Pisgah National Forest Spring Wildflowers

by | May 2, 2011 | General | 1 comment

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a day-long workshop on The Nervous System as well as a plant walk led by 7Song, the director of the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine.  7Song has been running his school in Ithaca, NY for 13 years and is also the Director of Holistic Medicine at the Ithaca Free Clinic.  I’ve visited his school and have also taken a weekend Clinical Herbalism course with him.  He swears during class, is sarcastic and thinks being an herbalist is a political act (my new jersey self really identifies with the swearing and sarcasm! and of course my whole self identifies with herbalist as a political act).  And he happens to love and admire the natural world and knows so much about it!  It is always a treat to learn from his many years of experience  as a community and clinical herbalist.

7Song teaching about Black Cherry at Dancing Spring Farms in Barnardsville, NC 4/26/11 Photo by Marc N. Williams

Greensboro is about three weeks ahead in terms of the Spring season, so in the mountains we were able to still see some of the Spring ephemeral wildflowers that have recently faded out of the Greensboro forests and green spaces.  We started out in the bright sunlight at Dancing Springs Farm and then moved on to a beautiful higher elevation lush slope in the Pisgah National Forest.

Pisgah National Forest, Barnardsville, NC is one of my favorite places on earth, seriously.

I want to share some of the plants I got to visit with during that trip…

Lousewort or Pedicularis (Pedicularis canadensis). I can’t believe how the same plant has such a variance in its coloration! Gorgeous! Broomrape Family (Orobanchaceae)

Pedicularis canadensis is one of my favorite plants.  It is wild looking and beautiful and captures my heart.  It is a local favorite around the Asheville area and is known for its abilities as a nervine, hypnotic and skeletal muscle anti-spasmodic.  7Songs favorite skeletal muscle relaxant formula would be Pedicularis in combination with Skullcap and Black Cohosh.  This will relieve muscle tension specific to the upper and lower back, but will not relieve any pain associated with tension.  For further relief from pain associated with tight muscles and tension try Wild Lettuce (Latuca spp.) or Valerian (Valeriana officinalis).  You can prepare Pedicularis by tincture, the taste of which actually reminds me of a rich chocolate.  It can also be made into a tea and sipped or can be made into an oil and rubbed onto sore spots.

Pedicularis (Pedicularis canadensis) Notice the sparkly hairs toward the top. Truly a beautiful and unique plant. Photo by Marc N. Williams

Another lovely medicinal plant we spent time with was the ever-so-special and rare (due to overharvest) Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).  Its roots have a bright yellow color, indicating the medicinal constituent it is favored for: berberine.  Berberine has a highly bitter/acrid taste and is also found in plants such as Oregon Grape (Mahonia spp.) and Yellowroot (Xanthorizha simplicissima).  Goldenseal, with its yellow berberine rich roots, works best for sinus infections and respiratory viruses.  It can also be the trick to knock out a general infection.  Goldenseal is tinctured fresh 1:2 95%.  The tincture can be taken internally for infection or you can put 2-4 drops in a nettie pot for sinus infection or 2 drops in saline solution to make an eye wash for eye infection.  For a sustainable source of Goldenseal, you can order from Loess Roots.  Or you can harvest Yellowroot and use in its place.  Although the herbs are not directly interchangable, Yellowroot offers an alternative to the increasingly rare Goldenseal.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), a rare medicinal whose “petals” are really showy stamen that surround a central cluster of pistils. Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae). Photo by Marc N. Williams

Here are some other beautiful, stunning, heart-staggaringly beautiful plants from the Pisgah National Forest (many of them are not medicinal but may provide an uplifting feeling)…..

Jack-in the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernuum)

Fairy Bells (Prosartes lanuginosa). Notice all the out of focus trillium (and herb students) in the background!  Photo by Marc N. Williams

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) Photo by Marc N. Williams

Giant Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera) This native chickweed is edible just like the “weedy” variety (Stellaria media) found growing in lawns and gardens. The flowers are larger on this species. A tasty woodland treat!  Photo by Marc N. Williams

Large flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum). White flower turns pink with age. Photo by Marc N. Williams

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) Traditionally used by midwives as a partus preperator and birthing aid.  This plants roots are an oxytocin synergist: a main hormone the body uses to initiate the birth process and stimulate contractions.

Partridgeberry or Twinflower (Mitchella repens). This darling little ground-trailing plant has evergreen shiny round leaves, often veined in white. Partridgeberry has two white flowers that form one fruit (hence “twinflower”). Red fruit is edible and has a sweet pithy taste. Medicinally is used as a uterine tonic (strengthens and tones mucosa) and to stop threat of miscarriage by halting early contractions. It may also be used after an abortion or miscarriage to bring back tone to the uterus and stop bleeding.

A snapshot of the beauty of the Pisgah National Forest in full frame: Giant star chickweed, Large flowered Trillium, Dwarf Larkspur…and hiding in the back behind the Larkspur is a shaded striped Jack-in-the-Pulpit