My send off date is presently set for May 10th. This is the day after my final gathering with my homeschool classes (in which the kids will do a presentation for parents/teachers/and fellow classmates about the plants that they learned during our 12 weeks together - you want to get inspired to learn your plants and look at the plant world with new eyes, just teach some 4th and 6th graders!) And so as this date nears, my urgency to prepare and bone up on as many plants as possible increases.
Since December, I have been meticulously referencing all the plants that I think I may encounter throughout the state. Wildman Steve Brill's book, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, has thus far been my main resource. For clarity of botanical clues and edible preparation, Samuel Thayer's books have been helpful, and for interesting tidbits, Stalking the Healthful Herbs by Euell Gibbons. My main field guides have been Newcomb's Wildflower Guide and A Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of the Southern Appalachians by Robert Swanson, and for it's nice color pictures, Peterson's Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, as well as many a random wikipedia search. And now, as the days have warmed and the plants have begun to send their green slender shoots from the cold ground, I have begun to get out and truly meet these fellow celebrants of spring. Spending many a day outside and in the woods, I have most certainly glanced and grazed many of these plants before, however, I tell you, after spending months reading in detail about all their fine botanical attributes, committing their formal names and family relationships to memory, and wandering through their literary folklore, I am seeing them in a whole new light.
Since the first purple henbit flower appeared on the lawn along the edge of the Montford Recreational Center in Asheville, a sort of glimmer has shone from the natural spaces around me. A glimmer that I've always known to be there, but that comes and goes on its own accord. I believe it is directly tied to my own awareness. It's seeming elusiveness only a resulting condition of full days and a full head, leaving no room for connecting to the greater world. But I'm tuned in and as I begin hiking, that should only increase. It did when I was on the AT, even when I hiked at the brisk pace of 20 miles/day. It came from directly interacting with the natural world, simplicity of action, and the space in which to watch my thoughts.
But I digress.
As I've been getting out, I've been snapping lots of pictures in the hopes of seeing many of these plants through their different stages, out of mere appreciation of their form, and also as a handy reference I can use later if I have yet to identify it. Many of these plants I expect to come across in my travels, and many of which I have already spotted on the MST while on dayhikes, or at least on nearby trails in the area. Also, quite a few of these plants, also found on my lawn, have given their lives to delicious and artful salads, stir-fries, and quiches.
So, what I hope to do in the weeks before setting out for my hike, is share with you some of these plants, as there really is no reason to wait to start talking about the plants now is there?
From you, I welcome stories of your own experiences with these plants or any further knowledge you'd like to share. Again, I hope this blog to be a learning space. I will also be posting some pictures of plants unknown to me in hopes that you can help me identify them.
All the plant glimmer coming soon....