Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Greenbrier River

The Greenbrier River is certainly a treasure. The Greenbrier is formed at Durbin in northern Pocahontas County by the confluence of the East Fork Greenbrier River and the West Fork Greenbrier River, both of which are short streams rising at elevations exceeding 3,300 feet (1,000 m) and flowing for their entire lengths in northern Pocahontas County. From Durbin, the Greenbrier flows generally south-southwest through Pocahontas, Greenbrier, and Summers Counties, past several communities including Cass, Marlinton, Hillsboro, Ronceverte, Fort Spring, Alderson (my and Dad's birth place), and Hinton, where it flows into the New River.

Few West Virginians know that the Greenbrier is the longest untamed (unblocked) river left in the Eastern United States. This time of year the river is shallow with beautiful grass beds throughout the river. It is hard to imagine that this very same river can rise suddenly and cause much destruction and death. Friday morning I walked a short distance of the Greenbrier River Trail which snakes along the side of this great river.

As always, I found wonderful flowers appearing before me on the trail.

Along the path were thistles bearing their interesting blossoms. Thistle is the common name of a group of plants characterized by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins. Prickles often occur all over the plant – on surfaces such as those of the stem and flat parts of leaves. These are an adaptation that protects the plant against herbivorous animals, discouraging them from feeding on the plant.

Queen Ann's Lace or wild carrot is now blooming profusely along the highways. Like the cultivated carrot, the wild carrot root is edible while young, but quickly becomes too woody to consume. A teaspoon of crushed seeds has long been used as a form of birth control; its use for this purpose was first described by Hippocrates over 2,000 years ago. I, long ago, gave up my need for a teaspoon of seeds!

Summertime is the season for the composite flowers.

Starbuck's probably do not sell brew made of this plant. Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a hardy perennial that was brought to North America from Europe in the 1700s, and is now well-established across the continent. Though chicory has a variety of uses, it's best known for its association with coffee.

At many points through history, coffee has become unavailable or too costly. During these times, people have often turned to roasted chicory as a substitute. Folks also used to make coffee from roasted acorns, yams and a variety of local grains. Anything was better than going without!

I will leave you with the fruits of the dogwood tree.

Walking by Jack Horner's Corner, I was thinking about our family arriving around supper time. Yes, we were having those infamous meatballs!


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