Friday, February 6, 2009

Rare Finds in the Local Forest

Since I can't go out to the woods until my left eye heals, I moseyed about in my photo files to see what caught my right eye.  There I found these pix of two plants hardly ever found on an everyday walk through an ordinary woods. (And certainly not in February!) 

First is goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), which flowers in May and fruits in July.   This patch was being threatened by garlic mustard with its allelopathic roots.  I cleared an area ten feet all around of this alien aggressor, but I know it'll  just grow back.  So I'll be back as well.  One photo shows the plant in flower; another shows it in fruit.

Next is ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), which flowers in June and fruits in August.  This plant is growing dangerously near a pedestrian/bike path, but is kind of disguised by surrounding Virginia creeper's similar leaves, so it might escape detection by foragers.  Apparently this plant's roots bring hundreds of dollars a pound.  The flowers are so nondescript I didn't post their photo (plus they grow in such deep shade it's hard to get a clear shot).  The fruits are pretty, though.

Both plants are sought after by herbalists and have mostly been rooted out of our Saratoga County forests.  Luckily, we have a woods right here in Saratoga Springs that provides a home for them:  the North Woods at Skidmore College.  It's actually two woods, with  different soil chemistries for each, supporting an astounding diversity of plants, including many rare and protected species.  Biologist Sue Van Hook and artist Jacqueline Callahan have produced a beautifully illustrated little book, Treasure in the North Woods:  A guide to the natural campus at Skidmore College, that collects all kinds of information about this distinctive place.  I found my copy at Border's in Saratoga Springs.  The book lists a website at   Check it out.  And don't pick anything that grows in that woods!                                                  


NatureGirl said...

Some real treasures indeed! I've never seen these in the wild, although I did try planting some were I worked in NJ many years ago.

I'll be happy to help you pull out garlic mustard - let me know when you are planning a raid and I'll see if I can give you a hand!

Bill said...

Hi Jackie, my mother, Eleanor Boyle, gave me your blog address because she thought I would enjoy the nature writings. Your photographs are beautiful. I love the detail, including the animal tracks which I have seen a lot of this winter. Now it has been 40 degrees for 24 hours, so who knows what new surprises we may find out there! --Virginia Boyle Traver