Monday, September 6, 2010

Could this Possibly be Wood Betony?

While coming back down the mountains at Newfound Gap Tennessee, my friend and I pulled over to snap a couple of pics alongside the roaring and beautiful stream. This was only two weeks ago, and the weather was nicely hot and steamy, with loads of large dark butterflies flitting about everywhere. The place we chose for a photo was a standard tourist pull-over spot just above the stream itself. As my friend was positioning himself down the rock wall and into the stream, I was marvelling at the butterflies on a nearby wildflower. It was then that I looked down at my feet. I do believe I spied one of my favorite herbs of all time, right here in its natural habitat. It was a small specimen, and stubby enough for me to doubt my eyes, but I quickly snapped a picture to study when I returned home, since my friend had a plane to catch as soon as he climbed out of the stream.

Upon closer inspection and retrospection, I suspect it truly may be Wood Betony. The blossoms are shorter than my own at home, and the petals appear to be grander in this example, but the shape of the leaf, and the blossom on the long spike definitely spoke of the familiar as soon as I laid eyes on for the retrospection part - I suddenly remembered where I purchased my Wood Betony. I was completely obsessed with herbs back in the late 90s and scoured nurseries for unique plants that one only reads about. The vendors of the Kentucky Herb Festival in Frankfort included this lady from Tennessee who would come every year to sell native selections. She always had truly wonderful things and I managed to cross off several obscure herbs off my wish list when visiting her booth. Ironically, it was the Tennessee lady who sold me my Wood Betony. The one in the National Park may be a slightly different variety, but I'm pretty convinced of the match. However, I also remembered one other experience with her wonderful selection of native careful when shopping at places that offer native wildflowers....I was 2 minutes away from walking away with my very own specimen of Burdock for my garden. Luckily I studied my purchase more closely as I walked away and suddenly recognized it as that giant weed that grew out by the barns on the farm here in Kentucky - luckily she was nice enough to let me have an exchange! One man's weed is another man's wildflower!


Kathryn/ said...

Now I'm curious about wood betony! And good for you for scouting out these precious herbs. I hope you keep them all going and become a source for others whose passion for herbs matches your own. Well done!

Cheri Daniels said...

I adore wood betony! Since I'm not into heavy use of the herbs for any other purpose than asthetic - I just love the look of this hardy little gem. Grows in a nice compact mound with teeth edged leaves that are so unique. Once full size at about a foot in diameter, they produce these long - about two feet high - square stemmed beauties. I've never noticed a scent, but they are beautiful. The little one I included from the mountains is only a fraction of the full size gorgeousness possible in your garden :-)

Cheri Daniels said...

Oh, the only thing I'm not really sure about with this little plant is how to propogate the little sucker. It never spreads and we have never had any little seedlings appear. I can't remember if it produces seeds or not....but, the lack of easy propogation may be why we don't see it for sale all that often.