Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trekkin' into the Piedmont

So I have traveled another 114 miles from Beacon Heights to the Boone/Blowing Rock area, through Moses Cone State Park, down the parkway many miles, through Doughton State Park, onto Stone Mountain, and finally, following Zephyr Mountain Park Road into the piedmont. I revelled in easy walking on carriage roads through Moses Cone, relished the last of my multi-layered mountain vistas in Doughton (also spying my first bear on this trip- from afar), and pounded the pavement HARD for many a country mile on road.  Here, my surroundings have been open rolling farmland, delapidated old barns, and open sky. My plant friends have quickly transitioned from mountain flora to that of roadside and meadow. To keep my company, my animal friends such as the wild boar and falcons are now cows and horses. My soundtrack is less sing-song birds and hooting owls, but rather crowing roosters, barking dogs, and revving engines.

I said goodbye to the mountains (a view from Bluff Mtn in Doughton Park)

And hello to the open road. Not far down this road is the Welcome Home Baptist Church where I popped my tent in their woods late last night

Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum sp.) with tiny bi-labiate flowers (meaning 2-lipped), opposite leaves, and square stem. This mint was so fragrant, I wished I could dry some and take it with me to freshen up my pack. I did savor just a few refreshing leaves. Mint is excellent for soothing an upset stomach, as a carminative (relieving gas), soothing the nerves, and awakening the senses. This particular patch was rather large and enjoying the thin soil atop a wet rock outcrop.

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) has been growing in abundance along the roadside.  I have not yet tried it as I wanted to check my sources first, as one should be careful when sampling from the carrot family (can be tough to ID), however, from what I understand when still young, the root is edible (becoming woody with age) and the leaves can be a nice addition to salad. Important points of ID include a hairy stem, deeply divided and narrow bracts below the flower umbel, and a single purple floret in the center. Know your other carrot family plants such as poison hemlock before harvesting this one.

Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana). I spotted these juicy berries just under a blanket of overgrown grass and vines. Keep your eyes open for these growing along the edges of grassy trails and woods, and throughout meadows. The fruit is tiny (about 1/2") and will be below the single divided (3 leaflets) toothed leaf. Where there is one, there is usually many, as this plant spreads by runners. See previous post: Mouse-ear Chickweed, Wild Strawberry, and Flowering Mustard, Oh My!  for more info on wild strawberry
Spiked Lobelia (Lobelia spicata), the only Lobelia I've come across on my hike thus far. There was a small section of woods trail where they were very abundant, but that was all I saw for the day. Lobelia inflata is a traditional medicinal, the whole flowering plant is useful for breaking up obstruction such as at the onset of an asthma attack or relieving stagnation such as a persistent headache, and just a few drops added to any tincture formula will enhance the action of the other herbs. I do not know if Lobelia spicata possesses similar medicinal properties.

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