Dogwood And Brambles

Iris (Iris spp.)

Ontario, Canada
Sanctuary Steward: Penelope Beaudrow

Deep within my soul I have a love of plants and nature so deep that they are a part of me, not knowing where one begins and the other stops. I have a constant yearning to be out of doors, see the land awaken after a long cold winter, feel the warm winds upon my face, and hear the geese flying overhead and walking with my dogs through fields and forest. But my favorite is the beautiful smell of spring—the scent of rain and mud, leafy greens and herbs, and blossoms, the sweet, musky floral scents of wildflowers on the breeze.

With spring upon us everything is full of promise. It’s the perfect time for us to consider giving back to nature. The amazing plants of the fields and forest give us so much—intoxicating fragrances, life giving oxygen, herbal medicines, materials, and amazingly, inspiration for the arts, many a painter’s muse. But alas, we keep taking. We take from mother earth’s precious water resources and natural habitats to make room for factory farming and ever-expanding cities. And we can’t forget our own shame—the overharvesting from the wild for our herbal medicines. As herbalists or anyone who uses herbs, it is our responsibility to ensure the replenishment of a diverse plant species. Remember that the plant kingdom is not sustainable if we only take and do not give back.

So how are we giving back?

Farmhouse at Dogwood and Brambles

We have been tilling, digging, dividing, and planting on our lovely little farm for over thirty years, including any native plant species that are not already thriving on the land. Only a small portion of our 100 acres is actually “farmed.” We have taken over 60 acres of workable land and given it back to nature. Trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and herbs are all thriving, increasing the natural habitat for the surrounding wildlife. Common sightings are deer, rabbits, coyotes, wild turkeys, hawks, raccoons, and rare sightings of bobcats, bears, and even a cougar. In the last several years we have really been focusing on planting “At-Risk” medicinal plants. Some of the plants we have reintroduced into the wild are echinacea (Echinacea spp.), ramps (Allium tricoccum), trilliums (Trillium spp.), black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), arnica (Arnica spp.), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Our most honored “At-Risk” plant in the sanctuary came all on its own. One day I was leading an herb walk discussing the “At-Risk” plants, and I happened to ask the photographer, who was out with us, what had been her favorite plant, and she said, “The yellow one.” I said, “What yellow one?” She quickly scrolled back through her camera and showed me a glorious photo of a lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium parviflorum). I was stunned as we never planted this orchid. I had no idea when we first started planting that our efforts would turn into our own botanical sanctuary. We are thrilled to say that since 2015 we have been a Botanical Sanctuary Member of United Plant Savers. Our mission is to protect native medicinal plants and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come. Our future goals are simple—to increase the number of “At-Risk” plant colonies annually. It is my dream that years from now someone will carry on my work with the plants, nurturing and loving our botanical sanctuary as much as I do. Until then, I will continue to pour my heart’s love into this land, giving the only way I know how.

Now what can you do?

  • Scatter “At-Risk” or “To-Watch” medicinal plants while hiking and walking
  • Donate to United Plant Savers
  • Become a member of United Plant Savers
  • Save plants that are being destroyed due to development by transplanting them
  • Do not purchase wildcrafted “At-Risk” or “To-Watch” herbs
  • Do not forage these herbs

I am incredibly thankful every day for my work within the herbal community, introducing people to the many uses of herbs and seeing them begin to use them daily, not only for themselves and their loved ones (human and pet), but more importantly now is to spread the message to give back. It is truly my life’s passion.

Penelope Beaudrow
Dogwood and Brambles Farm
Ontario, Canada