T-Mello Blog about his trail days and plant encounters

Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Help us Save our most precious Native Plants!

we can join together right now… to ensure that these plants continue to shape our culture….


Stinging Nettle

In 2005, while working for the Forest Service in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, I would often try to use water from a stream to relieve the burning sensation on my legs after I had brushed by a stand of trail-side stinging nettles. The water did nothing to relieve my pain… and now 6 years later I have since cultivated a special relationship with this plant. The nettle plant is my teacher; my ally.

Here in the above photograph, we can see the glass-like needles which protrude from the plant’s surface.
These needles contain a collection of acids which cause the infamous sting. The needles feature something like a ball on the end, kind of like a ballpoint pen, that comes off when brushed against. This releases acids on the victim and can cause hives and discomfort for a day or two.

In May 2011, I spent time with the United Plant Savers at the Goldenseal Botanical Sanctuary. It was here that I learned that the Nettle plant isn’t just a culprit to many a victim, but a source of medicine. Arthritic joints can be treated by whipping the joint with a branch of stinging nettles. In theory, this act of Urticating stimulates the adrenals which reduces swelling and pain in the joint. The knowledge definitely came to me this summer when my feet felt like they were going to fall off during the early stages of my 2181 mile walk along the Appalachian Trail. I would harvest woodland Nettles and begin thrashing my tingling feet and ankles. Shortly after the initial sting, I began to feel comfortably numb where the plant had made contact with my skin.

Little did I know back in my green years as a trail-bound nature seeker, that a plant called Jewel Weed was probably growing nearby the Nettles. And this would have been the perfect remedy for a stinging discomfort. The plant’s aloe-like juices produce a cooling effect on the skin, Not to mention a beautiful yellow or orange flower in mid-late summer.

What a gorgeous design nature has planned for this rare vine called Wild Yam. Much research has examined the medicinal properties of Wild Yam.

This plant was used during the civil war to slow bleeding at the solidier’s open wounds.
Yarrow also makes a tasty tea!

I was delighted to see these pitcher plants growing in a high mountain bog atop the Barren-Chairback range in Maine this summer. I was accustomed to seeing this beauty while on paddling trips in the Great Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia. But even parts of the A.T. lead hikers along boardwalks that float atop the swamp muck.

These are but a small sample of the plants I have encountered while walking my forest journey. The protected lands which harbor the Appalachian Trail are truly pristine environments where plant lovers may find thriving populations of wild ramps, bergamot, and the rare gray’s lily.

Today we are winning the public lands battle which must never end. With millions of acres designated for Wilderness status, never before have we seen in our government’s policy such emphasis on the preservation of wild systems. This is our IDENTITY as a global nation. Plants thrive in wild systems. And humans and other animals thrive on wild plants.

But what about the endangered plant communities found on America’s private lands? How can we raise awareness and reach out to build a network of responsible land owners? Well, let us take a look at this here link…..