies of them, enabling you to build your herbal armory.

  1. All-Heal
  2. Beebalm
  3. Echinacea
  4. Elderberry
  5. Red clover
  6. Red Raspberry
  7. Red Mulberry
  8. Persimmon
  9. Spicebush
  10. Witch Hazel

An Heirloom

This book is meant to be written in. I’ve given space to record your harvest locations, identification notes, place to write things that you think will be important for anyone trying to follow in your footsteps in the next generations.

Read More

How Ginseng Stewardship Also Benefits the Landowner

Someone asked me yesterday about how ginseng stewardship benefits the landowner. It stumped me at first, because I’d never considered it from that angle.

Ginseng unfurling in spring, from article on ginseng stewardship.
Ginseng unfurling in spring.

What is Stewardship?

To steward something is to manage or take care of something. The short answer to this post’s question is yes. Stewardship benefits the landowner, especially if they want to have a long-term relationship with ginseng.

The word “relationship” is key to the true meaning of that answer, as you’ll begin to understand when I describe what I consider to be ginseng stewardship, farther down the page.

Obviously, it benefits the ginseng for someone to think of it as a long-term resident and not just as a root occupying space in their forest for the next 5-10 years.

How Does Ginseng Stewardship “Work”?

In this example, I’m talking about wild-simulated ginseng, and not ginseng grown as a woodland crop that is tended in the way a gardener tends vegetables. The wild-simulated ginseng will generally be left to fend for itself once the seed is planted.

Stewardship comes into play the moment you decide to give it, and the future generations of it, space in the forest to call home – not just a 5-year lease on a plot of ground in the woods to be terminated en masse at will.

The Wild Ozark Stewardship Plan

If a landowner begins planting ginseng in year 1, then plants every year thereafter, in 7-10 years it would be a good time to start digging roots. It’s legal in 5, but the roots are still small then.

Let’s just say you wait 10 years and each year you planted seeds. By the time year 10 rolls around, the ones you planted for the first 7 years will be flowering and producing seeds and offspring (they begin reproducing in year 3).

If you did this without fail each year, barring a disaster of some sort, you’d have quite a lot of ginseng growing and reproducing.

Now when you harvest in year 10, only take ½ or less of each colony’s reproducing adult plants. Each colony should have at least 100 plants total (of mixed ages).

Replant the seeds from the ones you harvest. Done in this way you will always have ginseng for the rest of your life and the lives of your children and your grandchildren because the colonies would be self-sustaining and taking your percentage won’t cause them to decline until all you have is a few.

Ginseng in spring, a little more unfurled by the end of the day, from article on ginseng stewardship.
Ginseng in spring, a little more unfurled by the end of the day.

Here on our property, the suitable spots aren’t large enough to plant full acres worth. Each spot is a little microclimate of perfect conditions, and the largest area like this is only a few thousand square feet at most.

Plant Where You Can

So we plant these pockets as we find them, if there isn’t already ginseng on them (it’s my attempt to avoid genetic pollution). We haven’t started harvesting our own roots yet; we’re still on the 10-year plan and only dig a few for personal use.

The ones we planted several years ago are now reproducing and we’re replanting those seeds in the same colonies and in a few more years those spots will all be ready for us to start harvesting a percentage of the reproducing plants.

Most of our forests had been logged at some point before we bought it and so they’re only just now beginning to recover and create stands suitable for ginseng again.

There are studies, (here’s a link to the abstract of one), that shows delaying harvest only a couple of weeks and taking only a certain percentage will lead to sustainability. I’ve read before that taking even 50% of the adult plants in a colony will not do it harm the sustainability of the colony if the seeds from those plants are planted back at the time of harvest in the same colony space.

Stewardship also means recreating natural habitats where possible. In some of the logged areas, I’m trying to keep the thorns and brush out and am planting spicebush and pawpaws instead.

The Setbacks that Can (and Do) Occur

Besides poaching, nature takes some of the plants. You’ll have to take into consideration the deer and poaching and other animal predation, or severe weather conditions that can take out a percentage of your colony.

One year we had a pretty bad ice storm that took out the tops and felled of a lot of trees. In one of our largest good habitat areas this destroyed the colonies because it let in too much sunlight. Then the poison ivy and underbrush choked it all out.

This particular habitat consisted of acres, actually, and not just little pockets. It was a heartfelt loss.

That ice storm would need to be factored in before deciding how many plants the colony could afford to lose in harvest. In this case it was none.

3 prong ginseng unfurling, from article on ginseng stewardship
3 prong ginseng unfurling

What is Not the Kind of Stewardship I Meant

People can and do plant and dig all of the mature plants from the beds they’ve established. And then replant, just like any other crop. Just like growing a tree farm that is clear-cut and replanted.

This treats it more as an agricultural product, which just isn’t how I want to interact with our forests. In the strictest sense of the definition, this is still “stewardship”.

But that isn’t the kind of stewardship I meant. What I had in mind was more… natural, I guess? There’s a word for it, I can’t think of it right now, though. I just prefer a more natural approach…

Ah-ha! The word is a phrase: NATURE FARMING. It’s also “wild-simulated”.

What I want is to know that at least some of the ginseng out there is finding a permanent home.

That is what I mean about stewardship. It’s a win-win strategy. Landowner gives to ginseng space to live a natural life. The ginseng gives to the landowner in the form of truly naturally grown, potent, medicine from the Earth.

Not only that, in natural areas there are entire ecosystems to observe and learn from.

I like knowing that ginseng is still out there somewhere enjoying the shade of the old trees. That they enjoy the company of their green-friend companion plants. Maybe this is a bit too woo-woo for some of you.

But I like knowing that out there somewhere, people are respecting the way this plant once grew. That those with wilderness are helping little pockets of ginseng find a permanent place on their land.

And I know a lot of you do it without thinking about it. I just want you to know that I thank you for it.

Here’s a page with links to a lot of other articles about ginseng here on my blog and out in the internet.

In Summary

In the end, stewardship does serve the person AND it serves the thing being “stewarded”.

I suppose, if money is the bottom line, this may sound like bad business.

For Wild Ozark, though, it’s not just about the money.

It’s about stepping out of an anthropocentric worldview.

It’s about having a mutually beneficial relationship with the land.


 

Some of our books:


 

Long Dirt Road: Why it Takes me an Hour to Drive 12 Miles

This is a post from a few years ago that I love, so I’m reposting it. We live down a long dirt road. This little facet of our lives is the main thing that makes or breaks most newcomers to rural life.

It takes a long time to go anywhere, if you go slow enough to spare the vehicle’s suspension and tires, and every other nut and bolt on the chassis. You gotta love the long dirt road for offering a chance to transition from the ordinary world into the magical realm of these hills, though.

Or vice versa. It gives you a chance to readjust on your way out of the magic and into the mundane.


Today was an ordinary summer day in July. I went to the post office.

It’s only 12 miles to the post office in our little town.

6 of those miles are by dirt road. It’s a long dirt road.

My average speed on the dirt stretch is 10 mph, but I slow down for the rough spots. So for just that portion of the trip, it already makes up for more than 30 minutes. The remaining 6 miles of pavement only takes 10 minutes or less, depending on whether there are cows, tractors, or deer in the road.

On a direct trip with no distractions, it’s about a 90-minute round trip, if you add the time spent getting the mail posted. And that’s if I only go to the post office and back.

But that rarely happens. Read More

Ginseng Jelly – A Delicious Wild Ozark Luxury Product

Oh, my … GINSENG JELLY!

I love medicinal herbs, especially those that grow right here at home, and most especially ginseng. This year’s ginseng jelly comes in two varieties:

  • Ginseng Gold (4-oz, $25)
  • Ginseng/Apple (8-oz, $25) Soft-set: thicker than syrup, thinner than jelly

Both are delicious, but you’ll get more of the ginseng active ingredients from the Gold. Prices do not include shipping.

Email me for a PayPal invoice and let me know your address so I can give you the quote on shipping: [email protected]

Ginseng is a Medicinal Herb

This jelly is intended for adults only. A teaspoon a day is plenty enough to experience the benefit.

 

UPDATE 2017, made a fresh batch of jelly for this year: it is delicious and potent!!

Email me if you’d like to try it.  [email protected]

Making ginseng jelly- Getting ready to chop the ginseng roots after soaking them for a couple of hours.
Getting ready to chop the ginseng roots after soaking them for a couple of hours.

The taste

I tasted the decoction (broth) this morning after it soaked overnight and the flavor is bitter with a sweet follow. This is exactly how the roots taste when chewed.

The jelly is sweet, lightly flavored with a very slight bitter finish. Some people don’t taste the bitter at all, but I do. The point with this product isn’t so much to use it as a confection, but as a tonic.

My favorite way to use it is on my morning slice of toast. That’s all you need – a teaspoon a day. If you take it daily, then the little jar won’t last very long. This is a good thing, as ginseng shouldn’t be used on a daily basis for more than a month or two at a time.

Medicinal Virtues

Ginseng has been in use as a medicinal plant for thousands of years. American ginseng was first used by the Native Americans but became popular in China during the 1700’s.

In recent years scientists have become more interested in the ways ginseng works and have produced several studies.

Here’s an article about the effects of ginseng.

This one offers a handy chart: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103855/figure/F3/

And, here’s an article about some of the side effects of ginseng and possible drug interactions. You should always do research before using herbal remedies, and do more than just read the links on mine or any other one site.

This jelly contains a broth made with American ginseng root. A large portion, if not most, of the medicinal  part of ginseng is water soluble, so it will be in this jelly.

Don’t Wait too Long!

Look for Wild Ozark American Ginseng Jelly at the Nature Shop and at our market booth this year!

It’s pretty and tastes wonderful!

Ginseng and Blackberry Jelly, the test batch. I'm out of this one. Right now I have "Ginseng Gold", which is just ginseng, and "Ginseng/Apple". Both are $25, but with the Ginseng/Apple you get twice the volume.
“Ginseng Gold”, which is just ginseng, and “Ginseng/Apple”. Both are $25, but with the Ginseng/Apple you get twice the volume.

Email me at madison(at)wildozark(dot)com if you want some.

13 Questions About Ginseng

Caring For, Finding, Growing, Digging and Selling Ginseng – These are Wild Ozark’s most often asked questions about ginseng. I’m always learning more about this fascinating plant, so if you have opposing information please post in the comments. If you have other questions, post those too!

Frequently Asked Questions About Ginseng

1. Why can’t I find ginseng?

Most often the answer turns out to be that the person was looking in the wrong kinds of places. Once the right habitat was discovered, then the problem is that the plant is just very hard to spot.

Sometimes, even if the habitat is correct, the problem is that there just isn’t any or very many ginseng plants growing there. It is often completely harvested by poachers or overharvested by previous land-owners or diggers.

At least when the right habitat is found, you can always plant some and start a new patch.

  • For a more in depth response to this question, click here.

2. Can I dig in one state and sell in another?

At least in Arkansas, not without a dealer’s license. Here’s a quote from the Arkansas State Plant Board ginseng regulations:

1. Any person, business, or corporation who buys wild or artificially propagated American Ginseng for sale across state lines shall be termed a dealer by intent of Act 774 of 1985, and shall obtain a Ginseng Dealer License and a Certificate of Legal Taking from the Arkansas State Plant Board.

3. When should you plant ginseng?

In late fall, before the ground begins to freeze. Out here (northwest Arkansas) the ground never freezes solid long, so I’d also plant during winter on days that aren’t too cold. Usually, though, I like to have all the seeds planted by end of October.

4. Where do I sell my ginseng?

Check around September on the windows of stores in the small towns of your area. Buyers will often post notices to say when they’ll be coming to town. You can also check the classifieds of your electric coop magazine (if you get those out there). Fur buyers will often buy ginseng or know of ginseng buyers in the area. I’ve seen notices posted in the classified section of our local newspaper before, too.

Wild Ozark runs a page each year for diggers and sellers to post information for each other in the comments. You might be able to find a buyer by posting a comment of your own. Here’s this year’s page: 2017 Ginseng Prices Page

5. Finding ginseng

You can find ginseng in deep forests on north, west, or east facing slopes. It helps a lot to know the companion plants that grow in the same areas ginseng grows: black cohosh, bloodroot, doll’s eyes, maidenhair fern, Christmas fern, pawpaw, wild ginger. These plants are easier to spot than the ginseng itself. If you’re trying to find a suitable site for growing your own, it’s good to plant in places these plants grow if the site has sufficient shade.

6. Ginseng seed sources, and how long does it take to ginseng to grow from seed

To buy seed, I suggest you get it from as local a source as possible. We get ours from Ozark Mountain Ginseng in Thayer, MO. We’re not in the same state, but we are both located in the Ozarks, at least. His seedstock aren’t originally from the Ozarks, either, but the plants that grow from them look just like the ones that grow wild here.

Aside from that, seeds and plants produced locally are adapted to your local conditions and will more easily thrive.

The topic of seed sourcing is one of the most debated questions about ginseng. Some believe a ginseng is a ginseng is a ginseng and that there is no difference between any of them. I believe there are distince local genotypes.

I’ve heard that Wisconsin seeds do just fine here in the Ozarks, but I am concerned about genetic pollution and try to minimize the difference between the cultivars with my introduced seeds. That’s why I try to get a genotype of ginseng that is at least similar to the wild type we have here in the Ozarks. I believe Ozark Since it’s illegal to buy/sell/collect/trade wild ginseng seeds, this is the best I can do.

How Long from Seed to Plant?

Ginseng produces a berry in summer. In the berry there are two seeds. When the berry falls to the ground it takes a full year of sitting there before it sprouts the second spring after falling. When you buy seeds they’ll be stratified (usually). This means the seed has already waited the first year (usually outside buried in a bed or bucket of sand) and will be ready to sprout the spring after you plant it.

7. Ginseng companion trees

The trees that ginseng grows best under around here is a mix of the following: oak, hickory, maple, pawpaw, dogwood, redbud, beech and poplar.

8. What happens when ginseng gets too much sunlight?

Too much sun will bleach out the leaves making them turn whitish. Eventually the plant will die in these conditions but if the problem is confined to a small area, you can put up some shade cloth until the tree canopy closes in. If this is a problem in a large area, then the ground is probably too dry there and the site is not suitable for ginseng to begin with.

9. How to tell the difference between poison oak/ivy/Virginia creeper and ginseng?

To the uninitiated, ginseng looks a lot like a few other plants. It’s most often confused with poison oak/ivy during first year growth because at that time ginseng only has 3 leaves. To tell the difference between ginseng and Virginia creeper, look at the leaves. Ginseng always has 2 tiny leaves and 3 larger ones (after the first year). All of Virginia creeper’s leaves are the same size.

Phrased a little differently, this is one of THE most often asked questions about ginseng: “Is this ginseng?”

People send me photos all the time to ask me that, and I don’t mind helping out when I can. 99% of the time, the photo is of one of the common look-alikes and not ginseng. Every once in a long while, I’ll actually get a photo of the real thing and it’s exciting to be able to confirm that for the seeker.

Check out my book about the most common look alikes. The cover is a quick-reference id key to plants often confused with ginseng.

10. When does ginseng come up in spring?

It comes up here in northwest Arkansas in mid-April. Some years it will come up later, like it did this year (2017). It was May before they unfurled because the weather in spring was cold later and very wet.

Sometimes a plant skips a year and will remain dormant until the following spring. Older plants sometimes stay dormant for more than a year or two at a time.

11. Does drought kill ginseng?

If the summers are too dry, even if it’s growing in deep shade, sometimes ginseng will die back and go dormant until the following year when conditions improve.

12. Does ginseng still grow wild?

Yes, although many diggers have carried seeds in their pockets and planted while digging, so it’s impossible to know which is true wild and which is virtually wild. This is most likely the case everywhere ginseng is native.

That leads to another of the frequent questions about ginseng: What is the difference between wild and wild-simulated? It’s only how the seed was placed. If a person put the seed on the ground (or in it), then it’s wild-simulated. If nature caused the seed to make contact with the ground, then it’s wild.

But then what about the offspring of wild-simulated that fall naturally? Well, it gets a lot trickier then, doesn’t it? I’d still call that wild-simulated, since it came from a human-seeded plant. In all other respects, though, it’s wild and will sell as a wild root (as will the other wild-simulated plants that were human-seeded).

13. Does breaking the tops off of ginseng hurt it? Will it come back next year?

Short answer: Not too much, and Maybe.

Although I’m sure having the tops broken off every year may not be good for the ginseng, if you do it late in the season after the berries have matured, it has some benefits. The main reason people do this is to “hide” the root from diggers. It would be better that the plant had the extra time with leaves to help restore energy to the root, but if poachers are an issue, it’s better for the plant than being harvested.

Sometimes deer eat the tops off of ginseng , and sometimes I harvest only the leaves. But I’ve noticed that when a plant is browsed or harvested of its leaves, it has a tendency to go dormant the following year. Then it comes back the next one. I try to not harvest leaves from the same plant two years in a row just so the plant has time to fully recuperate. But if there are many poachers in the woods any given year, I would rather top them all than lose them all.

Photo to accompany my article "Questions About Ginseng". Poster available from the Wild Ozark shop at RedBubble.
Poster and other options available from RedBubble.

Have questions about ginseng? Leave a comment and if I don’t know the answer I’ll try to find an answer.

Driveway Flowers in September

It’s been bone dry lately. This morning I brought my camera with me so I could take pictures of the driveway flowers.

Ordinarily this would have been an “exercise walk” and I wouldn’t have brought the camera because that would have just caused me to stop and take pictures. Which would have defeated the purpose of the exercise, which is to get the heart rate up and sustained up for a little while.

However, I’m still not up to my old self after the tick fever episode, so exercise isn’t “exercise” in the same sense of the word yet. Ha. So I brought the camera and called all the stooping and squatting “exercise”.

Heading out to take pictures of the driveway flowers and get a little exercise.
Dogs waiting for me to catch up.

It’s been so dry. We hadn’t gotten any rain for weeks and the trees are already dropping their leaves. Later in the afternoon, though, we did get a really nice shower.

The creek isn't flowing anymore and leaves are filling up the small pools.
The creek isn’t flowing anymore and leaves are filling up the small pools.

The water goes underground in the creek once it gets this dry. It leaves only a few small pools here and there. I have to check regularly to make sure the horses still have their usual water hole, but so far it’s never dried up in certain spots on their portion of the creek.

When the water is low, it’s easier to find interesting rocks. This one has an inclusion that looks like part of a plant. Or something else. I’m not sure what it is, but it looks like a fossil of some sort.

Fossil in the rock.
Fossil in the rock.

In spite of the drought, some of the driveway flowers are still doing well.

An evening primrose flower.
An evening primrose flower.

Evening primrose blooming in the morning.
Evening primrose blooming in the morning.

Goldenrods never seem bothered by the droughts.
Goldenrods never seem bothered by the droughts.

Many people mistakenly think it’s the goldenrod causing their allergies. In reality, it’s the ragweed which blooms during the same time frame. I didn’t take any pics of the ragweed. It really messes with my sinuses and I didn’t want to get any closer to them than I had to.

This one is called camphorweed, but it doesn’t smell like camphor to me. It plain stinks. It ought to be called stink weed instead. The latin binomial gives a good clue to its nature:  Pluchea foetida.

Camphor weed almost gone to seed.
Camphor weed almost gone to seed.

Down in Louisiana, when someone speaks of boneset, it’s usually Eupatorium perfoliatum. Up here in the Ozarks it’s usually a different boneset. This one is Eupatorium serotinum, or late boneset.

This is the only boneset I've ever found in the Ozarks.
This is the only boneset I’ve ever found in the Ozarks.

I know that E. perfoliatum is an herb once used to treat “breakbone” fever, or dengue fever. I’m not sure if our local variety has the same properties.

Once summer begins morphing into fall, the Lobelia inflata seed pods swell and ripen. I collected enough seeds of this plant last year that I didn’t need to gather more this year. It’s a valuable part of antispasmodic formulas I craft and really works quickly for muscle pain.

Lobelia inflata with swollen seedpods.
Lobelia inflata with swollen seed pods.

I wrote an article on this often overlooked plant for the North American Native Plant Society. It was included in the August 2017 issue of their members-only newsletter magazine called Blazing Star. I’m still waiting for my copy to arrive in the mail. I’m excited about this article because it also includes my drawing of lobelia and this issue is the very first color print version.

A prettier kind of lobelia that grows here is the Lobelia siphilitica, or Great Blue Lobelia. This one would look nice in wildflower gardens, but they don’t do so well in drought conditions. The ones growing near the creek still look good, but these are beginning to suffer.

Droopy great blue lobelia.
Droopy great blue lobelia.

The asters always look pretty no matter how dry it gets.

Asters don't seem to mind the drought.
Asters don’t seem to mind the drought.

An asp on the asters.
An asp on the asters.

I found an interesting new to me flower on my walk this morning.

Cuphea viscosissima has purple flowers with sticky calyxes.
Cuphea viscosissima has purple flowers with sticky calyxes.

A small frail plant with purple flowers.
A small frail plant with purple flowers.

The little hairs have a sticky sap globule on the ends.
The little hairs have a sticky sap globule on the ends.

I’ve never noticed this plant here before and I’m not sure if that’s because it was never here, or because I just never noticed it. Of all the driveway flowers I normally pay attention to, this is one of the smaller ones I’ve ever noticed.

It’s only about a foot tall, and fairly frail and the flowers are small. But the entire top half of it has little sticky hairs all over it. The seeds of this plant contains an oil that is being researched for biofuel and for use in cosmetics and food.

I couldn’t find much about it on the internet, but it’s a member of the Loosestrife family. The common name is Tarweed, or Blue waxweed. It’s one I want to learn more about.

Well, that was the end of my driveway walk. After taking that last photo I hiked my way back up the hill and didn’t stop again until I reached the house.