Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Life with Plants

Working near full time at the Wilderness school affords some interesting changes. I don't see plants as useful to just me anymore, and not just useful for food and medicine. They seem so much more broad. They span the Earth cycles they are inseparable from, and the generations they weave in and out of. The wintergreen above, we harvested a small amount of to oil and make into salve for the Friday class. It grows intertwined with the Mitchella, on a small cliff overlooking a woodland river. It's mossy and beautiful. Beyond it's fame as a medicinal herb, I now see everything around it: the plants in grows with, the south facing lilt of rock it chooses, high up near water and in a mixed wood forest. I imagine the intricacy of the soil at its roots. 

At the water's edge grow two trees I hadn't yet had the pleasure of meeting up close. The profusely papery river birch makes not only a striking visual display, but superb fire tinder. My son collected a nice big bag along side his cattails, to bring to his Pioneers day on Thursdays.
This beautiful starfish leaf is that of the Liquidambar, or Sweet Gum. I can't help but hear the old song I learned as a young child about the Kookaburra, who lives in the old gum tree. (Merry merry king of the woods is he :)
There is plenty of writing on how the sweet gum sap is used. But little on how the leaf is used. As a home herbalist, I can't imagine going through the long laborious process of reducing the pitch, but I sure would like to know how I can make good use of the intensely fragrant leaves. The smell is rich and sharp, like camphor and peaches, or mint and incense. Peculiar and wonderful. A smell that makes me think of good uses, like healing skin infections or as a scalp tonic.


Yarrow said...

Beautiful post. So nice to hear from you again. Blessings.

Ananda said...

Hi Yarrow! Nice of you to come by. Thanks for reading :) Bright Blessings

Anonymous said...

ooooh, I met Sweetgum this summer and am going to be paying close attention to it this year. I love the fragrant leaves too!