Often you have a choice to make in the woods: you have to choose your trail.
Keep in mind that you must not turn and run, no matter what.
You must keep your eyes open and see what you see…
Beware of Wildlife
Walking in the woods in May,
you may see Bear Corn otherwise known as Squawroot
emerging from the earth –
it’s fucking scary-
looking, emerging cancerous from the roots of oaks.
You might see spiders’ webs and their massacres;
and fallen things that will decay.
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies and beetleweed,
it’s not all fawn’s breath
and summer bluet in the woods, you know.
You’ve got to expect the wild ferns,
marauding, drunk on life,
dreaming of dinosaurs;
the young athletes – common sassafras, bitternut hickory – jostling hard for their place in the sun.
You’ve got to expect the mandrake with his bad reputation,
and the monstrous baneberry with her poisonous pearls.
Things can get – odd.
A dogwood perishes on the bank of a stream.
Rose petals from a bush unseen make a fairy ring.
But you’ve already seen the strangest thing on the trail,
which is Bear Corn, also known as Squawroot –
sought by bears when they wake
and women (of yore) when they
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From Dave’s Garden:
“This odd little plant doesn’t require sunlight to live, because it doesn’t photosynthesize. It is a parasitic plant that gets its nourishment from the roots of others. Oak and beech trees are specific hosts and bear corn cannot exist without being attached to the roots of these trees. Most of this plant is never seen, as it forms large galls or tumors on the host tree’s roots. This is probably how one of its other common names (cancer root) was born. Bear corn has no cancer-fighting properties that we know of, however it was used extensively in Native American medicine. It has definite astringent properties, which was useful for poultices and treatment of wounds. The compounds constrict blood vessels and play a large part in stopping bleeding. It was also used for inducing labor when a pregnancy went past term, which contributed to another common name, squaw root. Other uses included diuretic, sedative, expectorant, vermifuge (that means it is good for expelling intestinal worms…ewwww!) and laxative. Humans aren’t the only ones that use this plant medicinally, bears seem to crave it after coming out of hibernation. The laxative properties purge their systems after they awaken from a long winter’s sleep.”
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If you want to go down a rabbit hole of information and possible misinformation on the uses of squawroot, just google it. It’s been said to treat almost every “female malady”.
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10 points and public recognition to anyone who recognizes the trail…
This is an extraordinary post. I’m fascinated and just flat out entertained.
Dearest Betsy ~ Thank you ~ xoxo
Amazing! We saw Bear corn in the Smokies and they are quite eye catching. I wondered about them and now so excited to learn these interesting facts about them!
Dearest Marina ~ It makes me so happy to think of you and David and your children exploring the woods, looking for fireflies! I’m glad I could teach you anything. Xoxo