Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mouse-ear Chickweed, Wild Strawberry, and Flowering Mustard, oh my!

So in the weeks leading up to the hike, I'll be playing around with the structure for my posts. I hope to create a consistent format for sharing with all of you a) the section of trail I am addressing b)the day's mileage c) a list of plants identified d) some fun plant musings as well as trail experiences. I also plan to post pics of plants I cannot ID in the hopes that, you, my followers, can help me out! I know I have a lot to learn from all of you.

Here goes...

MST Section 7: Traveling east from cow pasture at Azalea Road to road crossing with Blue Ridge Parkway. Distance covered is little under 1mile.

Edible/ medicinal Plants: Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Common Winter Cress (Barbarea vulgaris), Barren Strawberry (Waldensteinia fragarioides), Wood Sorrel (Oxalis sp.), Mouse-ear Chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum), Common Chickweed (Stellaria media), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis), Periwinkle (Vinca minor), Violets (Viola spp.), Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium pupureum), Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), Bittercress (Cardamine sp.)

Other Notable Plants: Narrowed-leaved vetch (Vicia angustifolia)

Whew! And all of these useful plants within less than a mile. In fact most all of these can be found within the first 1/4 mile. I hadn't intended on going out to the trail for anything more than a run, but alas, I find a simple run happens less and less. I mean, how can I just go pounding past these lovely little plants without stopping to at least say hello? I end up running from one flower to the next and make mental note of any those I'd like to revisit. So, once finished with my run, I begin hastily rummaging through the backseat of my car, in search of Newcombs. I will retrace my steps. However, considering my intrigue had been sparked as soon as I'd stepped out of the car into a thick strip of roadside plants, I don't make it very far. I am soon on all fours, my nose deep in the grass, in the effort to discern tiny hairs on skinny stems and basal rosettes amidst a tangle of grasses and other grown up greenies.

You can imagine my thrill when I spotted my first Mouse-ear Chickweed. Mouse-ear Chickweed's leaves and stem are fuzzy, hence it's name. But what first caught my eye about this plant was its flower. It looks almost like a Common Chickweed, with 5 little white petals. However, unlike Common Chickweed whose petals are so deeply lobed they appear as 10, Mouse-ear's chickweed's petals are distinctly 5, and only partially cleft. 

Mouse Ear Chickweed

Common Chickweed

Being that I was so close to the road and on Parkway property, I did not try nibbling. But as long as you don't have a problem with some fuzz, Mouse-ear Chickweed is edible raw, sauteed, or as a pot herb. Chickweed is also a traditional alterative (blood cleanser) and thus a good herb for lessening any wintertime lethargy while also supporting springtime vitality. Additionally, it makes an excellent vulnerary (facilitates the healing of tissue-both internally and externally), and so a good herb for cooling intestinal inflammation/heat, skin irritation, or bothersome bugbites.

I also spotted my first Garlic Mustard flowers. Notice the 4 petals arranged like the letter X - typical of the mustard family. Like the leaves, these flowers are quite tasty, in fact many people claim even more so. However being so tiny, they serve as only an occasional spicy-bitter walking treat.

And of course...the Wild Strawberries. Fragaria virginiana produces a juicy and deliciously edible berry - often tastier than those purchased in store. Look for them around mid-June depending on the elevation in sun-drenched locations.

Waldensteinia fragarioides, on the other hand, though complete with a radiant yellow flower, produces a hard inedible fruit, perfect for carrying seed but hardly deemed a fruit by human standards. 

F.virginiana offers an astringent infusion by way of its leaves. How astringent W.fragaroides is, I do not know. But being a member of the Rose Family, I am going to guess it shares this same property. Anyone else know for sure?

1 comment:

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