“To restore any place, we must begin to re-story it, to make it the lesson of our legends, festivals, and seasonal rites. Story is the way we encode deep-seated values within our culture” Gary Paul Nabhan. In last week’s post, I delighted in some of the spring wildflowers that are blooming on the Bent Twig trail, many of these would not be present without the hard work of restoration from our natural areas staff and volunteers. Yet, I agree with Gary Nabhan, and other writers and ecologists who remind us that restoration goes beyond the physical work of removing invasive species and planting new ones, beyond controlled burns, and other strategies for reclaiming and renewing. Restoration includes something we can all do everyday. Each of us can take time to learn and share the stories that restore our own deep connections to the places where we live, work, and play. We can celebrate the beauty around us by being attentive and aware. We can learn to recognize the signs of ecological deterioration. Learn about the threats and actions we can all take. We can get involved with volunteer efforts that restore hope, health, and wholeness, through physical efforts and through the force of impassioned storytelling.
Here are a couple of stories that are blooming on the Bent Twig Trail. A single wood poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum, blooms on a slope near one of the small bridges. Also known as celandine poppy, this little beauty brightened my day. It was like seeing a friend in an unexpected location. Like the seeds of the bloodroot mentioned in previous blogs, ants distribute the wood poppy seeds to their underground nests due to the presence of oily appendages, know as aliaisomes, attached to the seeds. The ants eat the oily treat but guard the seeds from predators.
The common blue violet, Viola sororia is indeed common, but when looked at closely it is uncommonly lovely. The dark strips on the lower petals serve as landing strips for a variety of pollinators. Even these expanded lower petals provide a nice landing pad for visiting bees. How’s that for customer service! The young leaves and the flowers can be eaten raw in salads, and are not only beautiful but also nutritious. Euell Gibbons, a wildfoods icon from the 1970s and 80s, called them nature’s vitamin pill due to their high levels of vitamin C. Each spring, I make a beautiful violet jelly from the flowers as a celebration of the season. These little lovelies can become a bit weedy in our yards, and since I can’t beat them, I eat them.
The perfoliate bellwort, Uvularia perfoliata, are not only blooming on the Bent Twig trail, but for the first time in probably decades, are abundant.
This little native is well named on many levels and each name has a story. Notice the bell shaped blossom that hangs downward, protecting their stores of nectar and pollen. The suffix wort, as mentioned in my earlier post (see toothworts), is an old English word for plant. Thus we have bellwort. The species name Uvularia is a reference to how the flower hangs like the uvula in the back of our throats. According to the doctrine of signatures, which was a wide spread belief that plants provide physical clues for our medicinal use, bellwort was often employed to treat sore throats, and a variety of other conditions. The leaves of this bellwort species are unusual in that the stem perforates the leaves, hence the species name perfoliata. Bellwort, like many plants and animals, are full of stories worth knowing and worth sharing. Earth Day is coming up this week so why not celebrate by taking a hike and getting to know some of the ancient residents and their stories, and when you do, be sure to share them!
Want more Tales from Bent Twig? Click here to view the archive.