Purt, nigh Lizabethan
 

Purt, nigh Lizabethan

I’m no expert on regional linguistics, but through the years I’ve delighted in the dialect English still spoken here in…
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Medicinal uses of black cohosh
 

Medicinal uses of black cohosh

“The first large, successful American business run by a woman was said to be the Lydia E. Pinkham Medical Company,…
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Living inside the box
 

Living inside the box

Five turtle species reside in Western North Carolina: snapping, musk, and painted turtles are primarily found in streams, lakes, and…
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Battered berries
 

Battered berries

Those who’ve participated in my natural history workshops know that that I’m not a very good source for information regarding…
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A world without end
 

A world without end

Two weeks ago, we reviewed current theories about the uplift of the Appalachian Mountains about 250 million years ago, as…
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The ridge named blue
 

The ridge named blue

Last week, we reviewed current theories concerning the uplift of the Appalachian Mountains about 250 million years ago. And we…
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Everything old is new again
 

Everything old is new again

The inter-related geologic and geographic heritage of the Blue Ridge Province is a complex but fascinating and rewarding subject to…
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The honest little bird
 

The honest little bird

On one level, the natural history of a region consists of its terrain, habitats, plants, animals and how they interrelate.…
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Hepatica — a thing of beauty and lore
 

Hepatica — a thing of beauty and lore

Nothing is fairer, if as fair, as the first flower, the hepatica. I find I have never admired this little…
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Wild, mysterious and sometimes a bit sly
 

Wild, mysterious and sometimes a bit sly

In the natural world here in the Blue Ridge, there are certain visual images that rivet the attention of human…
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Stuck in a stinky situation
 

Stuck in a stinky situation

Hopefully, any encounter you have with a skunk will be a sighting, not a spraying. Neither my wife nor I…
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Squirrel stories
 

Squirrel stories

It seems to me that the general reputation of squirrels has declined within my own lifetime. I don’t recall hearing…
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Cast out the castor
 

Cast out the castor

The gardening season is upon us. Many gardeners here in the Smokies region are familiar with mole bean plant, also…
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The doghobble’s claim to fame
 

The doghobble’s claim to fame

Whenever I’m conducting a native plant identification workshop, I try to note several regional plants — one each in the…
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The Asian connection
 

The Asian connection

I’ve never been to Asia, but ever since I was a youngster I have, from time to time, fantasized about…
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Mountain lion lore
 

Mountain lion lore

I frequently hear from people who have spotted a mountain lion in Western North Carolina. Or at least they think…
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The Underground Panthers
 

The Underground Panthers

A hunter was in the woods one day in winter when suddenly he saw a panther coming toward him and…
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Table Mountain pine
 

Table Mountain pine

Have you ever been walking one of the wind-swept, sun-bitten, high-elevation rock outcrops in the Smokies region when you suddenly…
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Gilfillan’s Burnt House to Paw Paw
 

Gilfillan’s Burnt House to Paw Paw

Several weeks ago I was perusing the used bookstores in Asheville, where there are, somewhat surprisingly, at least four excellent…
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Lyon was among WNC’s notable botanist
 

Lyon was among WNC’s notable botanist

Andre and Francois Michaux, and John Fraser, and soon to be followed by Thomas Nuttall, Asa Gray, and Moses Ashley…
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Civil War in the Smokies
 

Civil War in the Smokies

The war in the Smokies proved to be an intensely personal conflict. A curious conjunction of terrain, history, politics and…
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Mystery of the coveted mad stone
 

Mystery of the coveted mad stone

Last week’s Back Then column described a deer hunt conducted by Quill Rose and his relatives and neighbors in the…
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The thrill of the chase lives on
 

The thrill of the chase lives on

Through the years, I’ve written at every opportunity about Aquilla (Quill) Rose — Civil War veteran, fiddle player, storyteller, moonshiner,…
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A locust by any other name
 

A locust by any other name

I’m fairly good at the identification of deciduous trees during the flowering and fruiting seasons, when one can observe bark,…
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The grumpy traveler department
 

The grumpy traveler department

From time to time, I’ve contemplated compiling an anthology of travel writing from Western North Carolina. Such a volume would…
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Time to think about gardening in ‘06
 

Time to think about gardening in ‘06

Have you started making your 2006 gardening plans yet? It’s time. The garden catalogs started arriving in the mail several…
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James Mooney’s devotion to WNC
 

James Mooney’s devotion to WNC

For 36 years, from the time he launched his career with the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1885 until his…
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The little things in life
 

The little things in life

I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s the little things that, in the long run, mean the most in life? That’s a…
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Traditional Cherokee dyes
 

Traditional Cherokee dyes

“Woven goods—baskets and mats—document what women did, when, and how. They illuminate the work of women who transformed the environments…
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The boats that once plied mountain waters
 

The boats that once plied mountain waters

When one thinks about navigation in regard to the rivers here in the Smokies region, its old-time ferries and modern-day…
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A long tradition of greenery and Christmas
 

A long tradition of greenery and Christmas

Christmas greenery is a Southern Appalachian specialty. This region has been furnishing the eastern United States with quantities of various…
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Making use of natural surroundings
 

Making use of natural surroundings

When the Cherokees emerged as a distinctive culture more than a thousand years ago, they situated themselves so as to…
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Requiem for a heavyweight
 

Requiem for a heavyweight

The eastern hemlock has long been one of my favorite trees. Like many people reading this column, my wife, Elizabeth,…
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Poetic license never hurts a good tale
 

Poetic license never hurts a good tale

Accounts of events always vary, especially when one is supposedly factual and one is admittedly fictional. Here's an instance.
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More than armchair historians
 

More than armchair historians

Every regular reader of this column has an interest in this region’s history. But most of us are, more or…
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