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:


Black Cohosh or Doll’s Eyes? Companion Look A-Likes

Black Cohosh or Doll’s Eyes?

Trying to differentiate between black cohosh and doll’s eyes before they come into bloom, has been frustrating. It’s very easy to tell once they begin the blooming process as the flower stems originate in different places and the flowers themselves are very different.

Both of these woodland herbs grow in the same environment, and both are ginseng companion plants.

But when only greenery exists, they both look so much alike, it’s uncanny. This is the first year I’ve had two colonies of both to watch as they mature.  My “intuition” tells me which is which so I want see if I can confirm my psychic inference, lol. In the meantime, I’ve been doing research online to see if anyone else can offer definitive proving methods.

I thought I’d found one way in a study posted online at the Canadian Universe’ Laval site – but in the end it proved inconclusive. The study, while not about differentiating the plants, is quite interesting if you would like to know the metal/mineral composition of various woodland herbs grown under different conditions.

It was the picture that caught my eye- an image of the symmetrical vs. asymmetrical leaf patterns on the cohosh. I’d never noticed that before about them, and though “ah-ha! That might be the difference.” But of course it wasn’t that easy. Both the plants I suspect to be black cohosh and the ones I suspect to be doll’s eyes have this same leaf pattern. It’s probably common to the Actaea genus.

Going to the Woods for Research

So it was time to go out for a little hands-on research. I took the 4-wheeler out to an area where I know both of the plants live. Along with the black cohosh and doll’s eyes, there’s also a bunch of other woodland herbs that enjoy this little ginseng habitat. I was glad to have on long sleeves and pants because the nettles are up a ready to sting right about now.

stinging nettle
Sting-filled hairs of a nettle plant.

I moseyed around in the ginseng habitat (this particular habitat doesn’t have any ginseng residents, however), looking at the two that are puzzling me. None of what I think are black cohosh have any signs of a flower stem yet. None of the ones I think are doll’s eyes did either – except one. I did finally find one of those with a small flower stem and bud cluster.

Obviously not Black Cohosh. Doll's Eyes with flower buds.
Doll’s Eyes with flower buds.

Now I am going to be curious to see if the ones I think are black cohosh turn out to really be the cohosh.

Going to Ground

When I’m in the woods inspecting and photographing plants like this, I am often right down on the ground at eye level with stem bases. It’s hard to get good photos of short plants if you don’t do that, and besides, the bases of stems often have clues like leaf buds and such. And besides all that, I just love being in close contact with the forest floor. The smells are wonderful and it’s usually cooler closer to the ground level on hot days.

Most importantly, though, is that if you’re not close to the ground you’ll miss things like this wild ginger bloom, which only happens at or just below ground/leaf debris level.

Wild ginger flower
Wild ginger flower

The sun slipped over the mountains while I was still crawling around uphill and lying prone among the nettles, black and blue cohosh, and doll’s eyes. The woods were so dark now I needed a flash to get a good photo of this pretty fern on my way out.



I’ll have to wait for the black cohosh to flower, but I think I can see, or rather, sense, the differences early on. The plants *told* me, in that way non-human things “talk” (some of you will understand this, some of you will just think I’m nuts, I know…and some will call it “intuition”), who was who from the beginning, but my skepticism persists. I still do not entirely trust that little voice and the logical part of me wants evidence. It’ll come in a month or two when the black cohosh blooms. When it comes to using herbs medicinally or as food, where a look-alike is deadly, I’ll never rely on intuition alone.

Satisfied enough for now, I got up and brushed off the humusy forest soil and leaves from my clothes and headed home to see how many ticks I’d managed to gather this time.

A Photogenic Anemone

Saw this on my way back and knew it would make a good photo with the creek behind it.

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)
Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)


 Huntsville Farmer’s Market 2017

I’m out at the market on Tuesdays for now, and beginning in a few weeks it’ll be the Saturdays from 0700-1200. If you’re local or within a decent driving distance, come out! I’ll have a selection of our native woodland plants. I’ll have ginseng seedlings and companion plants, books, art and ginseng jams (while supplies last).

While I started out the season going only on Tuesdays but will begin only going on Saturdays after mid-May.

Ginseng Habitat Garden

If you want to drive out to the nursery, I have a ginseng habitat garden where you can see the plants growing in the woods. This will help you learn to identify them in their natural habitats.

While the garden is a restored habitat and I have trails and will have signs posted, it’s designed in a way to truly mimic what you’d see in the wild (except for the trails and signs, lol).

It’s open to the public, but since there is no cell signal or phone/electricity at the nursery you’ll need to set up an appointment until I can get a regular schedule to be out there. Just email me to let me know when you’d like to come on any day except Tuesdays or Saturdays.

[email protected]


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.


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!

How to Identify Plants in the Wild, How to Search and Find Clues

Earlier this year I surveyed my newsletter members for their top questions. Here’s one about how to identify plants found in the outdoors.

Top Questions

It’s more of a comment than a question, but I’m creating this post in response to it. Although I’ve paraphrased some, I believe the underlying question would be “how to identify plants found in the wild”:

“My problem is being able to identify the plant, tree, bush and vine when I find them in the open outdoors. Would appreciate seeing pictures and descriptions when reading about them.”

I’ve never really paid attention to the steps I take when I’m trying to identify a new plant, but I’ll try to organize my process for you.

If any of you out there reading this have other methods you use, please comment. The more input from others, the more information this reader will have to draw on.

Learning to identify plants in the wild. What is this plant?
Our example plant to identify. It looks tender, it’s green, and likes moist ground.

The First Thing

First thing for me is to look for flowers. If there are flowers, I usually go to the web and search through wildflower databases for my area. I start with The link is to the Arkansas database. On the right hand side they’re organized by color of the flower.

This is just a starting point if I know nothing other than the color of the flower. If I had an idea of which family the plant belonged to, that would give some extra clues to start the search. For example, if the stems were square, I’d start searching plants of the mint family.

Looking for Clues

However, in the photo I posted, there are no flowers. And I can’t see the stem shape well enough to say if it’s square or round. It is green. It looks tender. And it must like moist ground. It’s been pretty cold outside and yet it’s still green, too. So these are all good clues to use.

Know some Botany

It will help to have some basic botany so you’ll know if the leaves are opposite or alternate, are they attached to the stem by petioles or not, are they “clasping”? Clasping leaves wrap around the stem where they join. Petioles are little stems at the leaf base where it attaches to the larger stem. It is the “leafstalk”. Sometimes the stem seems to go *through* the leaf.

Understanding the Latin

The botanical names of plants offer a lot of clues and can help you when you’re trying to figure out if the photo of the plant you’re looking at is the same as the one you are trying to identify.

For example, let’s go back to the leaves that have the stems going through them. The plants with leaves that do this most often have the word “perfoliate” or some derivative of that word as part of the Latin binomial. It means to perforate, or go through.

If you’ve found a photo that looks a lot like your plant, and if the latin last name of that plant doesn’t match what you think you’ve found, then it’s a good clue that your identification is wrong. It is just as important to know when you’re wrong as it is to know when you’re right.

Using the Internet

If you have access to the internet, it makes identification a lot easier. If I had to start the search knowing nothing except what I can see in the photo above, I’d search using this:

tender green wild plant

It looks tender in the photo. I imagine if I pulled on it, it would come up easily. It just looks like it has shallow roots because it looks so tender.

So this is the results page for my search of the term listed above. You’ll have to click on this link and I hope it displays the same way I’m seeing it or the rest of this section might not make a lot of sense. (Note: it does not display the same on all screens. On my laptop it is the first, seventh and eleventh photos.)

The first, seventh, and thirteenth pictures are the ones that look a lot like the plant I’m trying to identify. The first one has flowers on it, but the leaves look the same. The thirteenth looks most similar. I’m going to click on the thirteenth one first and see what it says. I get “Page Not Found”. So I’ll click on the seventh image.

A Name to Go On

Aha – that one gives me a common name without having to go all the way through to a website. “Chickweed”. When I do click through to the website, it gives a very detailed write-up about chickweed, or Stellaria media. I’ll take that information and compare the details to my plant, and then look up chickweed in a few other places to compare all the data.

In this case, finding the Latin name didn’t offer me a lot of clues. Mainly that’s because there are no flowers on it right now, but “stellaria” refers to little stars, and the flowers are like tiny stars. “media” refers to middle or in the midst of. I’ve seen explanations that say it’s named so because the mound of greenery covered with flowers does indeed look as if you’re in the midst of stars.

However, I believe it’s named so because in the middle of the end of each stalk is where you’ll find the “little stars”.

Extra Measures

Verify the species

There are often other species of plants that have slightly different features. Smooth or hairy are common ones. Often the differences don’t matter in whether the two can be used in the same way. But in the case of chickweed, it matters to me.

There are some types that are hairy and won’t be very good in a salad. Not only is this one pictured below hairy, it’s not even the same genus/species even though it is still called “chickweed” and looks similar:

2. mouse-eared chickweed
Mouse-eared chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum). This one won’t have the same tender palatability the first one, the photo I started this search with, will.

Other times, the different species will have entirely different properties. If you’re using plants medicinally, this will matter a lot. Even when it comes to flavor and taste for edible domestic plants, like apples, you can easily tell a difference between one variety and the next by flavor and texture, let alone between species.

Stellaria media a.k.a. Chickweed- Good food and medicine from nature.
Stellaria media a.k.a. Chickweed- Good food and medicine from nature.

Wait for Flowers

Watch plants you’re not certain about for a full year. See if it flowers. If it does, will it set fruit? How do the seed pods look, and how are the seeds dispersed? Observing a whole season of growth and change offers lots of clues and helps greatly to identify plants.

These things all give important clues. You may also want to dig up a plant to see what kinds of roots it has. Is it a taproot or shallow rooted? Maybe it’s a rhizome or a bulb. These are very important clues.

Not Using the Internet

Real books are an old standby when it comes to needing to identify plants.

Without the internet, you’d need to use identification books like Peterson Field Guides. One of the ones I use often is by Steven Foster & James A. Duke, the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants & Herbs.

Another good book to have on hand, if you’re in Arkansas, is Carl G. Hunter’s Wildflowers of Arkansas. It’s out of print now, but you can find it still through Amazon or on eBay or from a used book store.

And yet another favorite is Wildman Steve Brill’s Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants.

It’s a good idea to have real books stashed away somewhere to help you identify plants in the event there is no internet available to use.

When I’m using books, I usually flip through all of the pages to familiarize myself with how it’s organized. Then unless the book is “keyed” I start from the beginning and look for clues.

If the book is keyed, which means it gives you starting points for things like leaf structure and leads you on yes-no answers to the most likely categories. For example, it’ll ask if the leaves are opposite. If yes, follow through to the next question. Depending on the answers it directs you to the next question, and so on. This is where understanding some of the botanical terms will help a lot.

Other Internet Resources

Although not an Ozark site, here’s a one that uses keys to help with identification: Many of our plants here are present there as well, so it could still be useful. But the main reason I am referring it is to show how a keyed book or search works.

I’ve been a member of a FB group about the native plants of Arkansas and the members of this group are always willing and ready to help with identification. If you’re on Facebook, a group for the plants of your area is another resource you might like to try.

Have fun in your quest to identify plants!

If you have questions or information to add about this topic, please comment. If there is a lot of interest in this introductory post, I will do another more detailed post on the types of terms that I use need to know most often, especially leaf arrangement and structure, and a little more on how understanding the Latin can help you identify plants more easily.



Imposter by Nature – Hognose Snake

Valerie, don’t read this post… it’s about a hognose snake and there are pictures 😉

Situational Awareness Lesson

This is a negative lesson. Don’t do what I do. Luckily for me, it wasn’t as bad a situation as it could have been.

I stepped off the driveway to get closer to a deciduous magnolia sapling I wanted to photograph. It was growing on the uphill side, just a few feet away.

Then an acorn caught my eye as a sunbeam filtered through the treetops to land on it just so. So I changed my goal to take advantage of the fleeting sunbeam for what I hoped would make a good picture.

As I crouched to get closer to the acorn I spotted the snake.

Old Sayings

You know the saying “If it had been a snake it would have bit you”?

Well, if this snake had been in a bad mood, it would have have had no trouble at all to bite me.

I thought at first it was a copperhead and backed away in as non-threatening a manner as I could.

I reprimanded myself for not paying more attention to my surroundings.

Then I snapped a picture.

A calm hognose snake.
Don’t mind me, I’m just passing through…

That’s when I noticed something wasn’t quite right if it were a copperhead. The eyes weren’t right. And the head wasn’t a severe enough triangular shape, either.

Back for a second glance

I’ve heard them called puff adders and hognose snakes. But I never saw one with my own eyes before. This one looked a lot like a copperhead to me, even with closer inspection, but I knew that it wasn’t by this time because I’d seen the little upturned snout.

They’re non-poisonous and have an appetite for toads. The southern hognose is becoming endangered, but I think this one is an eastern variety. This was a smallish one, but they never get very large.

Hognose snakes rarely bite even when they do strike. They’ll more often just head-butt you to make you think you were bitten.

It got a bit alarmed when I didn’t go away and flared out the sides of its neck a little more, as if to say “Be afraid. Be very afraid, because I’m so dangerous.”

Hognose snake with neck inflating in an attempt to warn me away.
Neck inflating in an attempt to warn me away.

The little bluffer pulled out all the stops when I picked up a stick to prompt it to get off the road. Rob was coming back down the driveway on the 4wheeler to get me and I didn’t want him to accidentally run it over.

Trying really hard to be scary

Now it looked like it was trying to mimic a cobra, hood flared, head waving, tongue flicking and it even began hissing too.

Hognose snake with neck flared in warning.

coiled and warning hognose snake

Calling the Hognose Bluff

Eventually, if this snake feels threatened enough, it will turn over, stick out its tongue, and play dead. I didn’t push it that far, just prompted it to get off the road and back into the leaves. It happily slithered away once it realized I wasn’t in pursuit.

I never did get the photo of the magnolia or the acorn. It was more fun watching the puff adder try to frighten the daylights out of me.

You can read more about this breed here:, here: and watch a video of one playing dead here:

P.S. If you like snakes and want a print, these photos will be available in the new Wild Ozark Nature Boutique, opening soon 🙂


Ozark Backroad Photo Journey – Come Along for the Ride

Whenever I go away from the house alone, I take my camera. A simple run to the post office or to town becomes an Ozark Backroad Photo Journey. I generally try not to do this when I have passengers or am myself a passenger. It seems that stopping as often as I do when I’m alone is torture to others. And if I’m a passenger, the drivers tend to get irritable after the second or third shout to stop, ha.

The “Ozark Backroad” Begins on our Driveway

The first thing that caught my eye on this trip was a hawk in the tree at the second creek crossing on our driveway.

First sight on the Ozark Backroad Photographic Journey was a broadwing hawk.
Broadwing Hawk


Well, I accidentally hit “publish” instead of “save draft”, so this post is going out prematurely. I’ll add the rest of the photos as I get them resized for the web!

I’m learning how to use Photoshop, so it might take longer to get the photos ready. This looks like a really versatile program, but so complicated! I want to add my signature to photos with my own handwriting, not the copyright stamp like you see in the hawk picture above. It’s turned into a major challenge to learn how to do what I thought would be one simple thing.

Update: Now that I’ve figured out how to add the signature, I think I want to change it to Wild Ozark instead of Madison Woods. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort “branding” Wild Ozark so I might as well continue along that path.

Back to the Post

So now we can get on down the road. As I mentioned earlier, the Ozark backroad begins on our own driveway. It actually begins the moment we walk out of the back door.

When I got out of the car to see if I could get a better picture of the hawk, it flew away. I looked down and spotted a little frog hiding out under the leaves at my feet. I really love the colors in this photo.

Frog Hiding on an Ozark Backroad
(click to enlarge)

The driveway is long and bumpy, so I go really slow anyway, but going slow gives me the chance to see things. There was a virgin bower blooming that I wanted a picture of, so I got out to take that. While getting ready to take the bower photo, I saw a good-sized preying mantis (or is it praying?) in the greenery.

It was on the prowl for a snack, so I will stick with the “preying” spelling for now.

praying mantis on the Ozark backroad trip
(click to enlarge)

Not even a tenth of a mile farther down the road yet, I spied a nice old fence post with a hole in it and some rocks and other things stacked on top. It gave the post the look of an odd person with a hat. And I just like old fence posts and barbed wire. So this photo had to be taken, as well.

Old Fence Post


Our neighbor has some old buckets hanging on the porch of an old shed. I am always trying to get a good photo of these buckets, but I can never capture them in a photo the way they look to me in real life. I just love old buckets.

Old Buckets
(click to enlarge)


You never know what you’ll see when you’re driving down an Ozark backroad. Most often it’s plants and landscape that prompt me to pull out the camera. For this photo, though, it was a flock of wild turkeys. I only managed to capture one of them, and just barely.

Flying Turkey on the Ozark Backroad
Poor photo, but the best I could do on short notice and from inside the car.

The only wildlife I ordinarily get photos of are the slow ones. Things that don’t fly, run, or crawl away too quickly, ha. Here’s a box turtle (tortoise) snuggled into a dirt berm under the leaves.

Box Turtle (tortoise)

Most often it’s the Plants

Unless the wind is blowing, the plants don’t stand much of a chance. I take a lot of photos of plants. Even the ones no one seems to like, such as the poison ivy and teasel.

Poison ivy is very pretty in early fall and is often one of the first to begin the color change.

Red poison ivy

One of my fav photos from the day of slowly wandering down this Ozark backroad. These are teasel seed heads. Teasel is considered to be an invasive weed by many. I think it’s a great photo subject, and an unusual and useful plant, though I wouldn’t want it taking over and choking out native habitats.

Teasel is one of the plants on the Ozark backroad that I like to photograph.


King’s River

We’re not far from the headwaters of King’s River here. This is always a favorite place to stop and look for beavers, eagles, and other wildlife. Once my husband spotted a large cottonmouth floating lazily on the surface as it drifted downstream.

King's River is a beautiful sight along my favorite Ozark backroad.

If you are in the area and like to hike, there’s a nice trail that leads to the headwaters and the King’s River Falls.

Until Next Time

That’s all of the photos from this excursion. I’m sure I’ll do it again sometime soon!

Wild Ozark Musings – December Newsletter

newsletter pic-me with my mocha breve
If you’re ever in Eureka Springs, try the White Chocolate Mocha Breve from Mud Street Cafe. So much whipped cream, it comes with a fork!

Below you’ll find the December issue of Wild Ozark Musings, a newsletter about nature, ginseng, and our wild Ozark life.

Ordinarily I send this out as an email near the beginning of the month to subscribers. This month I didn’t get it sent until mid-month. Sometimes I post the newsletter to my blog later during the month if there’s a slot on the calendar. Lately I haven’t had packed editorial calendars but it involves a bit of reformatting to make a blog post of it and so this one is hitting the blog even later than usual.

The January issue might also be mid-month arriving in mailboxes. It’s been a busy end and beginning of the year here at Wild Ozark.

Wild Ozark Musings – December Newsletter

I didn’t think I’d get a chance to do the December newsletter this month, but as it turns out I had a little extra time to work on it. I’m a little more late posting it here to the blog than I was sending it to the Ozark Musing subscribers (a.k.a. Wild Ozarkians). There’s a bit more formatting work to turn it into a blog post from the MailChimp campaign, not a simple cut and paste.

My husband and I took a “stay-cation” in December. We didn’t go anywhere far – a couple of day trips and a few nights at nearby Eureka Springs.

It was good to disconnect from the internet a bit and take a break from my writing projects. But now it’s time to get back to work!

Let me know if there’s a topic you’d like me to cover in future newsletters. In the meantime, you’ll hear about the things that catch my attention throughout the month 🙂

Is Nature a cruel mother?

I guess that depends on the perspective of the beholder…

newsletter pic-predator eating preyI suppose the squirrel is not too keen on nature right now.

But doesn’t the snake deserve to eat?

Nature does seem cruel sometimes, I admit. But the more I’ve experienced life in close quarters with nature, the more I’m able to see both sides of the picture.

Mother Nature is Cruel – or is she?

This was a good article critiquing another article about man interfering with some of the crueler aspects of nature. Nature just “is”. I used to cry over the “cruel” Wild Kingdom episodes when I was a child. Now I see the relationship between predator and prey in a more balanced light, and can appreciate the catch that quiets a growling lion stomach.

The earth is more than a commodity.

Are people becoming more disconnected in the attempt to reconnect? This article discusses the problem with compartmentalization and valuation of our living planet.

Ginseng Dates

When is ginseng digging season, when does it end, how long can I sell roots? In Arkansas,digging season ended Dec. 1. Diggers have until April 1 to sell the roots (if you can find a buyer. I don’t know of anyone buying in AR at this time, but if you do, please let me know so I can update my 2015 Prices page.)

It’s illegal to possess roots between April 1 and Sept. 1. The wording of this rule is confusing to some people and so I wrote to Paul Shell of the Arkansas State Plant Board to ask for clarification. Some diggers wondered if it meant all roots or just green roots.

Here’s the rule in question:

  • 10. Green, wild or artificially propagated American Ginseng roots shall not be possessed between April 1 and September 1 of each calendar year. Wild or artificially propagated American Ginseng roots shall not be purchased by a licensed dealer during the period April 1 to September 15 each calendar year. –

And here is Paul’s reply to my questions:

  • The regulation deals with any roots between those months.  This does not apply to ginseng plants for sale for planting.  Any roots not sold by March 31 need to be accompanied by a document which we issue showing that ____ amount of harvested ginseng is being held until it can be sold in the next season (9/16).  This is a way of making sure that nobody is digging out of season, and that unsold roots are accounted for and used to determine if the population of wild and wild simulated ginseng is sustainable, going up or going down.

We had a pretty poor season here. Other states saw much better prices than we did. You can always follow along each year with the prices on the current year’s prices page. Next year I’ll start the 2016 page when I start getting emails from curious folks. That usually happens sometime near late July. Here’s the prices page for 2015:

Wild Ozark projects 2016

There’s already a fair amount of work stacked up for the coming year. The one project that many of you will be interested in is the ginseng seedling sales. That ought to begin in late April. I’ll have the yearling ginseng and possibly some 2 or 3 year old seedlings at the farmer’s market in Huntsville. I may only do the Tuesday market, but I’ll know more about that when time gets closer.

Other projects:

  • Bounty Hunter ETA is Mar 2016. That’s 80K words in 3 months, which breaks down to 26K per month > 866 words per day. I’m a slow writer, but I know I can do this. I must do this. I will do this. I am doing it! (Managed over 1000 words today, so that’s promising 🙂
  • Two ginseng articles due – on for United Plant Savers about the ginseng sanctuary at Compton gardens, and the other for the North American Native Plant Society’s newsletter, Blazing Star.
  • A ten-minute speech for the Kimberling City Library Author Event in Feb, and books to order and have on hand to autograph and sell at the event.
  • Move Wild Ozark’s online nature journal and the online shop to a folder on the root directory, rather than a subdomain or a separate domain. This will eliminate the need for separate security certificates and dedicated IP addresses, since it’ll all be protected by the certificate after the move.

Guard your feet from cold winter floors

Make your own slippers!

Here’s a DIY article I found to make a pair of slippers from an old wool sweater. You can probably use any thick and warm fabric:

Index of November’s Blog Posts:


Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My sci-fantasy fiction usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.

My Amazon Author’s Page



Winter Solstice 2015 – A Widdershin sort of Time

Winter Solstice 2015 occurs tonight at 10:03 p.m. CST

It’s a widdershin sort of time, an unwinding, a releasing. A loosening of the grip on things I need to let go of.

image to signify winter solstice, a pretty wintertime sunset
Not at winter solstice, but a pretty wintertime sunset nonetheless.

Actual New Year’s Eve

It’s Winter Solstice,  the shortest day of the year and longest night. The reason it’s my favorite day is because of tomorrow.

This eve is the true eve of the new year to me. It makes more sense to me to follow a seasonal calendar, at least for the holidays, than it does to follow the traditional Gregorian calendar. On the Gregorian calendar, Jan. 1 is the start of the new year. On the seasonal calendar, Winter solstice is the start of the new year.

Tomorrow will be a little bit longer than today was. So I like to celebrate today. Tonight I’ll light a candle. Maybe I’ll meditate a bit, maybe do some other creative activity instead, but it’s a quiet sort of celebrating that I like to do.

Ways to Celebrate

Usually, my seasonal celebrations are done when I’m alone. However, it’s easy to turn this into a group event. If it will be a family based gathering, which I would like to begin doing eventually, I’ll have everyone write down on little slips of paper some things they’d like to release from their lives. Then we’ll burn them in the woodstove and imagine the release symbolized in the rising smoke.

Yule Log

If you don’t have a woodstove, it can be a fireplace or campfire or even a barbeque pit. You can decorate a Yule log to burn, as well. If I were going to burn a Yule log, I’d tie colorful ribbons with releases written on them to the log.

Alternatively, you can write your releases directly onto splinters of wood and add them to the fire. This is the way I will do it.

Yesterday I went out to the woods and saw the hardwood tree pictured below. Just above my head level there were two large splinters of dead wood. What better medium to use for releasing than dead wood that has never touched the ground? I kept one of the large splinters because the grain is pretty and it reminds me of driftwood. The surface is smooth enough that I may engrave something on it later and hang it in my office or use it in my market booth.

tree where dead wood was found for winter solstice ritual
Not sure what kind of tree this is, but it’s either beech, ironwood, or maple. The bark is smooth and “muscular”.

dead wood for my winter solstice ritual
Even though the dead wood had been in the weather for what appears to have been a long time, it’s still solid and hard. It reminds me of driftwood.

Ideally, I’d like to burn the wood just before the solstice event occurs in my zone.

What kind of things to release? It could be anything you’d like to not experience in the coming year.

  • Fears of any sort
  • Habits that aren’t helpful
  • Destructive relationships
  • Excess weight (lol)
  • Excess stress

Mulled Cider or Wine

After burning the releases, whether on paper slips or ribbons tied to a Yule log, it’s a good time to reflect on things you’d like to add to your life. Once the old has been swept out, it’s good to replace bad habits with good ones. Once endings are acknowledged, it’s time to open the door to beginnings.

I’d like to begin this part of the celebration immediately after the time of solstice.

Releases inscribed on the splinters to burn, Filling my solstice cup with intentions for the new year to imbibe with mulled wine after the turn of the natural year.
Releases inscribed on the splinters to burn, Filling my solstice cup with intentions for the new year to imbibe with mulled wine after the turn of the natural year.


More information on the scientific side of solstice

You’d think that being the shortest day would mean the earliest sunset. Somehow, that’s not true.

Here’s a post from EarthSky that gives lots of details about what the winter solstice is: Everything you need to know: December solstice 2015


Inventions Inspired by Nature

How often do you see something in the natural world and marvel at the design of it? The way a hummingbird can hover and maneuver is pretty amazing and I can imagine one day there might be aircraft that can mimic that ability (if such things don’t already exist somewhere in secret).

Turns out that nature has already inspired some pretty cool inventions.

There’s supposed to be a video from BBC here, but it isn’t showing up on my own computer… I hope it shows up on yours!

This article at BBC News covers a few of the inventions inspired by nature so far.

Other Nature Inspired Inventions

As I find news articles or information about these sorts of things. If you run across an article, please comment with the link and I’ll be happy to add it to this list.



Nature Workshop with Madison Woods

nature workshop flierWhat happens at a nature workshop?

My nature workshop is designed to help you reconnect to nature and express your experience through art, writing, and photography. It can be tailored for whatever environment is available (even cities have nature), but generally we’ll take a nature walk, look at plants and wildlife, listen to the sounds of a forest (or whatever nature exists in the area), and sit in meditation outdoors when time and weather allows.

If the slant is on writing:

We learn about the history of nature writing, examine the various ways the genre is represented (poetry, prose, photo essay), take a nature walk, capture the essence of an experience with nature by writing a “flash” scene of 100-200 words (or sketch), share & discuss.

If the slant is on sketching:

We study the work of other nature writers, examine the different styles of capturing nature on paper and discuss the various ways it can be shared if that is desired (I publish mine online and as books). Then we take a nature walk and if weather permits, do some sketching in situ. If weather isn’t cooperative, we’ll either make the nature walk quickly and collect subjects with photography or bring small objects back to the conference room to draw while inside. I usually take photos no matter what so I can finish sketches later if I don’t have time in situ. And if we draw while inside, I’ll put the photo on the projector screen so we can all work on the same item, or if the participants have gathered their own items of interest, they’ll work on them individually. At the end, we share and discuss.

For a combination workshop we’ll sketch, photograph, and write and share.


The Park County Library System in Cody, Wyoming modeled their 2016 nature writing workshop on those presented by WildOzark

Book a Nature Journaling Workshop with madison woods

Future workshops:

June 4, at the Art Room Gallery & Workshop of the Place on the Square in Kingston, AR

Nature Journaling with Madison Woods

Past workshops:

Today (Nov. 22, 2015) at the Hobbs State Park in northwest Arkansas, the weather cooperated to give us still winds even if it was still fairly cold. But not so cold that we couldn’t take a nature walk and gather a bit of outdoor ambiance for the “captures”. Participants shared their flash captures (100-200 words or less) and gave us all insight on the various perspectives each individual wrought from the same experience.

Here’s a few of the photos from the walk and talk at Hobb’s State Park:



Hosting a Nature Writing Workshop

The workshop hosted at Hobbs state park was sponsored by The Village Writing School

If you’d like to book a similar workshop please email me at [email protected].

I can tailor it to be heavy on the writing focus or more to the sketching/journaling slant.

Bring pencils, camera, notebook if you can or want to do some hands-on writing, drawing and photography. I’ll have a few copies of the nature journals I’ve designed on hand for $10 ea, if anyone wants to buy extra ones of those. Workshop organizers may opt to supply materials. I will usually supply the art journals. My fee can be per event or charged per person and split with organizers (with a minimum guaranteed turnout). If the location is outside of northwest Arkansas there will be travel expenses.

A little about me and the reason I offer this workshop

It is said that a relationship with nature is necessary for health. On the average, people have become more disconnected over the past few decades and often don’t know where to start to reconnect to nature. I think of myself as a “liaison for nature”. A Nature Ambassador. Wild Ozark is my outlet for helping others reconnect. Words, sketches, and photography are the mediums I use and I enjoy teaching others how to enjoy my process, so they can evolve it to their own.

Book a Nature Journaling Workshop with madison woods This is a great event for companies to offer employees. Nature writing, sketching and journaling can spur creativity and help employees reconnect to nature!


Wild Ozark Nature Journal on Kindle

What is a sketch / nature journal?

Sometimes nature writers like to doodle while they’re interpreting nature. My nature journal is a combination of art and written journal entry.

It is both nature sketching and nature journal.

Here are some sample pages from my first collection. All of my work can be seen at I do them, for free. But if you want the whole collection on your Kindle (or other ereader with a Kindle app), you can enjoy them any time, with or without an internet connection.

The sketch in the winner's journal - Two Sweetgum leaves, by Madison Woods Wild Ozark Nature Sketch Day 23 - Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) My nature sketching of Lobelia inflata.

Nature Sketches by Madison Woods, straight from the wild Ozarks.
  • Eighteen colored pencil nature sketches
  • Journal entries with each sketch
  • No double-tapping required
* Note: The images display best on full sized color readers. According to feedback, the book looks great on Galaxy pads, Kindle for PC’s (only Windows version 8 or better), Kindle Fire, and iPad. It is less than optimal on the Kindle PaperWhites, or the small screens of cell phones. Send a sample to your device to check display.
Dedicated to the Nature Lovers, for we are the bridges, the liaisons.


I’d love feedback if you download it – please leave reviews at Amazon or Goodreads to let me know how it displayed on your reader. I’ve never seen another e-book quite like it, so it’s kind of groundbreaking I think.

Wild Ozark Nature Journal: Autumn 2015

The Autumn 2015 collection of Wild Ozark Nature Journal is FREE all week Monday Nov 16 through Friday Nov 20
The Autumn 2015 collection of Wild Ozark Nature Journal


This Beaver is One Heck of an Optimist

Beaver Chewed Tree
This beaver must be one heck of an optimist. Either that or he’s a long-term strategist. I’d say both!

Most farmers dislike beavers with a passion bordering hatred. The reason why that is, at least for the ones I asked, is because they’re always trying to back up the creek. And when they’re successful, it causes the ground to become saturated. And then tractors have a tendency to sink to the axles when cutting hay.

I don’t particularly like to see the damage to this tree, but apparently the beaver sees a good need for it… although I can’t imagine any beaver out here needing  *that* tree.  There are plenty of smaller ones it could have used for twigs to strip and eat. And that tree is far too large for any dam on this creek.

Besides, here in the rocky Ozarks, beavers use rocks for dams. This surprised the heck out of me the first time I saw a beaver dam on the creek that follows our road. I thought surely the water must have piled the rocks in a line like that. Then one day I saw the beaver carrying a rock between his front paws. They do add twigs and whatever mud they can find, but the bulk of the dam is made of rocks. And it all washes away in the first good rain.

Beavers are responsible for entire environments, habitats and ecosystems. Their habit of backing up water is beneficial to many life forms. When water backs up, a marsh is created and sometimes a pond. At the very least, the water in the creek before the dam gets deeper, which supports more fish. Many animals thrive in this marsh, from insects, to frogs, turtles, crawfish, minnows and sometimes fish if a pond develops, and birds.

Plants like cattails and skunk cabbage grow in the marsh and pond edges. Sundew do too. Other larger mammals begin to utilize the new environment, too. Deer come to drink, as do all of the other creatures in the area like bears, raccoons, foxes and coyotes and rabbits.

Prey and predator alike benefit from the environment created by beavers.

Only the humans resist the natural and obsessive urge of a beaver. And yet we like to dam rivers at any chance, too. The difference is that our dams are generally on a much larger scale and we tend to groom the boundaries and new inhabitants to suit our own purposes. And we also sometimes allow new ecosystems to build – as long as those ecosystems fall into our plan for the affected surroundings.

The beaver is one of our largest native environmental engineers. Other creatures change ecosystems and environments, but I can’t think of one (apart from humans) that make a bigger impact.

Most of the landowners out here kill them on sight. And I wander our own little creek whispering calls to entice, but my siren pleas go unheard.

serial cover image

If you like fiction, I’m running a free daily dose of Ozarks-based short story.  It’s urban fantasy and short enough to read while having your morning coffee and just long enough to tease. Part 4 is out this morning, but you can catch up on all of the previous installments and subscribe here.


Death from Above – Wasp vs Mantis

There are lots of videos at YouTube about wasp vs mantis, but they always show the mantis winning. Today I saw a wasp carrying the head of a praying mantis. I saw one yesterday, too.

I’ve found lots of info online about the mantis eating the wasps, but nothing about wasps eating them.

The praying mantis is so helpful in the garden, and the wasps are too (except they sting and hurt like hell), but I didn’t realize the two were enemies of each other!

I’d rather have the praying mantis than the wasp…

wasp vs mantis
Looks like the wasp won this fight.

What’s Blooming at the end of May?

Wild Ozark plants blooming at the end of May

I took a little walkabout yesterday to photograph some of the flowers that are setting berries, blooming, or getting ready to bloom right now.

Yesterday’s post highlighted the orchid I’d been waiting to see bloom. The ginseng pics were also added to the “Ginseng Habitat Through the Seasons” page. The rest of the photos are below:

Talk about Delayed Gratification! (Twayblade Orchid)

I’ve been waiting a whole year to see this flower.

twayblade orchid flower
Closer view of the orchid flower.

When I first found the plant last summer there was only the two leaves. Without seeing a flower, it’s hard to positively identify a plant, unless that plant has something about the foliage (or some other distinguishing characteristic, like scent, bark pattern, or root appearance) to nail its identity.

Ginseng is like that – the leaf size and arrangement is unique to that plant, and the root with next year’s immature bud will do the identification trick.

But now I can say for sure that the little plant I found last year is Lily-leaved Twayblade Orchid (Liparis liliifolia). There’s a whole stand of them in the cedar grove.

Lily-leaved Twayblade Orchid (Liparis liliifolia)
Lily-leaved Twayblade Orchid (Liparis liliifolia)

The Lily-leaved Twayblade Orchids (try saying that quickly) grow in a cedar grove here at Wild Ozark. The ground is shady and moist year-round and reindeer moss grows in patches in the area. Green moss commonly found on north-facing slopes is common there as well. It is indeed on a north-facing slope, but the incline is not steep. Lousewort also grows in the vicinity. There’s a fair amount of clay in the soil, and with all the cedars I’m sure it’s on the acid side of pH, as well.

These flowered in late May. The leaves and flower stalks must grow quickly because I had just checked for them last week and they had not appeared yet.

Ginseng in mid- to late May

Pictures of Ginseng in May

I took a few pictures today for those of you wondering how the ginseng looks during mid- to late May. I’ll post a link to them over on the Ginseng Habitat Through the Seasons page, too. For those of you who enjoy nature drawings, I have one of ginseng in May at my shop.

Right now some of the flower buds are starting to open. Here’s a 4-prong with a few doing that.

A 4-prong ginseng with flowers beginning to open on May 18.
A 4-prong ginseng with flowers beginning to open on May 18.

Here’s the a closer zoom on the flowers. According to the article Ginseng Reproduction at Wild Ginseng Conservation’s website, ginseng is pollinated only by two insects: syrphid flies and halictid bees.

Flowers on a 4-prong American ginseng at Wild Ozark on May 18.
Flowers on a 4-prong American ginseng at Wild Ozark on May 18.

Other ginseng plants in the area still have tightly closed flower buds.

A 3-prong ginseng with flower bud on May 18.
A 3-prong ginseng with flower bud.

More information

If you haven’t found your way around the blog yet, here’s a few links to other pages to do with Ginseng:

At the Wild Ozark store you can find books, articles and a photo-book on DVD.

A Woodland Habitat – Dragons among the Nettles and Cohosh

There’s a particular woodland habitat at the far corner of our property that I love.

The variety of plants that grow there is amazing.

It’s the perfect place for American ginseng, but those plants have nearly been extirpated by diggers foraging the hillsides of our area. It’s too far from the house for me to be able to keep a close eye on it, so I likely won’t plant any more in that spot.

Instead, I visit and enjoy the company of the plants who do have a stronghold there.

Here’s the path. The phone company ran through here a few years ago but before that it was a logging trail. Now it isn’t used for anything except as a path for my visits.

carpet of nettles green dragons and cohosh and dolls eyes
A carpet of nettles green dragons and cohosh and dolls eyes.

It’s so lush and green I almost want to lie down, but nettles aren’t very forgiving. I wear long sleeves and socks with my shoes when I tread this path. Then I still have to be careful about my face when getting down close to the ground for photos.

Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium)

From a distance all you can see is green, and most of that green is tall wood nettles – and they sting. But there’s a Green Dragon lurking.

Green dragon from above.
Green dragon from above.

When you look closer, you’ll notice there’s more than nettles (left of the dragon) to be found. There’s also a mayapple (just left of center, top) and either a Doll’s Eye or Black Cohosh (top, right), and some wild legume species (lower right) to be found in just this one photo frame.

There was very nearly a whole herd of dragons in the stretch of path in the first photo. One displayed the plant’s namesake.

dragon tongue
dragon tongue

I made some drawings of the green dragons based on these photos for the North American Native Plant Society. They’ll be published along with my article in summer 2018. Prints are available as a set, or separately.

Green Dragon with fruit cluster and Namesake of the Dragon, by Madison Woods
Green Dragon with fruit cluster and Namesake of the Dragon, by Madison Woods

Last year I collected seeds from a Green Dragon. Below is a pic of the dragon from last year. This year, I can’t find that particular dragon. Instead, there’s a giant Jack-in-the-Pulpit growing where the dragon was. Before I found this photo in my files, I couldn’t remember whether the cluster still had identifying leaves on it or not.

Mature green dragon with fruit.
Mature green dragon with fruit.

I was uncertain. Did the berries I gathered come from a dragon or a pulpit? So the photo shows it clearly was a dragon.

Sometimes there’s no plant left once the berries become red. Sometimes the leaves die back and only the stem and berries are standing in fall. The berry cluster of both plants, without leaves to identify, looks very similar to each other.

It’ll be two years before I have indisputable proof, once the additional leaves come on if it is indeed a Dragon and not the Pulpit.

I have a page where I’m keeping track of the seedlings. For the moment I’m calling them dragons. Here’s a link to the Dragon page.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Here’s a pic of the giant Pulpit that’s there now where the dragon used to be. I know that JIP’s can sometimes change sex when conditions are right for successfully producing offspring (proper nutrition, proper moisture levels, etc.), but I don’t believe they can swap species. Both are of the genus Arisaema and they do have a lot of similarities to each other.

Giant jack in the pulpit.
Giant jack in the pulpit.

This is the hugest Jack-in-the-Pulpit I’ve ever seen. Have you ever seen one this big?

Blue Cohosh

The blue cohosh was a little difficult to find. When it first comes up, not much else is bushy or fully leafed out. Blue green stems with fronds of similarly hued leaves unfurling on the rise of a small hill were easy to see. Now the Black Cohosh and Doll’s Eyes in the immediate area have grown up around it and nearly hidden it completely. But I remembered it was growing next to a certain pair of trees. When I pushed the greenery aside, there it was, just hanging out in the shade beneath the much taller Black Cohosh. Berries are formed and still green but it won’t be long before the fruits are ripe. Then the plant will probably die on back.

Blue Cohosh Berries
Blue Cohosh Berries

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

goldenseal with green fruit goldenseal fruit

The goldenseal have green fruits on them now.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

On the hill I spotted the purple flowers of a wild geranium. Look closely inside the flower and you’ll spot the little squatter.

wild geraniumAdam and Eve Orchid (Aplectrum hyemale)

I’ve always wondered what the flowers of this plant looks like. This was the first one I’ve ever seen, in all the years of traipsing through the woods. I see the leaves all around but apparently never timed my excursions just right to see the flowers. Either that or I’d always overlooked them.

Flowers of the Adam and Eve orchid


Just as the leaf is a single leaf and nothing else, the flower stalk is a single stalk and nothing else. No leaves to identify the plant, so it stumped me for a little while until I made a guess and verified it by looking it up on the internet.

Heading Back to the House

Well, that’s the end of the photographic journey into the habitat. I hope you enjoyed your virtual woodland walk. The sun was going down by this time and I’d run out of good light in the deep woods. We’ve had a lot of rain lately and the springs are still flowing hard, as you can see from the puddles in the photo below. Badger is our lead guardian dog and he usually goes out with me on all of my walks. The other two dogs are there, too, somewhere in the bushes chasing rabbits.

Wild Ozark's lead guardian dog, Badger.
Wild Ozark’s lead guardian dog, Badger.



Wild Ozark’s Monthly Newsletter -May 2015

Here’s one of my monthly newsletters that goes out to my subscribers. This one is from May 2015 and is all about challenges, new discoveries, and a brand new product from Wild Ozark.

“Greatest” Challenge

Are you often faced with challenging situations to figure yourself out of? It seems I get to encounter “greatest” challenges often. Sometimes they’re tech related, as when I’m trying to learn how to do something new to or correct a problem with my website.

Sometimes the challenges are physical, like when my body thought it could go no longer while we were working on fences here around the homestead.

For the past week and a half, my new challenge has been Mother Nature.

Specifically, it was the wind at the farmer’s market. Today (I’m writing this on Saturday 4/25) the wind was especially brutal. Signs kept blowing over, plants were toppled off of the shelves, and it was blowing from the beginning. I didn’t even bother to put up the television that runs the DVD in my booth. The booth itself tried to blow away (but thankfully that was tied to the truck, and a kind customer held onto one of the legs for me). My business cards have probably traveled on the wind all the way to Newton county by end of day. I had to close up shop early.

Even with the distraction of the wind, the booth is at least a “storefront” and I’ve been enjoying talking to people who come in about ginseng and the habitat where it grows. If you’re in town (Huntsville, AR) on a Tuesday or Saturday morning, swing through the town square and say hello!

(update 2018: I’m not sure I’ll be there again this year, so be sure to check back with me in spring to find out)

Wild Ozark's Market booth Wild Ozark's Booth setup

What’s for sale at the booth?

Well, not ginseng anymore. I’ve already sold out of all I had. Remember how I’d said my seeds didn’t sprout? More about that, below. What I do have is elderberry, wild strawberry, wild red raspberry, spicebush, pawpaw trees, witch hazel trees, gooseberries, and a few other things. I still bring some bloodroot, goldenseal, wild ginger, and blue cohosh. Once the doll’s eyes and black cohosh blooms, I’ll bring that too. I didn’t label the pots last year, so I’m waiting for blooms to be absolutely certain which is which.

Procrastination Confession

I’ll share my poor planning so you can avoid doing the same thing – I didn’t plant while the weather was still good, and then it started snowing and freezing and by then I didn’t want to go outside much, let alone try to rake leaf litter off of frozen ground. And then once it warmed up again, well, that’s when the rains started.

So it was a major oversight on my part and it won’t happen again if I can help it. If for some reason I do have to hold them longer, I’ll have to give a call to help me with the proper way to do it. I know it involves a bucket of damp sand in a cool, dark place. But better yet that I not procrastinate again.

(update 2018: I kept the seeds in a bucket in a cellophane-not plastic-bag with live moss. I put the bucket in a closet in a room that doesn’t get heating/cooling but does stay above freezing. They did great and the ones I still have left now in January 2018 are starting to “smile”.)

Now that the tender woodland herbs are done blooming and would fare poorly in the heat, I’m bringing more of the medicinal and edible plants like yarrow, All-heal, elderberry and some of the shrubs like spicebush and gooseberry.

April Blog Post Index


That’s all folks!

Please take a moment to share this newsletter with your social circles 🙂

What’s that plant good for?

“What’s that plant good for?”

A curious thing I’m noticing by selling plants at the market is that people almost always have the same question, phrased in various ways.

It’s often the first thing they ask, in general about any of the plants, when they first walk into the booth. It seems to be a factor in deciding whether to buy something. Almost no one seems to want them just because they’re habitat companions, and most aren’t looking for anything specific, just browsing the booths. I suspect if their usefulness were highlighted, I’d sell more plants because my little collection of companions aren’t spectacular in any obvious way.

Granted, while not in bloom, ginseng habitat companion plants are fairly low-key. They don’t add much to a sidewalk flower bed or provide bright splashes of color anywhere, really. I love these plants just because they love the same habitat as ginseng.

Fortunately, almost all of the plants I bring are “good for something”, I just don’t necessarily highlight that information. I don’t want to get caught in the trap of dispensing medical advice. However, because I’m trying to create livelihood as well as provide value to the community, I will make up some posters to point out how the plants are currently used or were used in the past. I’ll start spotlighting their usefulness.

Herbalism was my first plant-based love. And the Ozarks hosts a host of medicinal plants. So, I decided to just write a book about the plants I use most often! I’ll begin building our nursery stock to include these plants.

cover for 10 Common Plants Worth Knowing
Release date July 1, 2015.
Click the image to sign up for newsletter, where announcements will be made.

I’ll start bringing more of the plants I personally use in our home herbal remedy arsenal. These aren’t usually ginseng habitat companions, but grow in more open places. I won’t offer consultations or advice on how to use these plants for your own ailments, but I will tell you how I’ve used them and provide historical/current usage information. The plants I use most often are those that grow right around the house: elderberry (berries), Spicebush (berries and twig tips), Mountain mint (flowering tops), Prunella (flowering tops), Lobelia (seeds and tops), Beebalm (flowering tops), and Echinacea (flowering tops). I do also use the goldenseal and ginseng medicinally, and will use the black cohosh when I have more of it and feel I can spare a root mass to harvest. I’d like to also grow marshmallow, but not sure if it will do well here or not. Slippery elm can be substituted, and it does grow here and I have used it in the past, but I don’t like to strip the bark from trees and will only use it if there’s a suitable limb that can be cut so I can harvest the bark from that. Wild cherries are also on the list of locally procured botanicals that I use. Mullein is a very useful and always abundant plant that grows here. So is passion flower (maypop). So this angle of showcasing “useful plants” offers a good bit of room to expand on what I offer. Ginseng habitat plants will remain the cornerstone of our nursery, though.

One of the plants I’m very interested in right now is Lousewort, or Pedicularis canadensis.

A little patch of Lousewort growing at Wild Ozark.
A little patch of Lousewort.

In the May Newsletter (which will be emailed to members in a few days) I have a little write-up about this plant and how it can be used. We have these growing here and I’ve been experimenting with propagating them to see how easily they take to being transplanted and potted. So far, so good. I’ll have a few of them with me at market on Tuesday. I’ll post the newsletter here on the blog next week, but members will get it on May 1. Whenever I make coupons or special offers to members, I don’t post those in the blog. This month’s subscriber special is a free $3 plant if you bring your coupon with you to the market. It will expire at the end of this market season but I’ll also honor it for a bare-root shipment on any of the plants that I’ll be shipping this fall, since many of the newsletter members aren’t local.

Since I don’t have much ginseng to sell at the market, I’ve been dividing and potting up some of the other plants that are abundant here. For the ones I find that aren’t so abundant, I’ll wait for seeds (collecting only a portion of them) or take divisions in fall while they’re dormant. Abundance usually indicates a robustness and ability to adapt, whereas scarcity seems to indicate a plant with much narrower tolerances and more difficulties in propagation. This is not always the case, though. Blue cohosh is a plant considered “Imperiled” in the state of Arkansas. This is one that, although scarce, is very easy to propagate by seed or division. This leads me to believe the reason for it’s scarcity is habitat loss. Bloodroot and goldenseal are also very easy to propagate, and yet they’re also listed as endangered in many states. I believe the reason for these plant’s statuses is over harvesting by wildcrafters, because the range of habitat conditions they require is fairly wide. They can both easily propagate by division, tolerate drier soils and more sunlight than ginseng or blue cohosh, so their demise is not likely due to habitat loss or difficulty reproducing.


Large Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

Sleuthing the Bellwort. Sessilifolia or Perfoliata?

Sessilifolia or Perfoliata?

Three species of bellwort are found in Arkansas: Uvularia grandiflora, U. sessilifolia, and U. perfoliata. The one I see most often around here is the grandiflora, or Large-flowered bellwort as it’s commonly called.

Bellwort in the Ginseng Habitat

Bellwort often grows in the ginseng habitat, which makes it one of the ginseng companion plants, but it can tolerate more sun and is sometimes found in places ginseng won’t grow. It likes at least light shade and rich, moist soil with lots of rotted leaf debris. It is the combination of deep shade, moist soil, and nice layer of rotted leaf debris that gives the ginseng habitat its unique characteristics.

Large bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)
Large bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

There’s a spot along our county road that is sometimes sprayed with herbicides. The first time this happened, I mourned the loss of a large wild raspberry bramble I used to visit often when it fruited. Had I known it would get sprayed, I would have transplanted many of the plants that live there, including the raspberries. That raspberry is the only red raspberry bramble I know of in our area, although the plant itself is supposed to be fairly common in the Ozarks.

The entire 500 yard stretch is home to so many of the various woodland plants I love to watch. The little ecosystem is regaining health now and even some of the raspberries have returned, but soon it’ll be in danger of elimination again because of that robust growth.


This year I noticed a colony of small bellworts blooming and decided I’d move some of them in case the spray happened again this year. I knew they were bellworts, but wasn’t sure of the species. I’d never seen these kinds before. They weren’t the usual yellow bellworts I normally see.

When I got back to the house I potted some of them up for the nursery and planted some in the habitat near the nursery. Then I set about making a proper identification. According to my copy of the Atlas of Vascular Plants of Arkansas, it would probably be Uvularia sessilifolia, since the perfoliata isn’t known to be in our county. However, I’ve found other plants not known to be in our county, so that didn’t necessarily help.

What’s in a Name?

Hmmm. With no pictures in the book to give a clue, I wondered about those last names. What did they mean? The latin words used in scientific names are usually full of visual clues if you know what they mean. Time to pull out the dictionary to see what sessile meant. I already knew perfoliata.

“Sessile” means the leaf is directly connected to the stem without a little stem of its own. “Perfoliata” means the stem runs through the leaf, making it appear to be perforated by the stem. Now that I had these meanings to go on, I couldn’t remember whether the leaves were attached or whether the stem ran through. So I had to go take a look. They weren’t right outside the back door so that meant taking the 4-wheeler and the camera and heading back down the driveway.

Sessile Bellwort (Uvularia sessilfolia)
Sessile Bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia). This is a smaller and more dainty variety than the yellow Large-flower Bellwort I usually see.

Turns out it is Sessile. I had hoped it was U. perfoliata, because that one is endangered and rare to find. But this one is beautiful, too. One of the common names for it is “Fairy Bells”, which I like.

I may have a few of these at market, but they might be finished blooming by then.




An Entourage of Green Ambassadors

Show and Tell

I took my little assembly of show and tell items, and a small entourage consisting of three Green Ambassadors on the road yesterday. We, or at least *I*, had been invited to speak to the Olli Group at Bordino’s on Dickson St. in Fayetteville. At the time, they didn’t know about the ambassadors that usually accompany me on such appointments, ha.

Closer view of ginseng yearling.
A ginseng yearling.

Green Ambassadors

I’m one of those people who talk to plants and other things that generally don’t talk back. Well, I think they *do*, but not in the way people talk to each other. Anyway, I’ve told all the plants that I’ve potted up for sale at the market that they are the ambassadors for the plants of an endangered habitat. It’s my job to try to encourage people love them enough to want to restrain themselves from logging the deep woods and maintain proper conditions for these plants to grow. But it’s their job to stand up and be interesting when I need to bring them along for show-and-tell dates.

The Green Ambassadors that came today were ginseng, since that was the focus of the talk. A yearling, a two-prong, and a three-prong, to represent the rest of their kind back home in the deep woods. They behaved graciously as they were passed around in their little pots to be examined closely during the meal.

Bloodroot also came along in the form of a rhizome I brought to show them how it gets its name. After snapping it in half to demonstrate the “bleeding” it does, one of the Olli members, Ned (who is also the one who invited me to give the talk), pocketed the two halves to bring home to plant in his shade garden.

Book Me and the Green Ambassadors

Click here and fill out the form if you’d like me to bring some Green Ambassadors from the ginseng habitat to visit your group. I can usually be bribed with good food, and if you’re outside northwest Arkansas, travel expenses and lodging. Payment when possible is always welcomed, but if you don’t have the budget, don’t let the lack stop you from asking.

 Confrontation at the pond

I’ll end today’s post with a lead line to a little story about the turtle the dogs and I encountered today. The rest of the post is at my FB page. Come on over and visit a little while if you have more time 🙂

I had an interesting event while out looking for the horses. First I went up by the pond to see if they’d gone that way….

Posted by Wild Ozark on Friday, April 17, 2015

A good-sized snapping turtle that was at the gate one day several years ago.


P.S. I am sooooo glad I took a few moments to proofread this post before making it live. I don’t know why, but I keep mistakenly calling “Bordino’s” “Bordello’s” instead. Do you know what a bordello is? Just as I was getting ready to hit ‘publish’, I noticed that I wrote “Bordello’s” instead. I did NOT go to the bordello for lunch. I went to Bordino’s!

Solomon’s Seal Unfurling

Solomon's Seal blooming
Solomon’s Seal blooming

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

There’s a nice patch of Solomon Seal at the front of the driveway that was so choked out last summer that I don’t think any of them got a chance to bloom. I was afraid they might not come back after that. And I wasn’t sure exactly which spot it was where they lived, so earlier while it was still winter I picked my best guess and cleared the briars.

On my way home from checking the mail the other day, I was very pleased to see that I was almost perfect in my guess – just a little bit off. Still, good enough to give them a fighting chance until I get another day to do more clearing and cutting of briars. The plan was to do a little transplanting of them today.

The heady scent of plum blossoms greeted me this morning. It was overcast and misty, and just a wee bit chilly but that kind of lighting is great for taking photos. Before I could get on to the Solomon’s Seal, there was something else I needed to do first. Yesterday I had dug up some Dutchman’s Breeches but didn’t get a chance to pot them up before the rain started, so that was the top thing on my list of things to do today.

After potting up the Breeches I went up to the front end of the driveway dug up some of the Solomon’s Seal. I moved some of the plants to the nursery spot to be sure they don’t all get choked out this year. And while I was at it, I potted up several to bring to market later on this month, too.

Unfurling solomon seal
Unfurling Solomon Seal

Here’s how the rhizomes look:

Solomon Seal showing Root


Growing It

Solomon’s Seal enjoys the same habitat as American Ginseng, but it can tolerate a little more sun. It will do well in full or dappled shade but not in deep shade. The soil should be well-drained and loamy. The spot where these have been for many years is on the dry side during the heat of summer, so it can tolerate more dryness than ginseng can as well. The rhizomes should be planted 1 to 3 inches deep.


This native woodland herb has a surprising (to me, anyway) history of medicinal use. The young shoots are supposed to be edible, but I haven’t tried them yet to give a first-hand report on how tasty they might be. Most of the information I’ve found online regarding its use as medicine is taken from sources talking about the European variety, however ours is similar and is supposed to have similar constituents. The berries will cause vomiting. Some sources say they’re poisonous, some say to use them for causing vomiting. I’d say more research is needed on that use.

Here’s a quick list of ways it has been used by native Americans and herbalists from the Old World. Please do your own research before experimenting with herbs as food or medicine (see disclaimer at bottom of page):

  • to heal external bruises, make a poultice of leaves and root
  • to heal internal bruises, make a decoction and mix with wine to drink (eeww – I think whiskey or bourbon might be better, or just honey maybe)
  • to encourage broken bones to knit, take the root decoction
  • roots can be baked like a starchy vegetable and eaten (after boiling in 3 changes of water!)
  • young shoots can be eaten like asparagus
  • roots decoction good for stomach inflammation, piles, dysentery
  • to stop excessive menstruation (doesn’t specify which parts)
  • may decrease blood sugar levels (keep in mind if using insulin or if you are hypoglycemic)

And one of the most interesting uses I saw mentioned was as incense. Apparently if the root is dried and burned as incense it will ensure a sound night’s sleep. I’m planning to try this one. Sleep is an issue for me lately. I’ll let you know how it worked!

Sources of information:


I am not a medical professional. The information on the web site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat or prescribe any condition. The FDA does not approve of anything on this web site.


Arnold’s First Rooster Crow

Arnold is a Fall chicken. He hatched from an egg, along with his three nestlings way back in October (I think). The clutch of eggs that had hatched shortly before his fell prey to a large black rat snake. You might remember my FB post about that. It takes about six months from hatch to first egg or crow.

We weren’t sure whether Arnold was a he or a she, but had our suspicions. Yesterday he crowed for the first time and confirmed his identity. Oddly, this was a joyful occasion here at Wild Ozark. It was pretty exciting to witness the coming of age of a rooster.

young copper maran roo
Arnold, the new rooster kid on the block.

The day before, one of his nestlings laid her first egg and that was a sweet find too. A hen’s first egg is about half the size of a full-sized egg. The first egg a mature hen lays in spring, if she pauses for a winter break, is also smaller than usual, but not as small as the very first egg she lays in her life.

a hen's first egg
A new hen’s first egg as compared to a mature hen’s egg.

I don’t normally name the chickens. “Arnold” is Rob’s doing. I don’t even name our cats and had to come up with something for one of them at the last minute last year when I brought her to the clinic to be spayed. I guess the dogs and horses should feel lucky to have names. I’m not sure why I don’t name the other animals in my life.

Hopefully this new roo won’t have the same problem with danger discrimination the old roo used to have. I have literally knocked the old one out three times. He kept jumping on me and the grandkids, hurt me pretty badly on the wrist with his spurs once. So I swung my trusty walking stick and took care of him. I thought I’d killed him the first time I knocked him out, but he woke up several hours later, much contrite. Nowadays he gives wide berth when I walk through the flock and I’m glad I didn’t have to really kill him because he’s a good roo otherwise.

Some of the other hens and the old rooster in our flock.

Update 2017, December: Arnold is now the flock rooster and Old Man is gone. He died of fighting with Arnold. This is another reason to not have more than one rooster for small flocks.

A goldenseal plant with red berry.

Sights and Sounds of Spring

The sounds of spring fills the night air now. Spring Peepers are calling!

The only visible signs of spring so far as I can see are the bits of wild onion grass growing with a bit more spright than usual. And the chickweed is making my garden look like it already needs to be weeded.

Soon, though, the early bloomers of the ginseng habitat will begin blooming. Every year I go to the woods to watch for them. If you’d like to see them too, I have a USB full of photographs of ginseng and the companion plants, starting with those that bloom in early spring and ending with ripe fruits on the ginseng. It’s $12 with free shipping (unless you want Priority delivery). I’m out of stock right now, but am still taking orders. It’ll only be about two weeks before they’re ready to put in the mail.

cover for American ginseng & Companions
A 30-minute Windows Media Movie, PDF, and Kindle e-book files on USB.

Here’s some of the images from the first chapter (Before the Unfurling) of the slide-show:

button to order Into Ginseng Wood on USB from Wild Ozark