Saturday, June 14, 2014

Flowers, herbs and dyes

Yesterday was interesting in several ways. We (the Better Half [BH] and I) went our to see what's blooming on our little patch of Anoka sand plain. One new plant, that we had noticed from a distance, brought a red tinge to the grasses. Neither of us recalled every seeing this plant in the 20 + years we've been walking this property. I took some photos; she cut some samples. When we returned to the house, I promptly went to the Minnesota Wildflowers web site and searched under "red flowers" and "what's blooming." No answers. The BH, meanwhile, had checked our copy of Wildflowers of Minnesota: Field Guide. No results. By then I had found our copy of the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers--E: Eastern Region and searched. Success! Our mystery plant was the last one listed in the red flowers section. We have a field full of sheep sorrel. That made it easier to find on the USDA's wildflower site and allowed me to confirm it's not included on the Minnesota Wildflowers site, although it is on Minnesota Seasons.

red or sheep sorrel
red or sheep sorrel                        © harrington

It's starting to become clearer to me why Richard Louv, in Last Child in the Woods, could write that a child can identify 1,000 logos, but not 10 plants native to his or her region. In addition to the issues Louv writes about, we need better resources, and including field guides with more information on what local plants can be used for. Herbalists and those who make dyes from native plants could be helpful here if their information were cross referenced to online field guides, and vice versa. For example, boneset is listed on WebMD, but theres no photo nor link to one.

hoary puccoon, used for dye
hoary puccoon: used for dye?              © harrington


boneset (white flowers): medicinal uses?
boneset (white flowers): medicinal uses?          © harrington
Carl Rakoski shares a different perspective on lost knowledge.

The Old Codger’s Lament

By Carl Rakosi 

Who can say now,
“When I was young, the country was very beautiful?   
Oaks and willows grew along the rivers
and there were many herbs and flowering bushes.   
The forests were so dense the deer slipped through   
the cottonwoods and maples unseen.”

Who would listen?
Who will carry even the vicarious tone of that time?

In the old days
                        age was honored.
Today it’s whim,
                         the whelp without habitat.

Who will now admit
                            that he is either old or young   
or knows anything?
All that went out with the forests.


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