Spring beauties: glorious…and also the “ultimate tater tot.”

Mertensia, or Virginia Bluebells and Spring Beauties
I just love, love, love this photo of spring beauties, taken along the banks of the Susquehanna yesterday. Think I’m gonna blow it up to poster size and hang it on my living room walls.
I was surprised to see so many spring beauties yesterday since they are normally the first wildflower to bloom along the riverbank.
But this year,  spring beauties are blooming along with the mertensia, making the riverbank twice as beautiful. Would never have conceived, as the piece below relates, of this beautiul little plant as “the ultimate tater tot.”
Also posting a picture of mertensia, or Virginia Cowslip or Virginia Bluebells. Huge swaths of them are making the riverbank absolutely spectacular to view.
But back to the spring beauties–Claytonia virginica– which is also a delicious vegetable. It may be the definitive tater tot. Native to moist woodlands, sunny stream banks, and thickets in eastern North America, this low-growing plant has tiny underground tubers that can be prepared and eaten just like potatoes. Indeed, anothercommon name for the spring beauty is the “fairy spud.”

A member of the Portulacaceae, or portulaca family, and a cousin to other well-known wild edibles such as purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and miner’s lettuce (Montia perfoliata), spring beauty is one of about 15 species in the Claytonia genus. The genus is distributed throughout North America and Australasia and has long been a source of good snacking. Both the Iroquois and Algonquin dined on the boiled or roasted tubers of Claytonia virginica.

A perennial herb, spring beauty usually grows about six inches tall and eight inches wide. It sports grasslike, succulent, dark green leaves. In early spring, dense racemes of star-shaped, pink-tinged white flowers appear and last for about a month. When spring beauties blossom in large drifts across the landscape, the effect is stunning.

The tubers are found about two to three inches under the soil and measure from a half inch to two inches in diameter. In his classic culinary field guide, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Euell Gibbons wrote a charming chapter on these wild edible treats. He remarked that the “spuds” don’t really taste like potatoes at all but rather are sweeter in flavor, like boiled chestnuts, though with a softer, smoother texture.

However, even back in 1970, Gibbons sounded a note of caution and restraint. He warned against overharvesting the tubers in the wild and diminishing the plants’ flowering display. “The tubers are good food for the body,” he wrote, “but after a long winter, the pale-rose flowers in early spring are food for the soul.”

Two-week search for a tiny, tiny flower pays off


kidney buttercupThis little lad led me a merry chase and it took two weeks to identify it. If you walk along the Back Mouintain Trail this small — 6 inch — plant is everywhere but the flower is tiny, tiny, tiny, about the size of a small pea.
That, I think, is why I got so confused, because it turns out to be a member of the buttercup family and my thoughts of buttercups are always big, showy, glossy and bright, bright.
Well ranunculus abortivus — known by the two confounding names of either Small flowered crowfoot or kidney leaved buttercup — is the classic exceotion to the rule.
the long excerpt that follows, on the edibility of buttercups, is interesting reading, I think.

edible realm. Potential famine food. I also learned at an early age they grow in wet places such as near quicksand.

Note the kidney-shaped lower leaves of the Ranuculus abortivus.

The only use for our buttercups was the childhood game of holding the yellow blossom under someone’s chin to see if they “liked” butter. The chin always lights up with a yellow glow. It took scientists a century to figure out why.

Ranunculus bulbosus

Buttercups, like horseradish, engage in chemical warfare. In horseradish the heat one tastes comes from crushing cells that hold two different chemicals apart which are only peppery when they combine. This is to discourage consumption by me, thee and the denizens of nature. The buttercup is similar in that the offending chemical, a glycoside called Ranunculin, is not a problem until the plant’s cells are crushed. Then an almost instant enzyme reaction turning Ranuculin into Protoanemonin, a bitter, irritating, yellow oil. The animals most bothered by buttercups are grazing cows then horses, sheep and pigs, the latter two sometimes suffering paralysis. Humans are rarely poisoned by buttercups because they taste so bad. It is not fatal in small amounts but a significant irritant that can make you ill with gastric distress.

Ranunculus ficaria, the Fig Buttercup

So, which part is toxic? The entire plant: Sap, flowers, seeds, and leaves but the greatest concentration is in the yellow flowers, next are the shoots which have one-sixth as much. However, dried the plant can be eaten by cows. Heat also destroys the toxin. According to the late poisonous plant expert John M.Kingsbury, “as far as has been determined they [Buttercups) all contain the same toxic principle, although in varying amounts, and produce an equivalent syndrome.” Thus our goal is to use species that have small amounts and/or which can be easily removed. R. sceleratus has 2.5% Protoanemonin (dry weight basis) and R. bulbosa 1.45%. R. repens has only 0.27%.

Ranunculus ficaria bulbils also grow in the leaf axils.

Which ones have been consumed? Ranunculus abortivus (leaves boiled) Ranunculus acris (leaves boiled) Ranunculus aquatilis (entire plant boiled) Ranunculus bulbosus (roots, much boiled or after drying, young flowers pickled, ) Ranunculus californicus (seeds parched and pulverized, there are about 30 per pod and are approximately 18% protein, 26% oil) Ranunculus cynbalaria (mature leaves boiled) Ranunculus edulis (tubers, young stems and leaves boiled) Ranunculus ficaria (young leaves eaten raw in salads, bleached stems cooked and eaten, bulbils — both leaf axils and roots — cooked with meat and eaten, flower buds substituted for capers) Ranunculus inamoenus (roots cooked) Ranunculus lapponicus (leaves and stems boiled) Ranunculus occidentalis var. eisenii (seeds parched) Ranunculus occidentalis var. rattanii (seeds parched) Ranunculus pallasii (shoots and young roots boiled) Ranunculus polyanthemos (leaves pickled first in salt water then added to cheese) Ranunculus reptans (roots cooked on hot rocks) Ranunculous repens (leaves boiled, flowers pickled after boiling) Ranunculus sativus (raw stems eaten as is) and Ranunculus sceleratus (leaves boiled and or fermented.) R. acris, R. bulbosa, R. edulis, R. ficaria, R. repens, and R. sceleratus were introduced from Europe.

Among the Native Americans who consumed buttercups in various ways were the: Cherokee, Gosiute, Miwok, Neeshenam, Iroquois, Acoma, Inuktitut (Eskimos) Keres, Laguna, Mendocino, Pomo, Hesquiat, Makah, Quileute, and Costanoan.

Pliny the Elder

The genus name, Ranunculus, is Dead Latin for small frog. Pliny the Elder, 23-79 AD, used that name for the buttercup which should tell you man has been familiar with the plant family for a long time. Farmers long ago thought cows eating buttercups would improve the color of their butter. Some farmers even rubbed the yellow blossoms on the udders. Considering the flowers can be irritating that probably did not work out well. However, a tea made from buttercups and poured on the ground drives earthworms to the surface. The yellow flowers yield a light fawn dye if alum is used as a mordant, green with chrome as the mordant, and yellow with tin as the mordant. Mordants set the color on the fabric.

Another Beautiful day ruined . Another beautiful fisher murdered

fisherWalking through an overgrown field at Frances Slocum yesterday — just winding up a beautiful day — and run across this waste, this horror, this desecration. Unforgivable. Reposting my essay from when I found the fist dead fisher.

The two bodies were so relatively close together I wouldn’t be surprised if the same madman is responsible for both deaths.

By Bob Quarteroni

What a waste. What a stupid, senseless waste.

Piled by the side at one of the trailheads of my favorite nature retreat — Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County — were the carcasses of a deer and a fisher.

Whomever shot them must have been so proud of his or her “accomplishment” that they dragged them out of the woods and put them on display by the side of the road.

The sickness of this leaves me, simply, furious.

Killing for killing sake, that’s all it is.

There’s no excuse, no rational one anyhow.

Oh, there’s the urban (actually forest) myth that fishers are vicious killers of cats and should be killed on sight.

Richard Kays, curators of mammals at the New York State Museum, decided to look into that when he “started noticing that fishers were taking the blame for cats disappearing all over the Northeast,” as he wrote in the New York Times.

He and his assistant found 25 kill sites and collected diet samples from 24 fishers. “We washed the samples and compared the remaining fur, feathers, and bones with our museum collections to identify the remains. We found a little bit of everything — except cat.”

He’s now studying fresh samples and says “Maybe those samples will have the first physical evidence of a fisher eating a cat, and I can finally believe all these frightening tales about cat-eating fishers. Until then, I’ll remain a skeptic, and keep blaming the coyote.”

The only other possible reason to “harvest” a fisher (a slimy word hunters and their fellow travelers use that I detest when it should simply be the far more accurate kill) is for its fur, and this fisher, beaten up as it was, had its fur intact.

Since fishers are known to stay at deer carcasses indefinitely it’s possible this mad dog first shot the deer and left it there until the fisher found it and then killed it as well, and then – like a cat displaying his killed birds on your door step – drug them out of the woods and put them on display at the side of the road, proud of his perversity and, in his damaged eyes, his prowess as a hunter.

Maybe I’m wrong and we’ll never know for sure, but that’s exactly what it looks like: Killing for killing’s sake. Bad boys with deadly toys showing off, having their twisted, deadly version of fun, a satanic blood sport if there ever was one.

I think I’m especially upset because I’ve never been fortunate enough to see a live fisher. I would be so grateful, so in awe if I could just catch a glimpse of this secretive member of the mustelid (weasel) family, which has been resurrected from the brink of extinction.

They were reintroduced to Pennsylvania in 1994 after being wiped out by trappings and habitat changes, say Game Commission officials.

So it’s an environmental miracle, similar to the successful attempt to restore bald eagle populations in the state. It’s something to applaud and ooh and ah over, not to kill and treat as trash.

Imagine the outrage if a bald eagle had been found like this?

Fishers, being less cuddly and warm and fuzzy aren’t going to get that kind of reaction, but they do from me, and I deeply resent the fact that there’s one less fisher I might see, and one from the park I spend so much time at.

And the deer, a beautiful creature perfectly adapted to the Pennsylvania woods, is no less valuable.

If it had been taken by a licensed hunter it would at least have provided meat and a hide and it would have been “harvested” in a legal manner by someone rational. Now, it’s just goo melting into the road.

What possesses people to kill so wantonly, for no other reason than the fact that they can?

These people are scary. If they can be so unfeeling about innocent animals, who knows how hardened their hearts may be to people as well. Cruelty can fester in a heart and be stoked by barbarous acts, large and small.

And such barbarity can be a sign of worse – much worse – to come.

Nikolas Cruz, who allegedly killed 17 people at a California school last week, “…is said to have talked about shooting small animals, including lizards, frogs, and a neighbor’s chickens….” according to a statement released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

I don’t think it’s a bridge too far to think that the Frances Slocum shooter may be headed in the same sick, twisted direction.

“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men,” Leonardo Da Vinci said.

Based on this abomination, that time is far, far away.


NRA Site calls me “radical gun hater” and “gun hating extremist.” Wonder what they really think ;–)

nraThe NRA is beyond tone-deaf with this push to allow easier access to silencers: Bob Quarteroni

By Bob Quarteroni

The National Rifle Association, perpetually deaf to any rational, sensible gun law or regulation, has apparently lost what’s left of its institutional mind as well.

Bob Quarteroni (PennLive file)

The latest weirdness to come out of the gang that couldn’t think straight misses the mark, according to US News, “The NRA and some in the gun industry have a new get-rich-quick scheme that’s so outrageous, it’s almost impossible to believe.”

In a normal universe, perhaps.

But nothing — nothing — is impossible to believe about this sanity-challenged bunch. But this one still beggars the imagination:

The NRA is backing “The Hearing Protection Act,” designed to make it far easier for hunters – anyone actually — to obtain gun silencers.

And the reason this is so urgently needed?

Because they are afraid the poor dears out hunting are hurting their ears with the loud bang-bangs they have to put up with. Seriously.

“Many gun owners and sportsmen suffer severe hearing loss after years of shooting, and yet the tool necessary to reduce such loss is onerously regulated and taxed. It doesn’t make any sense,” Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Affairs, said in a statement.

Well, he would know about not making sense, no doubt about that.

(And, by the by, if anyone is really worried about their hearing being damaged by the sounds of gunfire, there’s a simple, inexpensive solution everyone can agree on: The NRA sells hearing protection devices on its website store, starting at $29.99.)

Trump signs bill revoking Obama-era gun checks for mentally ill Social Security recipients

Trump signs bill revoking Obama-era gun checks for mentally ill Social Security recipients

Meanwhile, critics of the move say they fear it signals the beginning of what may be more gun control rollbacks under Trump, who has been vocal about his support for the NRA and Second Amendment rights.

Right now, silencers are available only to gun owners who pay a $200 tax and undergo a nine-month background check. Pennsylvania is one of 42 states where owning a silencer is legal.

The bill would axe the tax and the vetting process. Buying a silencer would be similar to buying a hunting rifle, which has no federal waiting period. Instead, it’s up to each individual state.

The result, as the New York Times said in an editorial is that “Inevitably, they will show up in the hands of the mass shooters who indulge macho fantasies in brandishing the adapted military assault weapons and large ammunition clips available in the civilian market.”

Many critics rightly point out that shots muffled by silencers would make it harder for potential victims to know that carnage was headed their way and harder for police to pinpoint and respond to a mass shooting.

Which is why gun-control groups and many Democrats are pushing back against the bill, pointing out the torrent of public gun massacres as examples of why guns should be loud and their sound recognizable to potential victims, police and first responders.

As Salon put it: “By muffling the noise generated with every shot…a silencer would provide a new degree of intimacy for public mass murder, delaying by crucial seconds or minutes the moment when someone calls the police after overhearing strange bangs coming from Theater 4 or Classroom D.”

If budgets are statements of priorities, then Trump's are all out-of-whack: Bob Quarteroni

If budgets are statements of priorities, then Trump’s are all out-of-whack: Bob Quarteroni

Donald Trump says he wants to cut government waste? He could start at home.

That’s not a worry for First Son (and hunter) Donald Trump Jr. who, has lent his voice to this effort, arguing in a YouTube video produced by silencer manufacturer SilencerCo, that “it’s a health issue.” For good measure, he added that it can help with getting “little kids into the game.”

So why is the NRA so hot over this?

The same reason they are so hot over anything that can bring more firearms and accessories into the market: A blind, unhinged devotion to their twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment.

They never worry about the consequences of the hell they unleash on the public with each new assault on the commonweal. That would require a moral compass, an ability to reason clearly and a genuine concern with the public safety and welfare.

Novelist Stephen King, who knows a bit about horror and is a proud gun owner, commented on that arrogant, stupid attitude in an opinion piece in the Bangor Daily News.

“I think we all understand that. You can outlaw AR-15s, but you can’t outlaw crazy. The next Adam Lanza is out there somewhere….The job we all have, as responsible Americans, is to make it as hard for these loonies as possible.”

But when the loonies are on the inside looking out, that becomes almost impossible to achieve.

Bob Quarteroni, a frequent PennLive Opinion contributor, is a former columnist and editor at the Centre Daily Times. He lives in Swoyersville, Pa. Readers may email .pennlive.com/opinion/2018/05/people_with_disabilities_face.html#InterArticle_Center_0

Hobblebush redux: So you can get a look at the real — and the unreal “flowers.”

hobblenewHobblebush redux. Even though I just posted a pic of hobblebush last week I wanted to post this one, because it’s in full flower. the small five-petaled flowers in the middle (all viburnms have five petals) are the actual flowers. the big show “flowers” on the outside are fake. They remind me of papier mache (sp?). Cool way for a plant to get noticed, that’s for sure

At this time of year moist, rich woods are brilliantly lit up with the white flowers of a scraggly shrub called Hobblebush, whose name is derived from the tendency of its sprawling branches to trip people walking through the woods.

Hobblebush’s inflorescences consist of clusters of blossoms that together can measure six to eight inches across. The smaller flowers in the center (still buds in this photo) are fertile, possessing both stamens and pistils, while the larger flowers in the outermost ring are sterile. The inner fertile flowers produce fruit if pollinated and fertilized. The larger outer flowers, being sterile, do not produce fruit — their sole function is to attract insects to pollinate the central mass of fertile flowers

Goldthread: Medical miracle plant

Pulled into a small gated path on an SGL on the way home yesterday for a break from a long day at Penn Dental yesterdaygold and saw approximatley 4 trillion goldthread plants, a medical miracle. Unfortunately, none were in bloom yet but the photo shows the golden root from where it gets its name.

Traditional Uses for Goldthread

Goldthread is an important herb in both Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine. Starting in the Tang dynasty, goldthread was used to make a medicine called Huang-Lian-Jie-Du Decoction (HLJDD), which is still used today. Herbalist rely on HLJDD to address a variety of ailments, including soothing irritation, promoting normal blood sugar, and supporting gastrointestinal health.[1, 2]

Native Americans used the herb as a digestive aid and to remedy infections and mouth sores.[3] It’s from this that goldthread got the nickname “canker root.” The practical value of goldthread wasn’t limited to therapeutic applications; because of its bright gold color, Indigenous Americans also used goldthread to produce a yellow dye and to flavor beer.

Health Benefits of Goldthread

The healing properties of goldthread aren’t simply folkloric in nature. Modern medicine has started to examine the potential health benefits of this herb. Animal testing confirms that goldthread can soothe redness, swelling, and irritation.[4] Studies have found that goldthread can promote normal blood sugar[5] and even support brain health.[2]

Goldthread owes its healing abilities to high concentrations of several potent alkaloid compounds. Of these, berberine is most commonly associated with goldthread’s benefits. Berberine has dozens of therapeutic applications. It can protect against some types of harmful organisms and soothe irritated tissue. It promotes normal lipid profiles and is even known to boost the immune system.[2] Multiple studies suggest that berberine may be of benefit for those suffering from obesity. Berberine promotes heart health, bone and joint health, brain health, digestive health, liver health, and is beneficial for the respiratory system.[2] Perhaps most intriguing of all, berberine has been evaluated for activity against cancer but further research is necessary to fully understand its potential or draw conclusions.[6]

Berberine isn’t goldthread’s only beneficial compound, though. Other alkaloids present in goldthread include palmatine, epiberberine, jaterorhizine, columbamine, and coptisine. Coptisine, in particular, has received attention from researchers recently. It’s currently being examined for its ability to promote brain health. Among its other positive attributes, coptisine may help a fever, relieve discomfort, support heart health, and it’s a strong antioxidant. Additionally, it encourages normal cellular respiration.[7]

Where to Find Goldthread

Many varieties of goldthread are native to Asia and North America and some are actually critically endangered. There are two reasons for this—one is genetic and one is man-made. The genetic cause is a random mutation that results in low pollen and seed production in certain species of goldthread. This mutation affects up to 80% of Coptis teeta, a type of goldthread from the eastern Himalayas. The second cause is overexploitation by humans. Goldthread is a victim of its own success. Its desirable properties as a therapeutic herb have

After a long day at Penn Dental, feeling seriously mental. So a little saxifrage is probably in order.

saxifrageJust back from a looonnnnnggggg day at Penn Dental. Everything was ok but it just took forever so I was there for a double session, 10-12 and 1-2:30. I still get stellar treatment ever since I wrote a personal email to Penn president Amy Guttman and she got personally involved. My student dentist today said there’ still “several thousand” dollars in your account so I haven’t paid for anyting for years and looks like I won’t for more years. Always first-class treatment for complex problems like mine and I can’t recommend them too highly.
But got up at 4:30, Schuykill Expwy madness both ways, 91 degrees there and I’m one fried cookie. So just trying to download the last few Back Mountain waterfall pics before I go home and wrestle the bedroom AC in, since i think it’s gonna be needed tonight.
So here we have Early, or small leaf, or Virginia Saxifrage, juist starting to blossom. Eventually the flowers will be on an 8 inch or so stem.
Other Common Name: Virginia Saxifrage

Family: Saxifragaceae (saxifrages)
Description: The flowers of early saxifrage arise at the tops of leafless stems (scapes), begin blooming when only 3–4 inches tall, and continue while growing to 1 foot tall. At first, flowers are in tight clusters, becoming looser with time. Each flower has 5 white, pointed petals and 10 stamens. Blooms February–June. Leaves in a basal rosette, fleshy, ovate, narrowing toward the base, with scalloped margins.

Similar species: Texas saxifrage (M. texana) is similar but is more often found in the southwestern part of the Ozarks (southwestern Missouri). It blooms April–May and is most common on sandstone and chert glades. Forbes’s saxifrage (M. pensylvanica var. forbesii) has green, very small flowers, on stalks to 3 feet tall, in wide-spreading clusters. Its basal leaves are up to 8 inches long, ovate, the edges slightly wavy. It blooms April–June and usually grows on moist, north-facing sandstone bluffs in east-central Missouri, from Boone to Lincoln to St. Francois counties. It is rare in our state but usually abundant where encountered.

Size: Height: to about 1 foot.

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