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
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.

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.

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.

Elderberry Flowers Oil Infusion

Elderberry at Wild Ozark
American elderberry, Sambucus canadensis

Elderberry flowers have a light, sweet fragrance and all manners of pollinators love them.

Which Elderberry Flowers?

The variety I’m using for this is Sambucus canadensis, which is the native elderberry in our area.  Black elderberry (S. nigra) is the european comparative variety. Don’t use red elderberry if it grows in your area because that one is toxic.

Step by Step

  • Pick the elderberry flowers. But don’t pick ALL of the flowers. Save some for the pollinators and some to make berries for you and the birds.
Fresh elderberry flowers.
Fresh elderberry flowers.

Choose only the fresh flowers, just opened and not turning brown yet. You’ll have to pull the branches down where you can reach them if the flowers are too high.

  • Cut them and let them drop into your bowl.

Don’t cut all of the flowers so there will be some left for the pollinators and for berries.

Be forewarned. You’ll get showered with bugs and old petals while you’re doing this.

  • Separate the petals from the stems.
  • Spread them out on a pan and let them sit for a few minutes outside so the bugs can vacate the premises. I put them on a sheet of kraft or parchment paper, on the pan.

When you’re ready to transfer them into the jar, you can use the paper like a funnel.

Spread them outside on a pan to let the bugs escape.
Spread them outside on a pan to let the bugs escape.

 

  • Add the flowers to a jar.
  • Cover with the oil of your choice and put a cap on the jar. I used macadamia nut because I had it on hand, and coconut oil because I didn’t have enough of the macadamia alone.
Elderflowers infusing in the sun.
Elderberry flowers infusing in the sun.
  • Let it sit in the sun to infuse all day. Every once in a while turn the jar to move the oil around.
  • Strain the next day into a fresh jar. Use a wooden spoon to press the flowers to get every last drop. I had more than would fit in the pint, so grabbed another smaller jar to capture the rest.
Straining the infusion.
Straining the infusion.
  • Label your treasure! This is something I am trying to do better at.

It’s one thing for me to know what’s in a jar or bag by smell, it’s another when I have to ask someone else to retrieve something for me, based upon my description of that smell or taste. If I’m not able to physically retrieve it myself because of injury or any other reason, I need to have them labeled so someone else can do it.

Case in point is when I wanted to slather on some healing balms after my ACL/meniscus tear and couldn’t walk down the stairs to get it myself. With nothing labeled, it would have been hard to ask Rob to bring what I needed.

Labeled infusion.
Labeled infusion.
  • Strain it again the next day. Use a fresh jar and transfer the label to it. After the tiny bit of moisture from the flowers has had time to gather itself together and form little bubbles or globs beneath the oil, you need to strain it again.

This time use a piece of paper towel and pull it through the funnel until you have most of it out of the bottom. Then cut off the paper towel so only an inch or so hangs beneath the funnel.

  • Then put two coffee filters opened in the funnel and pour the oil through the coffee filters first. it’ll be slow to go through so you might have to wait a bit before pouring again. Between the coffee filter and the paper towel, the little bit of moisture should get captured.

Your resulting oil should be crystal clear with a yellow tint and the scent should be lovely and light.

  • Let me know if you make this and how you used it. I’ll be using it in lip balms this time. When the tubes arrive next week, I’ll document the process and share that here in a blog post too, so stay tuned.

Happy Harvesting!

Email me if you’d like this post in PDF format. [email protected]

Ginseng in June

Ginseng in June is still nice and green and has small berries beginning to form. Some of the plants still have flowers, too. Some of them have been browsed by deer and scratched up by wild turkeys. Bugs have taken a few bites here and there out of the leaves.

Although it was a pretty wet spring, I didn’t notice as much of the mealy bug infestations as we normally get, which pleased me. All of the flower stalks so far seem strong and healthy.

It’ll be late July before they begin turning red and that’s when I’ll begin pulling the tops off of most of the older plants.

Ginseng in June

American ginseng in June the Wild Ozark woods.
American ginseng in June the Wild Ozark woods.

Why pull the tops?

Because too many people begin looking for the plants as soon as the berries are ripe, even though the legal season doesn’t open until September.

By taking off the tops, it makes it very difficult to find the plant and dig up the roots.

I won’t throw the leaves away, though. I’ll save them for remedies. The leaves have all the same properties as the roots and it doesn’t kill the plant to pick them.

Do we dig the roots?

We generally don’t harvest the roots except for the ones i use to make or jellies, syrups, and remedies.  Digging the root kills the plant, and our plants are worth more to us in the ground producing offspring.

Eventually, when there are enough mature plants making berries, I’ll harvest the berries for seeds to sell.

If you’re local to Arkansas and want to buy fresh wild American ginseng roots at the retail price of $35/oz when the season opens in September, let me know. I know a few diggers who will supply the roots by digging in an ethical manner. They’ll only dig when there’s an order to fill, and they’ll only be able to dig at most a pound or two, so they can practice sustainable harvesting.

If you’re not local and want fresh or dried roots, you can find out more about my partner-dealers who can ship by visiting this page.

[email protected]

What about the berries?

I’ll only top the plants with ripe berries, and I’ll put the berries on the ground in the same vicinity when I do so.

This way the seeds will grow new plants. But they won’t grow them next year. It takes two years before the seeds of ginseng sprouts. The first year they sit inside the decomposing berry on the ground.

My theory is that the berry is acidic as it decomposes during the first year and this helps to make the seed ready to sprout the following year. And in the meantime the leaves that fall and decompose give them a nice seed bed to sprout in.

Want to see ginseng growing in the woods?

Visit our Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden. You can learn what kind of spot makes a good habitat, see some seedlings and mature American ginseng growing in a natural environment, look at some of the companion plants and learn to tell the difference between ginseng and the look-alikes.

If there are still seedlings available, you can learn to transplant and help me in the nursery. For your effort, you’ll get to take home one seedling free for every five you help me pot up. Participation is not required to come out and look at the habitat, just email me at the address above to make an appointment.

Then when you go back to your own neck of the woods, you can begin restoring some habitats!

Watching for Witch Hazel Flowers

Witch Hazel Flowers

Witch hazel flowers are an interesting sight to behold. The petals on the small flowers are thin and wild. The shrub blooms during the most unlikeliest time of the year.

It is one of my favorite plants in the Ozarks. She is an untamed rebel, even if she or her hybridized cousins do grow well in urban gardens or hedgerows.

Two Wild Species

We have two varieties of witch hazel here in the Ozarks. One blooms in late fall and the other blooms in late winter.

H. virginiana

Hamamelis virginiana is by far the most abundant here on our land. This witch hazel blooms in late fall with spidery yellow flowers. Sometimes you’ll even see it blooming after the leaves have dropped off.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) flowers and autumn color.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) flowers and autumn color.

H. virginiana grows in many areas east of the Rockies in the United States, usually around water’s edge or in rich, moist woodlands.

Witch hazel leaves in summer. (H. virginiana)
Witch hazel leaves in summer. (H. virginiana)

H. vernalis

The other species is called Ozark Witch Hazel, or Vernal Witch Hazel. This one is endemic only to the Ozarks and blooms in late winter or very early spring. These witch hazel flowers are more of a reddish, orange color. I’ve heard they have a delightful fragrance, too, but I haven’t caught them in full bloom to get a firsthand experience.

Ozark witch hazel flowers, just before the petals opened or right after they fell off. This photo was taken in Feb. 2015.
Ozark witch hazel flowers, just before the petals opened or right after they fell off. This photo was taken in Feb. 2015.

I know where some are, though, and am going to go check on them today or tomorrow. If I’m lucky, I’ll add the pics to this post. And let you know if, indeed, they do smell nice.

Update Feb. 6, 2017: Found some!
Vernal witch hazel blooming on Feb. 6, 2017
Vernal witch hazel blooming on Feb. 6, 2017

Rob and I went out to do a little exploring along the upper Felkins creek and we found some blooming! And YES, they do smell nice. The scent isn’t powerful but it is sweet.

During early spring of 2015 I took cuttings and was having some success with them, but an unusual landslide-producing epic flood wiped out the nursery that summer.

When I do find them, I plan to take some cuttings. If they root, I’ll have some to offer in the Nature Boutique nursery this year.

You can read more about the Ozark Witch Hazel in this article at the Springfield News-Leader.

Witch Hazel in my Fiction

In the first book of the Bounty Hunter series, Treya tries chewing on a witch hazel twig. I’m going to cut a twig tomorrow and see if it’s as nasty as she thinks it is. If it’s not so bad, I’ll have to rewrite this scene.

Update: When we found the flowers blooming, I did taste a twig and it was NOT unpleasant and it did not pucker my mouth. I’ll have to update that passage.

 

Join me at the 8th Annual Agroforestry Symposium in Columbia, MO

January 26, 2017

We’ll be there representing Wild Ozark and I’ll be participating in the discussion panel for medicinal plant growers and entrepreneurs. Come out and meet us, talk about ginseng and the new habitat garden, or just say hello.

8th Annual UMCA Agroforestry Symposium Agenda Jan. 26 2017

8th Annual UMCA Agroforestry Symposium Agenda Jan. 26 2017

Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden

Announcement: The garden will NOT be open during May 2019. It will be open during April, and from June through September.

The Wild Ozark Ginseng Garden

This is a restored habitat where you can see and learn about American ginseng in a natural environment.

The ginseng and companion plants are sleeping away the winter, awaiting the public in this "virtually wild" habitat at Wild Ozark.
The ginseng and companion plants are sleeping away the winter, awaiting the public in this “virtually wild” habitat at Wild Ozark.

A Re-Established Habitat

A few decades ago this land was logged but not clear-cut. Then it was unoccupied for a number of years. Between being unoccupied (which made the land a sort of “free for all”) and the ecosystem destruction that comes with logging, most of the wild ginseng was here was wiped out.

Still, some pockets survived. Microhabitats that provided the perfect environment for ginseng persisted because they existed in spots too difficult to reach for loggers.

The ethical diggers who frequented these hills protected patches they found by pulling off the leaves of plants they didn’t dig. They made a point to not dig all they found in a habitat. They did this so they could come back year after year to harvest without taking too large a toll on the population.

ginseng in summer with red berries
ginseng in summer with red berries

It helped that this all occurred and then we came along to occupy the land before the frenzy caused by the popular television shows romanticizing the pillage of American ginseng.

The Garden Habitat

In the area I’m using for the public garden there was no ginseng left and very few of the companions because of the logging that happened long ago. Now the trees have grown back and although the transition from pioneer cedars to mixed hardwood is still underway, the area is once again suitable for plants that enjoy the deep shade, like ginseng, goldenseal, ferns, bloodroot and cohoshes.

I’ve made trails, planted “virtually wild” ginseng, transplanted companion plants, and labeled or marked everything (this will be ongoing). Many thanks to my friend Layne Sleeth and her husband Brian for the help with labor and donation of maidenhair ferns!

Unique and Destination-worthy

I don’t know if there’s anything else like it in the country. If so, it hasn’t shown up in my internet searches to find one. If you know of any public ginseng gardens in natural habitats, please let me know so I can link to it here. We can create a “ginseng trail” for ginseng lovers like the wine trails from cellar to cellar enjoyed by wine lovers. It would be interesting to travel from habitat to habitat in other areas to note the differences between them all.

Details

Where is it?

CALL OR EMAIL AHEAD use the contact information (click here or see menu) to get in touch and I’ll mail the address and directions.

There is NO CELLPHONE SIGNAL in this area, so make sure to call before you leave Kingston or Huntsville to make sure I’m here if you haven’t emailed ahead of time to set an appointment. You will need a truck or car without low profile tires. If it has rained a lot recently, the bridges could be flooded. See below about “About the Road to get Here” for details about the drive here.

What are the Open Hours and Days?

Usually we’re open from May through September. For 2019 we will not be open during the month of May. It is by appointment only. If the response to this project is great, I’ll set regular hours and days. I’ll always make the best effort I can to accommodate visitors, especially those who are travelling from a distance and are on tight schedules. CALL OR EMAIL AHEAD use the contact information (click here or see menu) to get in touch and I’ll mail the address and directions.

How Much does it Cost?

Free. I will have a donation can handy for those who are willing and able to support the garden.

$20/car for the optional escorted “Herb Drive” (see below)

About the Road to get Here

  • A long dirt road– Wild Ozark is in a very remote location. It is six miles down a dirt road. There are 6 low-water bridges to cross, so if it rains more than an inch or two, the road could become impassable.
  • Lots of photo opportunity– beautiful scenery to see along the roadside. You will see beautiful fields, pastures, old barns, old homesteads, forests, and possibly wildlife. You’ll definitely see a lot of beauty and tremendous biodiversity in plants.
  • Herb Drive – For $20/car you can take an “Herb Drive”- there are lots of plants and herbs of interest down this road. I will conduct a driving herb walk by meeting you at the front end of the road and escorting you back here with lots of stops along the way to get out and see plants like black cohosh, blue cohosh, green dragon, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild hydrangea, giant solomon’s seal, trout lilies, etc. Here’s a post I have about the plants and sights I often see and photograph on the way here.

Nearby Lodging

  • There are no nearby hotels, and the nearest rental cabins are about an hour away or more. Your best bet for hotels would be Rogers, Springdale, or Fayetteville. The cabin rentals at Azalea Falls are gorgeous.
  • Canoe, hike, and stay at Cedarcrest lodge in Ponca. There are other cabins in the Ponca area, too. Just do a Google search for “lodge in Ponca, Arkansas”. It’s about an hour and a half away. You’ll find almost everywhere is about an hour or two away.

The Nearest Town is Kingston, AR

In the town of Kingston there are places to eat and other things to see. Kingston is only 12 miles away, but it takes about 40 minutes to get there from here if you drive slow on the dirt road. Driving fast gets you there faster, but increases the odds of punctured tires and developing new rattles in your vehicle 🙂

  • The town square is tiny but teeming with antiques.
  • You’ll want to visit The Place on the Square. Make sure to go all the way to the back to see The Artroom Gallery, too.
  • And don’t miss Grandpa’s Antique store.
  • Look through the window if the bank isn’t open and you’ll see the old safe on display.
  • It’s okay to be amused at our micro-library, but don’t diss it. It’s come a long ways since the first one!
  • Dining options include The Valley Cafe, The Kingston Station, and Sugar Boogers which is a little farther north on Hwy. 21 near the junction of 412.

Visit the Wild Ozark Ginseng Garden & Nursery

Eventually I want to have a little storefront here, but for now it’s just a little spot across the creek where ginseng and companions are growing. Here’s a little schematic of the plan:

Plans for the Wild Ozark Ginseng Garden, Boutique & Nursery
click to enlarge

Where else can you see ginseng?

You also can see American ginseng growing at the Compton Gardens in Bentonville, AR. Wild Ozark received a grant from United Plant Savers to install a sanctuary garden there. It’s still immature and will be for a few more years, but the little recreated habitat will fill out over the years. Each spring, we’ll bring new plants to replace the ones that don’t survive the squirrels or whatever other hazards might befall the plants in a tended garden.

There might also still be one specimen plant at the Ozark Folk Center’s Herb Garden in Mountainview, AR. It’s been many years since I’ve visited there, though, so can’t say for sure.

What’s the Difference between the Wild Ozark Ginseng Garden and those others?

The garden here is a natural setting, it’s not a park in an urban environment just growing a few ginseng plants. Wild Ozark’s Ginseng Garden is a true habitat and demonstration of the ecosystem that supports wild American ginseng.

Email today and set a date to visit the Wild Ozark Nature Boutique & Ginseng Garden!

Wild Mountain Mint – Whiteleaf Mountain Mint

Wild mountain mint grows in abundance here at Wild Ozark. This particular variety is called White-leaf Mountain Mint.

White-leaf Wild Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum albescens)

I love this wild mountain mint. It adds a nice flavor to my cold/flu/crud herbal syrup when I remember to gather it during late summer. This year I did 🙂

Recently I discovered, quite by accident and out of desperation that it works extremely well against the biting flies – you know those ones that chase the deer around and love to bite the tender skin of humans as soon as they hit you? Those demons fly faster than I can drive on the 4-wheeler, too, so there’s no outrunning them.

Deer Fly Repellent

Not long ago I went up on the mountain to get some photos of the goldenseal. Once I got up there the flies attacked. Usually there’s a can of OFF in the basket, but not this time.

I tried to get ahead of them, but it did no good. Their little triangle wings must give them super powers. In a frenzied craze I saw the stand of mountain mint and grabbed a handful of tops. I just crushed them into my skin, rubbing myself down.

And all of a sudden, poof! The flies were gone.

Wild mountain mint is good stuff.
Wild mountain mint is good stuff.

 

Wild Mountain Mint Species of northwest Arkansas

There are a few different species of wild mountain mint. The Pycanthemum species in northwest Arkansas, according to the “Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas” are P. muticum, P. pilosum, and P. albescens. Only the muticum and albescens are listed for Madison county, which is where we are.

Those two look similar, but the P. muticum has broader leaves and I am pretty sure the variety we have is the albescens.

Uses

Aside from just smelling nice, mint has useful properties. Probably the most well-known medicinal use is in tea to help settle stomachs. That quality works well with the herbal syrup I make, but mostly I’m using it for flavor. Peppermint (or any other mint) tea has never been something I enjoy.

According to Altnature.com, “Crushed flowers are placed on tooth ache and almost instantly kills pain. “ This is one of many attributes listed for this plant, but it’s one I think I’ll keep in mind for the future. Other medicinal uses include treatment of menstrual disorders, indigestion, mouth sores and gum disease, colic, coughs, colds, chills and fevers. A decoction of the herb can be used as a wound-wash.

Smell the Mint

The next time you see those white tops nodding along your path, forget about the roses. Stop and smell the mint!

Ginseng Growing Season is Winding Down, Digging Winding Up

Ginseng Growing Season

The ginseng growing season is winding down now. The plants set berries earlier and most of them have ripened and fallen to the ground already. Some of the plants will soon begin turning yellow most years. We’ve had so much rain and such a mild summer, though, that I’m curious to see if that has affected the way the plants look.

Digging Season

Digging season is winding up for those who aren’t concerned about the prices their roots will bring. We don’t dig roots for market, but if we did, I wouldn’t dig until I knew the prices were good enough to make the time and effort of digging it worthwhile.

In my opinion, it’s better to leave old plants in the ground so they can produce another round of offspring than it is to dig during low demand years. But we dig very few roots at all, and never the old ones. Our focus here is on selling seedlings and seeds, not roots. So our perspective on digging is perhaps a bit different.

Those old ones are the colony matriarchs and they usually set the most berries for new plants. We don’t have enough of the old wild ones left to spare any to sell as roots. Perhaps in a few years or so I’ll reconsider and make limited quantities of our wild-simulated available as fresh roots for local consumers.

But some diggers will just make an effort to dig more, instead. That would make up for the difference in price per pound – just bring more pounds to the market.

Usually low prices of any traded good means there is either low demand or over-supply. The case with ginseng this year, according to the dealers who have shared information with me, is both. The demand is lower because of overseas economy. And there is over-supply. Many dealers still have dried roots to sell from the previous season.

So digging more to make up for lower prices is only setting up the same problems for the next season. It also puts a greater stress on an already endangered plant.

Ginseng Has a Season

Did you know ginseng has a season when it’s legal to hunt, just like deer or rabbits? It does. Season opens on Sept. 1 and ends Dec. 1. There is also “poaching”. Poaching is digging out of season, or digging illegally on private or public land.

The national forests in most states are closed to ginseng digging so it’s considered poaching to dig in those locations. Diggers need permission from private landowners, otherwise it’s poaching if they’re trespassing to dig.

For the past several days, beginning before the Sept. 1 opening date, I’ve passed a parked vehicle on our county road. It’s always parked in areas that look as if they’d be good ginseng locations. Each day it’s parked in a different spot. I’m not familiar with the vehicle and ordinarily the traffic is so low on our road that we (the residents) can usually tell who’s who.

I’m hoping this isn’t someone scouring the woods for ginseng. And I hope they don’t get closer to what’s left of the wild ginseng growing in our own woods. I never see anyone around the vehicle, but I would stop and talk to them to try and find out who they are and what they’re doing here if I did.

Ginseng in September

This is how ginseng looks in September. Today I’ll try to get out to the woods where there is some ginseng growing for some photographs to show you how it looks this year. It’s been dry the past week, but until now the weather has been unusually wet. We’ve had more rain than I can ever remember having in a spring and summer, so I’m curious to see how it’s doing.

Previous Year, Sept. 16, 2015

Ginseng growing in mid-September
This ginseng still looks pretty good even late in season.

This Year, Sept. 6, 2016

I’ll try to get another one on the 16th so we can see the same day, different year comparison.

 

Slugs and Dragons and Ginseng, Oh My! Wild Ozark Creations

I’ve been working on a few new Wild Ozark creations lately. This creative streak seems to have no end in sight, either, because ideas just keep coming and I keep feeling compelled to follow them through.

Slugs

This is the latest drawing I’ve done. The digital and print rights (for business branding, not art prints) and print #1/100 have been sold already, but there are still 99 prints available. I had so much fun doing this drawing, because it made me see poison ivy and slugs in an entirely new light. Whoever knew the two of them could be beautiful together?

Slug on Poison Ivy
Slug on Poison Ivy

Dragons

I’ve been photographing a particular green dragon (Arisaema dracontium) over the past few years, trying to get good photos of all the various phases. A couple of years ago, I even had seeds that I’d gathered from it sprout.

So I was finally able to complete a creative thing that’s been waiting a long time – The Dragon Life Storyboard:

A poster showing the growth phases of a green dragon plant.
A poster showing the growth phases of a green dragon plant.

You can get this poster at our Wild Ozark Redbubble shop: https://www.redbubble.com/people/wildozark/works/22836244-story-of-the-dragon. If you know any science teachers who might like to decorate a classroom, send them my way!

You can read more about Green Dragons on one of my earlier posts.

Ginseng

So then I thought, “Well, I can’t have a dragon storyboard without a ginseng one too!”

Story of Ginseng
Story of Ginseng

Pressed Leaves

And for ginseng I also have been making pressed leaves. Some of them are laminated so they’re durable enough to take to the woods. Some I’ll mount on fine art paper for framing. Only the laminated ones are posted to the shop so far. They’re $10.

Mature ginseng leaf prong

Fiction

I’ve been working on my novel and am getting excited by how it’s going. Here’s the story line for that:

Bounty Hunter is a rural adventure fantasy set in post-collapse northwest Arkansas. There’s a rift in the Universal fabric that the Feds aren’t telling anyone about, but it’s the main reason martial law is still in effect. Treya is training to be an assassin for ARSA, a covert government agency headquartered in Bentonville. Punishment isn’t that the criminals are put to death. It’s that they’re killed three times to force them into successively lower incarnations. Treya has to learn how to use her innate gifts that enable her to track a person throughout their incarnations, whether they’re human or not.

Your Turn!

So tell me what projects you’ve been working on? Send links if you have posts about them or Etsy listings or whatever and I’ll link to them. My email address is [email protected]

 

Photos of Plants – Medicinal & Useful plants down the Wild Ozark Driveway

I’m still mostly stuck in the house because of my knee (dislocated it a little over a week ago) but I took the four-wheeler and camera down the driveway to get a few photos of plants unfurling or coming into bloom.

Doll’s Eyes versus Black Cohosh

Late last year, after the flood in summer, I divided and planted what I was pretty sure was black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) on one side of a rock and what I was pretty sure was Doll’s Eyes (Actaea pachypoda) on the other side of the same rock.

Photos of plants : black cohosh
Black cohosh, not sure if they’ll make flowers this year or not, but I hope so. That way I’ll have an absolute positive ID on them.

Photos of plants: Doll's Eyes (White Baneberry).
On the other side of the rock is Doll’s Eyes (White Baneberry).

I planted them near each other so I could watch them side by side as they grew. These two plants are the hardest two plants for me to tell apart. But I’m beginning to see the differences between the two and today one of them bloomed which gives me a positive identification at least on the one. I’ll make a blog post about the differences I’m seeing later on this week. I made a post last year about my difficulty telling them apart.

The reason learning the difference is so important to me is because I want to harvest the roots of black cohosh to have on hand for medicinal uses. The roots are antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and are useful for menopausal or PMS symptoms. The best time to harvest a plant for the roots is after they’ve finished flowering and the leaves are beginning to die back. Mistaking the doll’s eyes for cohosh would be a bad mistake, possibly deadly. To make certain I’m digging the right plant once there isn’t a flower to judge by, I’m going to tie a ribbon around the base of the cohosh plants.

More Photos of Plants

The mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) are blooming in profusion. Maybe this year I’ll get to try the fruit. I always miss them when it’s time to harvest. Mayapple roots and the whole plant except for the ripe fruit are poisonous, but were used medicinally by native Americans. The roots are used to make cancer medicines.

A plant medicinal in very small quantities can be very toxic in too large a quantity. I read a story somewhere a while back about campers who had confused this plant with goldenseal. They thought that they’d make a tea with “goldenseal” to improve their odds of passing a drug screening (apparently they had smoked some weed while camping). The mistake was fatal for one of them because the mayapple tea caused liver failure.

photos of plants-Mayapple in bloom
Mayapple in bloom

Mayapple flower
Mayapple flower

The red honeysuckle was blooming. This is one of our native honeysuckles and isn’t invasive like the sweetly scented Japanese honeysuckle that chokes out everything it grows on. The red one is a valued nectar source for hummingbirds and certain bumble bees with long tongues. Not all bumbles have long tongues.

Native red honeysuckle.
Native red honeysuckle.

The Ohio buckeyes are blooming. When this tree is very young and only about a foot tall, it looks very much like ginseng. Aside from Virginia creeper, t’s one of the look-alikes most often mistaken for more valuable plant. I don’t use the buckeyes for anything. They’re a relative to horse chestnut which is useful for strengthening capillaries, but I don’t think our native variety has the same properties. Butterflies seem to enjoy the flowers, though.

Ohio Buckeye
Ohio Buckeye

I usually take photos of plants, not so often of animals. The main reason why is because the animals move too quickly or are too far away for my lens. But I got a decent one of a hawk in a tree. Rob is the raptor expert in our household. So I’m always trying to get pictures of the hawks so he can tell me what kind they are.

Broad-winged Hawk against a very blue sky.
Broad-winged Hawk against a very blue sky.

The southern black haw is blooming, too. Viburnum root is a component in one of my favorite antispasmodic recipes. The variety that grows here is V. rufidulum and may have similar properties. I haven’t tried it yet to see if it is as effective as V. prunifolium. The berries on our native are edible and I’ve tasted one before but haven’t tried using them to make anything yet. The flavor was sweet but the fruits weren’t real juicy or as pleasant to eat as wild raspberries.

Southern Black Haw in flower.
Southern Black Haw in flower.

Rob has been working on the landslide since he’s been home. There’s a lot to do on this particular project, and I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those never-ending sort of jobs. But he has to get it opened up so concrete trucks can get up to the house where he wants to build his shop, so it’s the top priority in our list of homestead chores right now. We need the shop to make working on all of the other things easier.

Getting started on clearing the driveway after the landslide last year.
Getting started on clearing the driveway after the landslide last year.

After day one of working on clearing the landslide.
After day one of working on clearing the landslide.

And by the end of day 2, new earth moved into the work area.
And by the end of day 2, new earth moved into the work area.

 

It felt good to get out and look at plants again and to get over to the driveway worksite. The four-wheeler had been in the shop for repairs so until we got it back the other day I was limited to walking inside the house or to and from the truck. While stuck in bed for the first few days after hurting my knee, I worked on a drawing of ginseng.

 

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) Unfurling

The blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) is awake early this spring. I found some the other day, in three different stages of unfurl.

The one completely unfurled is in a pot in the nursery area, the other two are in the ground in the same area. I missed the initial unfurling of the stem this year. I’m excited to see this plant because it is a native with “threatened” status in the state of AR and I only find it, like the ginseng, in certain little spots out here.

The one in the pot came up from a berry (I didn’t separate out the seed), so that’s exciting too. I’ll gather more and spread them to some of the other areas that look right for it this year.

Blue Cohosh

 

Blue cohosh in early spring with leaves just beginning to unfurl.
Blue cohosh in early spring with leaves just beginning to unfurl.

Blue cohosh in early spring with leaves still unfurling.
Blue cohosh in early spring with leaves still unfurling.

Blue cohosh in early spring with leaves finished unfurling.
Blue cohosh in early spring with leaves finished unfurling.

Where does it grow?

It is an American ginseng companion plant and enjoys the same kind of habitat ginseng prefers – mixed hardwood forests in eastern/southeastern North America with deep, cool shade, loamy soil, and good leaf-litter/ ground cover to keep the soil moist and cool.

What is it good for?

I don’t think anyone uses this herb medicinally often anymore, but it was part of the pharmacy for Native Americans. Parts used are roots and rhizomes.

This is an herb that shouldn’t be used as an ordinary part of self-care. It is useful in very specific circumstances.

I’ve used it in conjunction with black cohosh by alternating between tinctures of the two every three hours to bring on labor when my middle child was due. Not only did this regimen bring on the labor by the appointed hour when I would have undergone induction at the hospital, but it made the labor easier.

Other uses include easing the cramps of menstruation or to bring on menstruation. Keep in mind that anything useful for starting a period or to bring on labor is likely also to be an abortifacient. Blue cohosh as a medicinal plant comes with some very serious warnings attached (see link below).

Links for more information

Comprehensive: http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/dmna/caulophyllum.html

Warnings: http://www.drugs.com/npp/blue-cohosh.html

Ginseng Seedling When it Comes Up in the First Year from a Seed

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

Ginseng Seedling

In the first year, an American ginseng seedling has three leaves and looks a little bit like a wild strawberry plant. It does not look much like an older ginseng plant from years two or older. The photo was taken on the second day after it emerged, but it looked pretty much the same right after it finished unfurling its leaves yesterday.

There’s More

If you look closely, you can see another one just beginning to come up in the lower left corner and another left of the stick in the lower right. And I just noticed another one near the middle at the top, but it’s not in focus. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Want to Compare?

If you want to see what the wild strawberry looks like, I have a page that compares them to each other.

Did you know Osage Oranges evolved with wooly mammoths?

Osage

Maclura pomifera, also known as Osage Orange, Bois d’Arc, Hedge-apple, or Horse-apple, the osage tree is native to our area. Even so, there aren’t very many of them in our particular neck of the woods.

osage tree
A bedraggled osage tree. This one gathers flotsam from the creek overflowing all the time.

Osage trees were once planted close together so their branches could be woven together as fencing that was “bull high and hog tight”. Once barbed wire was invented, ranchers cut down the trees and put up the fencing most of us recognize today. And during the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, Osage was planted as wind breaks to prevent drifting erosion and to give jobs to workers. (https://newsok.com/article/3914715)

Native Americans used the large enough branches to make fine bows. The wood is extremely dense and woodworkers like to use it for making bowls and spoons. The heartwood is said to be a very powerful antifungal remedy, and this is where my interest really lies in this tree. I want to try that remedy on one of my fingernails that have a fungus that’s proving very difficult to get rid of.

Some people have claimed the oranges help repel spiders from the house, but I didn’t see that it worked very well when I tried it in the past. Here’s an article that verifies the repellent properties, but I think the apples themselves don’t have very concentrated amounts. Perhaps in a house less cluttered than mine they might have worked. https://lancaster.unl.edu/enviro/pest/nebline/hedgeapple.htm

osage orange osage orange inside

Osage and Mammoth Co-evolution

Please click the following link and read this article.

That article covers the most interesting information I’ve ever seen about osage. It’s not so much about the osage tree as it is about the coexistence and coevolution of certain plants and animals, including the osage tree. I’ve always wondered why nothing eats them, and this article gives a good explanation. The reason is because the primary target for the heavy bumpy “oranges” were wooly mammoths and ground sloths.

Starting Osage Seeds

After learning a bit more about the plant, it just strengthened my conviction to grow some for our own property here at Wild Ozark. But I never see any saplings anywhere, so figured I’d need to start seeds. At the time, the thought of making cuttings never entered my mind, but as it turns out, that’s the most efficient way to propagate this tree. However, in my ignorant bliss, I plowed ahead with the challenge of germinating seeds and found some success!

And since there are no saplings, I figured the seeds must not sprout very reliably after falling on the ground. After reading about the co-evolution of this tree with mammoths and sloths, I figured maybe they need to be digested by a large mammal first. Given the lack of mammoths or ground sloths in the area, I considered feeding some of the “horse-apples”, another name by which the fruit is known, to the horses. But then I’d have to hunt down seedlings in the field before the grass overtook them and I didn’t think I’d find any that way.

osage pulp
Osage pulp after straining

Osage seeds after soaking overnight in diluted apple cider vinegar.
Osage seeds after soaking overnight in diluted apple cider vinegar.

What I ended up doing was letting a fruit partially rot. Then I mashed it all up in a bowl and covered it with diluted apple cider vinegar. I let it soak overnight then strained the mash and separated out the seeds.

I put the seeds between a damp paper towel in a plastic container, but didn’t shut the lid tight. Left it on my table in the kitchen where it would get some afternoon heat through the window. Nearly two weeks later I had sprouts!

Now some of the sprouts are potted indoors in that same spot and some are potted outside where they will get the ordinary temperature fluctuations until spring.

I’ll come back and update if any of these survive to become seedlings.

Update 02/03/16: One of my little osage seedlings are up! This is one that has been kept inside on the windowsill. I don’t see any signs of emergence on the ones being kept outside. More seeds are sprouting in my sprouting container, so I should have some of these to offer this year at the market.

Osage Orange Seedling
Osage Orange Seedling

Ginseng in November and a Witch Hazel, too

On a whim, I went out to see how the ginseng looked now. I knew it would be dead and wasn’t sure I’d find any. But the four-prong that grows in the nursery plot was still identifiable, at least.

Only three prongs left and falling apart, this is how ginseng looks in November in the Ozarks.
Only three prongs left (it was a four prong) and falling apart, this is how ginseng looks in November in the Ozarks.

A closer view of the curled and dead leaves on the ginseng in November.
A closer view of the curled and dead leaves on the ginseng in November.

You can see more photos of that plant throughout the growing season at the page Ginseng Through the Seasons.

Witch Hazel

I had gone out initially to look for witch hazel blooming and to see if I could gather a few of the nuts before they dispersed. Last year’s nuts are ready to gather when this year’s flowers bloom.

But I missed it, I think. Either that or the rain beat most of the flowers off the trees. I did find a few, but they were pathetic. Here’s one of the flowers that were left. They already look bedraggled by nature, but this one seems a little more so worse for wear.

One of the bedraggled witch hazel blooms left.
One of the bedraggled witch hazel blooms left.

The Wild Ozark Newsletter

I started working on my monthly newsletter last week and found I had a lot more to write about that I at first thought. It got a little out of hand and I ended up with enough to make a mini book of information on mullein. So that’s what I did. The newsletter will still go out as usual, and it is a little longer than usual, but I’ve also turned it into an ebook and added all of what I’d gathered about mullein.

In the newsletter I do my usual musing/rambling and gave a recipe and procedure for mullein decoction. In the ebook, it’s the same as the newsletter but with more mullein info. Subscribers can get the PDF free. Sign up for that at the bottom of this email. If you want it on your Kindle, it’ll be at Amazon soon.

I won’t be sending a December newsletter. I have too many things on the back burners that need to be moved to the fore and so December is just going to be too hectic already. Perhaps I’ll get to make a few more blog posts than lately, and I hope to make some sketches. I’m working on one today, in fact.

Now called Wild Ozark Musings

The Wild Ozark Newsletters will be called Wild Ozark Musings in the future, and I’ll post the November one here at the blog after the subscribers get it. It’ll probably be next week before I post it here. Hopefully it’ll go out to subscribers in the next day or two. Only the four seasonal issues will become ebooks (I think)… or I might be in the mood to do this every month, sort of like a magazine. We’ll see how this one is received. It’s too much work if it doesn’t gain an audience.

Here’s the cover for the November ebook issue:

The cover for the Autumn 2015 issue of Wild Ozark Musings where mullein is featured.
The cover for the Autumn 2015 issue of Wild Ozark Musings where mullein is featured.

Gathering Lobelia inflata Seeds

Lobelia inflata flowers in late July. Seeds begin ripening in late August/early September.
Lobelia inflata flowers in late July. Seeds begin ripening in late August/early September.

Looking for Lobelia

Today I donned a surgical mask to go out and gather the seed pods of Lobelia inflata. Why the mask?

Well, it’s the time of year when ragweed tries to assault me when I go outside. I’m hoping the mask helps alleviate tonight’s misery when the pollen launches the sneak attack. It’s a new tactic I haven’t tried yet.

I’ve tried local honey.

I would try goldenrod, which is supposed to make a good homeopathic remedy, but the goldenrod isn’t blooming here yet. This year the ragweed got a big jump on it.

What I really needed was a self-contained breathing-apparatus. Sinuses seemed to feel fine with the mask. But the eyes, oh how my eyes suffered.

Found it!

It wasn’t really going to be hard to find. I’d been noticing them since early summer, noting the locations and pleased at the greater abundance this year.

Last year I scattered seeds from a few plants I’d found on the mountain. I wanted them to grow closer to the house, and they obliged! Next year should be even better.

My nature sketching of Lobelia inflata.
My nature sketching of Lobelia inflata. Click the image to see it at wildozarknaturejournal.com.

Lobelia inflata is one of the ingredients for a tincture I like to keep on hand. It’s a variation on the formulation from Dr. Christopher. This formula has been used in one variation or another by many herbalists through the years and it’s hard to determine who to credit with the original formula. The link above takes you to Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Legacy website and about halfway down the page is the paragraph on the recipe.

I’m not sure who invented it first, but it works works better and faster than anything I’ve ever tried for muscle spasms (including muscle relaxers from the doctor) or stomach cramps, leg cramps, or spasmodic coughing.

I am sometimes bothered by what seems like restless leg syndrome and I want to try it the next time it happens. The last little bottle lasted for years, and now I can’t find it, so I’m making more.

Lobelia inflata plant with seed pods
Lobelia inflata plant with seed pods

I will have to buy all of the rest of the ingredients until I can grow them or find them all myself here on site. We do have black cohosh, but I want to tag it while it’s blooming so I can be certain the plant I dig isn’t doll’s eyes. The two are very similar in appearance, and although I *think* I can tell the difference now, a mistake would be deadly.

About Lobelia inflata

Lobelia inflata is an annual (some sources say biennial) herb that grows to about 1 or 2 feet high. It can be branched or grow only one stalk. Flowers bloom in late July here in the Ozarks, and they are tiny, insignificant little blossoms (see photos above). The resulting seed pods end up larger than the flowers, and are the characteristic identifying feature.

I’ve never found this species of lobelia growing near water, although L. spicata (Great Blue) and L. cardinalis (Red Lobelia) are commonly found near creek edges. L. inflata seems to prefer the higher, drier ground in partial shade, but never in the woods. Most of the time I find them on the edges of paths, trails, and fields.

The identified active ingredient in lobelia is lobeline. However, there are many other alkaloids and oils in the whole plant (or whole seed) and these other constituents are not well known, and hardly researched, if at all.

close up of seed pods of lobelia inflata
close up of seed pods of lobelia inflata

Whole Herb or Standardized Extracts?

I always use whole herb extracts rather than extracts of a particular component. The standardized extracts make sure a certain component has a certain potency, and for that reason some people prefer to use those. The reason I don’t use standardized extracts I’m never sure if it’s “isolated” or “whole” and I believe those other “unknown” parts are important. There is often synergism between the constituents that is not well understood and rarely researched.

Standardized extracts can be “isolated” or not, so if I were going to use standardized, I’d use the one made with the whole plant or plant part, rather than the one that has isolated a certain compound or active ingredient.

The concept of synergism is easier to see in the plant ephedra. Ephedra (Ma Huang) is where the drug ephedrine comes from. You may recognize this ingredient from the older formulations of sinus medications and energy tablets (back when they really worked).  Ephedrine alone is very effective. But the whole plant contains lots of constituents, not just ephedrine.

The most notable “other” constituents are pseudoephedrine, norpseudoephedrine, methylephedrine, and norephedrine. There are lots of alkaloids in this plant, as in lobelia, and the relationship between them and how they interact with each other and other substances such as caffeine, are not well understood.

Ephedrine is responsible for speeding up the heart rate, giving energy, opening nasal passages… all the things the herb was valued for. Norephedrine and pseudoephedrine and the other alkaloids work in some ways to counter-effect or enhance effect with each other.

Some crafty people with misplaced talents and skills figured out that this plant’s constituents were handy in combination with other chemicals to create the street drug known as meth.

Nature has a reason for including all the constituents in a plant that it does, and science doesn’t understand a fraction of how they interact with each other, so I tend to stick with the wisdom of nature when I can. Even if I don’t understand it particularly well.

My way of using plants for remedies is not a tit-for-tat replacement of regular pharmaceuticals, and I rely a lot on intuition and instinct. Other herbalists are very orderly and meticulous in remedy formulas. Usually I’m not, but I do pay close attention to the ratios when preparing the antispasmodic tincture because lobelia is a very potent herb, and this is a very potent formula.

The Recipe

My recipe is a variation on the one you can find at this page: http://www.herballegacy.com/Anti-Spasmotic.html

  • 1 part lobelia seeds (Lobelia inflata)
  • 1/2 part cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
  • 1 part black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, the name was changed from “Cimufugia” racemosa)
  • 1 part skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia)
  • 1 part valerian root (Valerian officinalis)
  • 1 part myrrh gum (commiphora myrrha, also mol-mol)

Your *part* should be measured in weight, not volume. Dried leaves weigh a lot less and take up more volume to equal the same weight.

I leave out the skunk cabbage because the plant is rare and hard to find. I usually substitute black haw (viburnum) for the skunk cabbage, but they didn’t have any at the Ozark Natural Foods store this time, so I’m using the valerian instead.

It’s not mentioned in many of the sources, but the lobelia needs an acidic medium for the best extraction, and so I’ll add 1/2 apple cider vinegar and 1/2 180 proof alcohol to fill the jar after adding the herbs.

Why these herbs?

  • lobelia- for spasms, cramping
  • cayenne-synergistic, stimulate blood flow
  • black cohosh-for spasms, cramping, inflammation
  • skullcap-helps ease mental stress/distress
  • valerian-relax muscles, ease nerves
  • viburnum-for spasms, cramping
  • myrrh-antibacterial, increase pain tolerance, inflammation

Use with caution!

Especially if you’ve never used lobelia, do some more research and study. The links below are a good start. The dosage that works of the formula I’m using is as low as 5 DROPS. I take 5 drops every 10-15 minutes until I feel relief. I do not like vomiting, so am particularly cautious about the dosage. If you take too much, you will vomit and with gusto. (I suppose there are times when this would be a desired effect, though.) I would not take more than 15-30 drops even if it wasn’t working. I’d just admit defeat unless I thought my tincture was weak.

Lobelia seeds are very tiny so I put the pods, stems and all, in a plastic bag. I'll leave it open and propped up so the plant doesn't mildew or mold and so the remaining pods can finish drying.
Lobelia seeds are very tiny so I put the pods, stems and all, in a plastic bag. I’ll leave it open and propped up so the plant doesn’t mildew or mold and so the remaining pods can finish drying.

Once all the lobelia seeds are out of the pods I'll take the stems out and tincture up the seeds and whatever leaf and pod material is still in the bag.
Once all the lobelia seeds are out of the pods I’ll take the stems out and tincture up the seeds and whatever leaf and pod material is still in the bag.

References

A couple of websites about lobelia or with good explanations of how lobelia is/has been used:

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/l/lobeli38.html

http://www.curezone.org/schulze/handbook/lobelia.asp

About ephedra, black cohosh, myrrh, valerian, scullcap:

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/ephedra

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/REM00035/Black-Cohosh-Dr-Weils-Herbal-Remedies.html

http://www.herballegacy.com/Knottnerus_Medicinal.html

http://doctorschar.com/archives/myrrh-commiphora-molmol/

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/REM00009#_ga=1.104141632.1552097102.1441406215

http://altnature.com/gallery/skullcap.htm

Disclaimer: The author and Wild Ozark, LLC makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.

Always do your own research and don’t trust any one source for information.

Ginseng in Early September

What Does Ginseng Look Like in Early September?

I went out to check on a few patches and take some photos. Legal digging season started on Sept. 1, but we don’t dig ours yet. The colonies are still small and although some are of legal age, there aren’t enough to make it worth the time and effort digging.

Instead, I spread seeds and take pictures and write about them. The wild colonies that live further away and up in the hills have already been protected by defoliating them. Not by me, but by the diggers I know have gone through there already and gotten what they wanted of them. They do that to keep anyone from coming after them from finding the plants and digging more.

Here’s a few pictures of ginseng in early September. These are in the test plot that are growing under the cedar trees, where they aren’t really supposed to like growing.

A yearling ginseng. That's a young virginia creeper to the right, trying to photo bomb.
A yearling ginseng. That’s a young virginia creeper to the lower right, and an older ginseng barely in the photo at the upper right.

Many of the ones under the cedars still have berries. The plants are just now beginning to turn yellow but haven't begun to drop leaves yet.
Many of the ones under the cedars still have berries. The plants are just now beginning to turn yellow but haven’t begun to drop leaves yet.

A three-prong ginseng with berries still, and lots of younger ones surrounding.
A three-prong ginseng with berries still, and lots of younger ones surrounding.

2015 Roots

And here’s a photo someone sent me of a nice root they’d just dug and cleaned, making sure to leave the root hairs intact. The photo is poor but you can see it’s a nice root.  If you have some interesting ones you’d like to share, email them to me at madison(at)wildozark-dot-com and I’ll put them on the next post.

 

A good sized and old Ozark ginseng root. The photo isn't clear enough for me to see the bud scars, but the neck is at the top with the next year's bud at the very top.
A good sized and old Ozark ginseng root. The photo isn’t clear enough for me to see the bud scars, but from what I can see, it looks about 18 years old. May be more or less. The neck is at the top with the next year’s bud at the very top.

Root Prices 2015

I’ve updated the 2015 Prices page with the latest information from one of our local buyers. If you have prices in your neck of the woods, please leave a comment on that page to let everyone know. Thanks!