It’s been a busy spring here on Turtle Ridge. We finally got the warm up we’ve been waiting for to really get the spring garden growing. While we were waiting for sunny days and spring showers to germinate our seeds, I took a little time to go wild.
I don’t consider daffodils native plants, but they’ve survived in these hills so long, they might as well be. I found two small clumps of this particular beauty up on the ridge where the old homestead stood long, long ago. They were crowded and had very few flowers, but as soon as I saw them I knew they needed to be at the back door of the “new” homestead. They’re a little slower growing than any other daffodil I’ve grown, but they still produced a handful of these gorgeous and unusual blooms in their first year. If you have any clue as to what variety these daffodils may be, I’d sure like to know.
The frilly purple foliage of this recently emerged Ozark native shines boldly against the bleached white limestone that surrounds it. One of the earliest perennial flowers to return in the spring, False Smooth Foxglove, aka Smooth Yellow Foxglove, (Aureolaria flava) is a forb belonging to the Figwort Family. The first leaves to appear in late winter are deep purple, but slowly turn green as the weather warms. Mature plants may have splashes of purple on the lower stems.
False Smooth Foxglove is believed to be an epiphyte, which lives off the underground roots of trees such as oaks. They prefer well-drained rocky soils and dappled shade, as are often found on forest edges. As the temperatures rise, so do the tall flowering stems of this overlooked wildflower. By mid-summer the 3 ft. tall, sparsely-branched flowering stalks begin to bloom. These natives are difficult to spot in their semi-forested habitat because, although each flower is rather large (about 1” long) and bright yellow, each plant may only have one or two flowers open at any given time. If you spot these little lovelies in your woods, keep in mind that they are very attractive to hummingbirds and the deer enjoy browsing the young leaves.
Speaking of wild beauties, I believe this lovely sedum is an Ozark Native known as Three-leaved Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum). There are similar species that are not native and they are difficult to tell apart by the untrained eye. Regardless of their native status, they now live happily in the rock wall surrounding my garden where they brighten things up all season long.
Now, here’s a plant that definitely isn’t native and in my eye doesn’t brighten up anything but my ire. Aggressive and difficult to control, Japanese Honeysuckle was once widely planted by early settlers and homesteaders, but quickly escaped cultivation. As conservation-minded as I am, this massive patch of invasive honeysuckle lives atop my ridge where the old barn was believed to have once been. I absolutely refuse to use herbicides to control this tangled, native-strangling mess (as has been suggested by many ‘conservationists’) and so the birds will continue to spread it all over the place until I can get some nice person to loan me their goats for the summer so I can manage it organically.
Of course, no spring walk in the woods would be complete without a smattering of dogwood and redbud trees, whose blooms are like colored smoke drifting through the barren woodlands. This particular dogwood has pretty purple spots at the tips of each flower petal, which are best seen from the underside. If you’ve never tried them, redbud flowers are delightfully edible and the young “beans” that follow are tender and delicious when steamed lightly or eaten raw.
No matter the season, I love to get out into the woods and explore. I never tire of the view and always seem to find something new and exciting to check out. I hope you get the chance to get out in the woods this before all the delicate spring beauties have faded into a curtain of green.
Be well and happy hiking!
© 2014 Jill Henderson – Feel free to share with a link back to this site. Thanks.
Set in the rugged heart of the Ozark mountains, A Journey of Seasons is memoir, back-to-the-land handbook and nature guide rolled into one. Henderson’s 20-years of living off the land and foraging in the wilderness shines in this cyclopedic work filled with nature notes, botanical musings, back-woods wisdom and just a pinch of “hillbilly” humor. This is one journey you don’t want to miss.
Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill’s work has also appeared in The Permaculture Activist, The Essential Herbal, Acres USA, and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac.