Lungwort is the leaf-like lichen common on tree trunks several feet or more above ground level. It resembles liverwort but grows under drier conditions. The upper surface is leathery and grayish when dry but bright green when moist, and it is pitted so as to be remindful of the texture of a lung. The undersides are often pubescent.
“Seeds of this common weed do indeed contain an hallucinogenic component, but, as is so often the case, the same chemical is also highly toxic, and the line between ‘a trip’ and ‘the final trip’ is a fine one which varies from one individual to another.”
— Jim Horton, The Summer Times (1979)
“How many thousand-thousand of untold white ash trees are the respected companions of our doorways, kindliest trees in the clearing beyond the cabin? No one can say. But this is a tree whose grave and lofty character makes it a lifelong friend.
Adam Bigelow bears down on the gas pedal of his biodiesel-fueled Jetta, urging it up the steep contours of the Blue Ridge Parkway in search of higher ground. It’s a gardener’s car, through-and-through, the dash covered with dried plant parts, the floorboards papered with garden-related fliers and catalogues.
The only thing that’s missing is a live plant, and even that’s not too far-flung a reality. It wasn’t that long ago, Bigelow recalls, that he looked down from his seat to see a little pea plant growing up, apparently having received just the right amount of water from some mysterious source to take root in the car.
Like poisonous serpents, some plants developed toxic properties in order to protect themselves against predators. Besides insects, the major plant predators are herbivores: bison, deer, rabbits, mice, caterpillars, aphids and any other critters — including humans — that devour plant matter above or below ground.
“Marvel for a moment at the fern fiddlehead. It stands like a watch spring coiled and ready to unwind … What many do not realize, however, is that the fiddlehead has some unusual mathematical properties. It represents one of two kinds of spirals commonly found in nature, and this spiral results from a particular kind of growth.”
— Robin C. Moran, A Natural History of Ferns (2004)
Last summer while I was walking along the creek below our home, small splotches of red and white at the base of a large hemlock caught my attention. Upon inspection, these proved to be the flowers (white) and fruit (red) of the dainty partridge berry vine. Few other plants display this year’s flowers and last year’s berries at the same time.
There seems to be an upsurge of interest in ironwood in Western North Carolina of late. It’s curious how reader interest in certain subjects will pop up all at once, after being non-existent for years or forever. Some sort of synchronicity, I suppose.
In 1900 about 35 percent of the deciduous forest in the Southern Appalachians was comprised of American chestnut (Castanea dentata).
One of my favorite times to observe ferns is in winter when they stand out in the brown leaf-litter. Of the 70 or so species that have been documented in the southern mountains, perhaps a fourth are evergreen. These would include walking fern, rockcap fern, resurrection fern, intermediate wood fern, several of the so-called “grape fern” species, and others.