Allan Bell’s Birch Bark Nature Notes revisited
Spotted Jewel Weed or Touch-Me-Not is blooming now. It has a horn-shaped blossom which dangles on a slender stem. Strikingly colored, the horn is a rich yellow with two small orange ears below. It grows in wet places, usually rather shady, and is from two to five feet tall. To me the most interesting aspect of this plant is the seed pods. When ripe, they explode at a touch, and once you get in a patch, I’ll bet you can’t pop just one. Some say the watery juice of the stem is the most effective remedy known for poison ivy, bringing immediate relief and one-day cures. There are those who dispute this. I do not know and have no desire to find out by personal experience. Have you ever tried it?
The ditches along most roads have quite a bit of Joe-Pye Weed, adding to the other colors there with their dense clusters of lavender or pinkish purple blossoms. Most of it is three to four feet tall so it is easily spotted. Whorls of long slender, deeply toothed leaves line the stem.
Driving to Spring Green last weekend, I kept looking for the pale blue blossoms of Chicory. I was about 150 miles south before I began to see it. Then it lined both sides of the road close to the blacktop. When I looked it up, I found it is partial to limestone soil, so that’s the answer. The flower heads are open for only a few hours in the morning, fading and closing by noon to set seed. Chicory flowers have one of the shortest life spans of any wild flower. Pioneer dried, roasted and ground the roots to use with coffee or as a coffee substitute.
Late nature writer Allan Bell wrote this Birch Bark Nature Notes column for the Tomahawk Leader back on Sept. 9, 1982. In revisiting some of his vast knowledge into our natural world, the Tomahawk Historical Society invites the public to stop by the Allan Bell Memorial Nature Trail located at the Tomahawk High School parking lot. The mile-long looping trail includes interpretive signs created by students and staff from the school that tell about nature and wildlife that can be seen along the route. Check out this trail this fall. You might just find a fine patch of Spotted Jewel Weed.