Time to enjoy the bounty of your flower garden

[Before moving on to the primary subject of this column (yard gardens), I’d like to share some impressions with you of the eclipse, which (as I’m writing this) took place yesterday. For several weeks before the celestial event (as I grew weary of all the commercial hoopla), I shifted into my “Bah-humbug” mode. When asked where I was going to watch it from, I’d roll my eyes and announce: “My bedroom … it’ll be a good time to take a nice nap.”

Cherokee had uses for many local plants

For the ancient Cherokees and other southeastern Indian tribes, the greatest causes of illness were the spirits of vengeful animals. They were so angered at the killing of their brethren by hunters they convened a great council and devised human illnesses as payback.

What’s a naturalist?

Trying to answer that question, the first source I resorted to was, of course, the Oxford English Dictionary. Therein I encountered the following clues, none of which seem unlikely:

Early book gives vivid descriptions of WNC

Those who read this column regularly are aware of my interest in the early descriptive literature of Western North Carolina. Whenever possible, I like to collect copies — first editions or reprints — of these often rare books. And I like to share some of the descriptions via this column from time to time.

The day lily is a beautiful, hardy outlander

How many naturalized plants do you recognize from your vehicle this time of year as you drive around taking care of business? My guess is that it’s more than you might anticipate. By “naturalized,” I mean those that were deliberately introduced as medicinals, edibles, ornamentals, etc., but have “escaped” from cultivated situations and become part of our regional or national flora. Some of these — like kudzu, privet, multiflora rose, etc. — are so invasive we’d just as soon they went on back to where they came from.

Perhaps ‘possums are figuring it out

I bless my lucky stars that I’m a columnist assigned the pleasant task of writing about this region’s natural and human history. At a time when the constitutional underpinnings of this nation are eroding at an alarming rate due to the irrational and possibly treasonous shenanigans of a political nimcapoop, I get to consider the burning question: “Are ‘possums finally catching on?”

A blemish by any other name

Systems of mature trees and shrubs are covered with blemishes that signal age: cankers, seams, burls, butt scars, sterile conks, and protrusions in the form of bracket fungi.

The honest little bird

On one level, the natural history of a region consists of its terrain, habitats, plants, animals and how they interrelate. I also believe that no full understanding of the natural history of a region can be realized without coming to terms with its spiritual landscape. And when we consider the spiritual landscape of the Smokies region, we enter the realm of the ancient Cherokees.

The Naturalist's Corner: Even bad days can be good

This past weekend, May 6-7, was the 34th annual installment of the Great Smoky Mountains Birding Expedition (GSMBE.) The expedition began in 1984 as the brainchild of author, naturalist George Ellison of Bryson City, master birder Rick Pyeritz of Asheville and East Tennessee State University ornithologist and field guide author Fred Alsop.

Moonshine stills weren’t the only stills

All this spring, golden birch catkins were dangling throughout the woodlands of the Smokies region. These are the male, pollen-carrying part of the sweet birch (Betula lenta), also known as black, cherry, or mahogany birch.

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