Wild Walk: Let the Blooming Begin

2013 4-21 Ohio Buckeye in bloom (2)By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Winter is definitely over and summer is marching in with a fury.  Here in Oz, temps have hit the 90’s already and we’ve had a few rain showers to kick the growing season off to a good start.  What was a clear view through the forest just a week ago is now completely obstructed by what we jokingly refer to as “The Jungle”.  So, if you don’t mind a few seed ticks, now is a fantastic time to check out the wildflowers and flowering trees – like this beautiful blooming Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra).

According to Wikipedia, Native Americans…“would roast and peel the [Buckeye] nut, and mash the contents into a nutritional meal they called “hetuck”.  The buckeye nuts can also be dried, turning dark as they harden with exposure to the air, and strung into necklaces.”  I knew a lot of old-timers around here who always carried a buckeye nut in their pockets, which they said would bring you good luck.

2013 4-21 Bloodroot - Blue HoleOne of my favorite woodland natives is Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).  Each plant of this diminutive little member of the Poppy family has a single leaf and sends up one clear white daisy-like flower with an orange center.  Each flower opens on sunny days and closes again at night.   The blood-red root exudes a skin-staining juice that is used for various medicinal purposes.  Not for layman herbalists, this plant is neither abundant, nor widespread and should never be harvested or taken from the fragile, moist niches it favors.

2013 5-5 Fire Pink (2)Here’s a stunning native catchfly, commonly known as Fire Pink (Silene virginica).  This pretty perennial always catches me off guard with its early spring blooms that just light up a patch of woods like nothing else can.

Fire Pink has erect, 12”-14” stems with opposite leaves and blooms that consist of five fiery-red petal with a distinct notch at their tips.  This native is easily found all year long in dry, rocky woodlands in and near clearings with dappled shade.  The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies and the seeds are eaten by many types of birds.   Read more about Fire Pinks at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center website.

AJOS-214x3281Want to read more about native plants?
Check out my book
A Journey of Seasons
A Year in the Ozarks High Country

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.

2013 5-5 Wild Blueberry - Vaccinium stamineum (7)

If you haven’t been out in the woods lately, you may still be able to catch the last of the blossoms of one of several species of native Wild Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) that grow abundantly on dry, rocky, wooded hillsides.

Although they are often referred to as Deerberry or Huckleberry, these natives are not huckleberries, but true blueberries.  Depending on the species, wild blueberries are either small, erect perennial shrubs reaching heights of 2’-4’, or “highbush” species that slowly grow to reach heights of 6’-8’ tall.  All have clusters of down-facing, bell-like flowers ranging in color from white, to pink-tinted, to a full rosy-pink.  The flowers of this genus may be open or extended, as in the picture of Vaccinium stamineum above.   In other species, including cultivated blueberries, the flower petals are fused into a cylindrical shape, with just the very tips curving backwards.  See this image of Vaccinium vacillans for more detail.

Of course, all of these species produce blueberries, but they don’t ripen all at once and you’ve got to be quick about harvesting or the other critters in the woods will get them before you do!  Find a patch and walk it every day or two, picking ripe berries in the morning.  The leaves can be lightly harvested during the flowering period, dried and brewed like black tea – for which they make a great substitute.

2013 5-5 Vaccinium unknown spp - large old grove (5)I have a patch of still-unidentified Vaccinium growing in my woods that are so old, bent-over and gnarled, that they’ve created a cool, spooky dark nook in an otherwise open woodland.  If you’d like help me identify them, give me a shout!  Until then, happy hiking!

If you like this article, you’d like my book: A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozarks High Country).  It’s what keeps me writing!

© 2014 Jill Henderson – Feel free to share with a link back to this site. Thanks.

AJOS-214x3281.jpgA Journey of Seasons
A Year in the Ozarks High Country

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.

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.

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2 responses to “Wild Walk: Let the Blooming Begin

  1. You’ve captured some of my favorites, and taken me back to my beloved woods … those zen vaccinium too!

    • Yes, it’s been a lovely spring. We just had 2″ of wonderful rain and the woods appear impenetrable! Time to hunt for some mushrooms, too. Have you seen many mushrooms being eaten in India. I always wondered… xoxoxo

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