Today was a bountiful plant day, as I passed through deciduous woods from Ox Creek Gap Road, up to Rattlesnake Lodge, on to high elevation grassy trail around Wolfden Knob and Lane Pinnacle, into the craggy beech and hawthorne woods of the Craggy Gardens area and back into the grassy woods here around Douglas Falls. Lots of new faces too: Sundrops, Pale Corydalis, and Virginia Waterleaf's purple flowers. But, to steal the show, a most unsuspecting little succulent: Wild Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum).
Before I get started, I'd like to give a little "word from our sponsor", and some due appreciation to Johnathan Poston. Johnathan joined me yesterday as I hiked out of town to learn a little about the plants and my hike thus far. He will be offering an article on the Mountain Xpress website/blog about my walk on the MST. Johnathan is affiliated with Jus' Running which was so kind to offer me some Clif Bars, blistercare pads, and a nice pair of quick-dry running socks. A link to this blog as well as some info about the hike will also be found on their website. And I'll be sure to let y'all know as soon as I do when that'll be up there.
...and back to Stonecrop. This is a very small plant, only about 3-8", but often appearing smaller because it creeps along the surface upon which it's growing. It seems to require little soil and can be found along rocks at the base of trees, along the edges of trail, and anywhere it's shaded and somewhat damp and cool. However, this little plant also has the ability to dessicate and just keep on goin', rehydrating once it rains. The lower leaves are in whorls of 3. The flowers have 4-5 white petals and grow in a 3-branched terminal cluster (Newcomb).
|Wild Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) - one community|
|The same plant, but a different community. As you can see, these look a bit different, the leaves more slender and angular, but still whorled in grouping of 3. In the lower right hand corner, you can see the white flowers.|
|Notice, some of these flowers have 4 petals, some 5, green sepals, and stamens are rather conspicuous.|
I have found this wild edible to be one of the very tastiest yet. I have never tried cooking it up, so I don't know how it would do, but why mess with a plant that is so delcious raw? It is crisp and fresh tasting and does well as a trailside nibble or as part of a gourmet backpacker's lunch...
|Wild Stonecrop with avocado, chedder, sunflower seeds, and a dash of pepper on a whole-wheat wrap|
Yes indeed, that lunch rocked my world today. Tomorrow I'll be hiking on, criss-crossing the parkway, and then the next day, onto Mount Mitchell!