Table Rock Lake

Plants, Herbs & Lore

by Joshua Heston

What makes a wildflower, exactly? Most every plant flowers at some time or another.

Some are woody perennials; others are herbaceous annuals. Most are native to North America; yet quite a few were introduced years ago from Europe.

Plant classification can be hard.

Suffice it to say, if it is a plant, if it flowers, and it has significance to the Ozarks, sooner or later, that plant should end up here.

Chick Allen (root digger) says...

I am the fourth generation [to be] born and raised in the Ozarks. My ancestors came here in 1836. [The] herbs and remedies [were] handed down [to us] from the Indians. Most of us natives have some Indian blood in us. The white man learned how to use these herbs and roots from the Indians.

Many a life in the early frontier days was saved with these remedies.

In the spring, or about May First, people gathered enough roots and herbs to do them until the next spring. The springtime was a happy celebration of “Root Digging Days.” It was a time to shed their red underwear and to get their corn liquor stills running — because all good medicines contained some corn whiskey for a preservative.

— Forward, Allen, Allen, Chick with Evelyn Fullerton, Ozark Root Digger, May 1974.

Plate 1. Poke-Weed (Phytolacca americana). Location: Eastern Taney County, Missouri. October 17, 2008.

Sisyrinchium angustifolium

Plate 2. Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium). Location: Mincy-Drury Conservation Area, Taney County, Missouri. April 15, 2009.

An Ozark Plant List:

Gentian (Jenshun) Gentiana sp.

May Apple Podyphyllum peltatum

Lady Slipper Cypripedium sp.

Hoarhound Marrubian vulgare

Catnip Nepeta sp.

Mullein Verbascum thapsus

Poke-root Phytolacca americana

Plantain Plantago major

ginseng Panax quinquefolius

Sarsaparilla Aralia nudicaulis

Yellow Root Xanthorhiza simplicissima

Horsemint Monarda didyma, M. fistulosa

Black & White Snake Root Eupatorium sp.

American Wisteria Wisteria frutescens

Bittersweet Celastrus scandens

Poison Ivy Toxicodendron radicans

Wild Licorice Glycryrrhiza lepidota

chinkapin oak


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