Saturday, November 27, 2010

Foraging


There are enough cedars in Ozark woodlands and glades for every mantle, front door, and stairwell in the uplands to be decked to the nines in greenery this Christmas, even leaving enough cedars for wintering birds to cluster beneath the boughs during cold, snowy, windy days.

Every year, my Native Plant Society chapter gathers in late November after a few months of gathering interesting seeds and berries to make Christmas wreaths with native and non-native plant material. One member is in charge of whacking down cedar branches on her property (find the branches laden with blue berries and you'll be hailed a hero among the group), and the others canvass their farms, fencerows, and private property to build a diverse assortment of paper bags filled with seedheads from many different species. They collectively gather enough material to fill more paper bags than can fit into a small sized truckbed, actually.

Prairie rose rosehips are always nice to have, bright red berries significantly larger than similar fruit from the exotic multiflora rose (which works well in smaller arrangements). Sweet everlasting is common on roadsides in the Ozarks, and the dried flowers bring light to the dark green cedar branches. Lespedeza capitataseeds look great with their mellow brown spikes arranged in clusters. Someone in the group owns a pond populated with American lotus, thus offers lotus pods which we all gravitate towards.

Bright red sumac berries! Sumac grows everywhere in the Ozarks, in old fields, roadsides, in open woodlands. The berries retain that brilliant red all winter, and chickadees will gravitate towards your garland or wreath if you include them.

Don't overlook the grasses. Big bluestem seedheads alternately look gold or khaki, and inland sea oats, little bluestem, and the foxtails are quite charismatic.

(I'll advise against using asters and goldenrods until all the seeds have flown off the stalk; otherwise, the airy and feathery seeds will rain down and scatter on your wreath every time the wind blows or you open the door.)

Of course, after the cedar branches have turned a pale, sage green, and Christmas is a mere memory, it is always fun to dismantle the arrangement and set it on fire, saving the wreath form for the next year.

Before gathering any material from public lands, please contact the land manager for permission or a necessary permit....

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