The Trail Of Wildlings
On a Sunday in July about 2:30 I started for a walk to Trevorton Mountains for some huckleberries. This mountain is loaded with the early blue, the high blue, and a black huckleberry.
Going up the mountain road a young rabbit crossed in front of me. He was in no hurry and as he looked me over seemed to say, "I know you won't hurt me, so I'll just take my good old time to cross this road."
About a half a mile farther a large gray squirrel scampered in front of me. He was there and then gone like a flash. A few feet farther on the storm which had been threatening all afternoon let loose with a heavy downpour. I hurried to a big pine tree and stood under its protecting branches until the rain ceased, then followed the road to the top of the mountain. There, the sun was shining brightly and birds singing all around me.
I left the road and started thru the woods picking huckleberries in every small clearing. All at once I spied a plant I had not seen for several years. It was Indian Pipe, also called Ghost-Flower, Ice-Plant, Corpse-Flower. Its botanical name is Monotropa Uniflora. Its preferred habitat is the heavily shaded, moist rich woods, especially under pine and oak trees. Its flowering season is June until August and takes me back to some of my favorite backyard designs. Its distribution is almost throughout North America. These plants on an average grow about four to ten inches high with several stalks to a clump. There were about thirty clumps and were the largest I have ever seen. One clump had thirteen scapes and was fourteen inches high.
I know this plant is a branded sinner because it is a ghoulish parasite, colorless in every part, waxy, cold and clammy, with no leaves, only scaly bracts. This pirate has no chlorophyll because it lives on juices of living plants or on decaying matter of dead ones. So by draining the already digested food of its neighbors it has lost its desire to seek food from the soil. To look at this weirdly beautiful plant, one would never think that it is related to some of our most beautiful flowers - the rhododendrons, the laurels, the azaleas. It s botanical name means a flower once turned, and, as if it realizes its wickedness, it turns black with shame after being picked.
It reminded me of an old Indian legend about Ghost Pipes. It seems that once upon a time a lot of Indian chiefs attended a council and alter ail the council affairs were settled, they knocked the ashes out of their pipes and departed. Next year the Ghost-Pipes came up where the chiefs emptied their pipes. As I gazed on the magnificent display around be I thought of this old legend and wondered how many chiefs had attended at this council.
I returned home with a pail full of huckleberries and very well pleased with my walk, even though 1 was slightly damp.
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