Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A Spring Walk Around Pandapas Pond

 Pandapas Pond is a lovely "day-use" area near Blacksburg, VA located in the mountains within Jefferson National Forest. The pond itself covers about 8 acres. An easy-access trail goes around it. Other trails nearby provide opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and horse-back riding. I like to visit a few times each year to enjoy whatever plants catch my eye. My most recent stroll around the pond revealed these little delights.

Alliaria petiolata

Alliaria petiolata is also known as Garlic mustard, Poor man's mustard, and Sauce-alone. It's native to much of Europe and Asia, and has become well-established throughout most of the Eastern United States, parts of the Mid-West and Northwest. As you might expect, it's in the mustard family and it smells like garlic, so it has been used for culinary purposes for centuries. I've never eaten it myself, but think I'll try some next time I get a chance. It's so widespread, I'm sure no one will much care if you harvest some along the highways and byways. Be sure to give it a good wash before cooking.

Anemone quinquefolia

Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) is a delightful little thing, as all spring flowers are. It's not particularly showy, but I love seeing it peek through the leaf litter. It has been used as an application to stimulate the skin in cases of rheumatism and gout, and its juice has been used to remove warts and corns. It's acrid and will give you a mighty tummy ache if ingested.

Antennaria plantagifinifolia

Its name is bigger than the plant itself. Antennaria is derived from the appearance of the male flowers to insect antennae. Common names include Pussytoes and Woman's Tobacco. The rounded, club-like flowers together do remind one of a cat's foot. I've wondered about the other name, Woman's Tobacco. The little leaves seem to be too small to bother smoking, but another species - Antennaria dioica - has been used to relieve lung disorders, so that might be the association. You'll find it growing in dry, rocky soil in full sun.

Arctium minus

Arctium minus - Common Burdock or Lesser Burdock - is related to a Chinese species that is well-known for its medicinal properties. Most notably, it is detoxifying. This one has similar uses. It's said to be good for just about everything imaginable - antibacterial, antifungal, relieves gas, cures skin diseases, relieves burns and bruises, ringworms and insect bites. As with any herbal remedies, caution is advised. I've known of the leaves being eaten as cooked greens and the roots being brewed as a coffee substitute. But in my opinion, there is no substitute for real coffee.

Chimaphila maculata

Call it Spotted Pipsissewa, Spotted Wintergreen or Striped Wintergreen. I did not take this photo during my recent visit, but included it so you can see the flowers. It blooms later in summer. The plant also has multiple uses in the herbalist's medicine cabinet. It's said to reduce pain, combat bacteria, be styptic, increase perspiration, cleanse the kidneys, reduce fever, stimulate the skin, stimulate the metabolism and generally improve health. When I was a child, my dad always pointed it out to me, "That's for the kidneys." Some folks like to chew the fresh leaves for their fresh, wintergreen flavor.

Gaultheria procumbens

This is honest-to-goodness Wintergreen. Crush the leaves and sniff them. Hmmm. Good! My children and grandchildren are treated to a whiff every time I get the chance. (Someone should invent a "scratch and sniff" app.) The chemical 
methyl salicylate has the property of aspirin, so provides pain relief. Of course, there have been many other medicinal uses. I'll never forget the time my college roommate and I collected leaves, brewed them into a tea and enjoyed several cups. Then I read that copious amounts could cause vomiting, liver or kidney damage. Oops!

Goodyera pubescens

Also known as Rattlesnake Plantain, Goodyera is a delightful little orchid. Tea made from the roots is supposed to be a treatment for snakebites. In case of emergency, I'd call 9-1-1, instead. But I suppose if you were a pioneer of yesteryear, you'd rush home and brew up a few cups...if you made it back in time. The tea is also supposed to be analgesic, treat colds and kidney ailments.

Polygaloides paucifolia

It looks like an orchid, but it's not. Also known as Gaywings and Flowering Wintergreen. This is a nice little surprise to come upon among leaf litter in hardwood forests. 

Stellaria pubera

Star Chickweed is its common name. You can't miss it. This little perennial in the carnation family is in bloom almost year-around.  It's found throughout the eastern U.S. from Vermont to Florida, and even into Wisconsin. I don't know that it's useful for anything other than a subject for photography. I like it.

Tussilago farfara

Also known as Coltsfoot. See the leaf? It has been widely used in herbal medicine, especially for pulmonary problems, but can have toxic effects on the liver if ingested. My dad pointed it out whenever we chanced upon it. You'll find it in ditches and damp soil in the eastern half of the continent from Canada to Virginia and Tennessee.

Viola pedata
Viola sororia

Finally, there are the violets. V. sororia is the most common. You'll find it in moist soil, in partial shade to full sun. You might find it even in your lawn. Leaves and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked.

V. pedata - Bird's foot violet - is my favorite, by far. You'll find it in dry, rocky soil. I found it this time in the company of the Antennaria mentioned above. It has been used as a poultice applied to the brow for headaches. You can cook the young leaves, and candy the flowers.

In "the language of flowers", violets are symbols of modest admiration. If you receive a bouquet of violets, you're invited to take a chance on love.

I must note that all mention above of medicinal use is given as information in a historical context. It is not an invitation for you to treat yourself. All medicinal uses should be taken by direction of a physician. 

Well, those are the highlights of my little April stroll around Pandapas Pond. If you're in the area, be sure to visit. 

Return to GoGardenNow.com.