When I began as a Grow Appalachia AmeriCorps member, I was overwhelmed with plant identification. For the first time in 27 years, I was taking a closer look at what I probably collectively referred to as “grass” or “green stuff”. Over the past months, I have come up with my own process of remembering each plant. Sometimes this works, other times, I just can’t get seem to get their names to stick. But I’ve begun to look forward to opportunities where someone can help me identify new plants.
Recently I’ve learned a few more and I’d like to share those with you all. Just this past weekend, Hillsboro, WV celebrated its annual Wild Edibles Festival. People from near and far gathered in the Hillsboro Elementary gymnasium to hear a lecture from guest speaker Dr. Rebecca Linger, PhD, a professor at University of Charleston School of Pharmacy, engage with other community members, vendors and finally partake in a nature hike where you learn to identify some of WV biodiversity.
Our group took the left side of the Greenbrier Trail near the Greenbrier River and our group leader was Doug. The first plant we met was called blood root, although it wasn’t flowering, the leaves look like large palms and once you break the root, you can see where it gets its name. Next was the Great White Trillium, we saw white, pink and dark maroon blossoms peppered all over the hillside, along with geraniums, and Virginia bluebells. Some other plants I learned to identify were the may apple, cut leaf toothwort, mullein, and bedstraw, or Galium. We were able to chew on the back of the cut leaf toothwort, which was pretty peppery, Doug said it was a good option if you were dehydrated in the woods, because it would stimulate your. saliva. You can see the picture of my friend Woodie, chewing on some cut leaf toothwort. Mullein, which is incredibly soft, was formally used to cover holes in shoes or as an insulator.
My favorite part of the festival was coincidently being in a group with several of our Grow Appalachia participants. We were able to talk about our gardens, learn new plants and experience the outdoors together.