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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the hugest Jack-in-the-Pulpit I’ve ever seen. Have you ever seen one this big?
The blue cohosh was a little difficult to find. When it first comes up, not much else is bushy or fully leafed out. Blue green stems with fronds of similarly hued leaves unfurling on the rise of a small hill were easy to see. Now the Black Cohosh and Doll’s Eyes in the immediate area have grown up around it and nearly hidden it completely. But I remembered it was growing next to a certain pair of trees. When I pushed the greenery aside, there it was, just hanging out in the shade beneath the much taller Black Cohosh. Berries are formed and still green but it won’t be long before the fruits are ripe. Then the plant will probably die on back.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
The goldenseal have green fruits on them now.
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
On the hill I spotted the purple flowers of a wild geranium. Look closely inside the flower and you’ll spot the little squatter.
I’ve always wondered what the flowers of this plant looks like. This was the first one I’ve ever seen, in all the years of traipsing through the woods. I see the leaves all around but apparently never timed my excursions just right to see the flowers. Either that or I’d always overlooked them.
Just as the leaf is a single leaf and nothing else, the flower stalk is a single stalk and nothing else. No leaves to identify the plant, so it stumped me for a little while until I made a guess and verified it by looking it up on the internet.
Heading Back to the House
Well, that’s the end of the photographic journey into the habitat. I hope you enjoyed your virtual woodland walk. The sun was going down by this time and I’d run out of good light in the deep woods. We’ve had a lot of rain lately and the springs are still flowing hard, as you can see from the puddles in the photo below. Badger is our lead guardian dog and he usually goes out with me on all of my walks. The other two dogs are there, too, somewhere in the bushes chasing rabbits.
Predator and Prey, or the hunter and the hunted is a common theme throughout my fiction writing. No Qualms, one of my short stories (free at most retailers) is about about a predator/prey relationship. Symbiosis, my first finished novel, not published yet, deals with predator/prey relationships and the balance of energy among life on earth, sometimes symbolic and often outright. Many of my flash fiction stories (I have twitterfiction and 100-word flash stories) are also dealing with this same dynamic. This is a strong theme that runs through most of my fiction and is strongly influenced by life in the wild Ozarks where we live. My first published novel, First Hunt, also has a predator and prey theme to it. I guess it's just part of my nature.
Wild Ozark is 160 acres of beautiful wild Ozark mountains. I call what I do "nature farming" because the land produces, all by itself, the shagbark hickory trees, ferns, moss, ground-fall botanicals, and the perfect habitats for growing and stewarding American ginseng. I'm co-creating with Nature - all of the things I use to make the Fairy Gardens and Forest Folk, the bark we harvest for Burnt Kettle's shagbark hickory syrup, are produced by nature without my input. This land is my muse for inspiration when it comes to my writing, drawing, and photography. It's truly a Nature Farm.
About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods
I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.