• Lady’s Mantle, Alchemilla mollis

    Alchemilla mollis is a shade tolerant perennial that is native to southern Europe (Mahr 2010). It belongs in the Rosaceae family. A. mollis is hardy in zones 3-8. This perennial is known for its bright yellow flowers and 6” across scalloped leaves. The plant grows to about 1-2 feet tall and requires a 1½ foot spread (Clausen 2011). A. mollis grows well in most soil types, but prefers well drained, consistently moist soils (Perry). Another notable trait of this plant is its resistance to deer-feeding and many pests.

    A. mollis has a long history of use, stemming all the way back to early Celtic druids who believed that the early morning dew on the leaves of the plant possessed healing powers (Carr-Gomm 2007). The genus Alchemilla comes from the word alchemy because this herb was believed to be a powerful cure for most ailments. A French alchemist named Armand Barbault wrote about using the dew from Lady’s Mantle to create an elixir of life in his book Gold of a Thousand Mornings (Carr-Gomm 2007).

    Many uses for the plant today include treatment for stomach ailments, astringent for wounds, lotions for skin, dyes, and even as a leafy addition to salads (HipHerb). Teas can be made from the leaves of the plant as well. Today, this plant is often used as a cut flower in bouquets and vase arrangements A. mollis is also commonly used in landscape design as a perennial border due to the dew that forms along the leaves as well as the plant’s tolerance for most soil conditions (Collins 2009).

  • Wes Jackson and the Land Institute

    The 10,000-year-old problem, according to Wes Jackson, is that “…agriculture in most places is based on practices that use up limited resources. The major grains, like wheat and corn, are planted afresh each year. When the fields are later plowed, they lose soil. The soil that remains in these fields loses nitrogen and carbon.”

    He continues to describe the rate of soil loss in the world due to erosion when it is unplanted, and how the soil left under the eroded soil is lacking in nutrients. His solution to this problem is simple: perennials. A perennial is a plant that puts down strong roots into the ground to hold the soil in place and survives year round. Instead of replanting every year, a farmer would plant once and let nature do the rest. In my mind, this makes incredible sense. A person has to wonder why people didn’t think of it sooner. Wes Jackson was inspired by the prairies surrounding his home in Kansas. He knew that the native grasses around his home actually improved soil quality as the years went on, instead of depleting it. The answer to his problem was to begin selectively breeding strains of different crops, including strains of wheat. The main problem he has encountered is in his attempt to change the social norm of what a farm should be. People generally see farms as involving plowing, planting, and harvesting; to begin the cycle all over the next year. People have been farming this way for a very long time. How do you explain to them that one crop can be harvested for many years?

    Wes Jackson believes that the path to a better, “greener” world begins with redesigning the way we get our food. I have to agree with him. There’s no point in reducing our CO2 emissions if we’ve lost all our soil and our nutrients.

  • Trillium

    Trillium is one of my favorite flowers. It has many interesting characteristics, and the first time I saw it was when I was out for a run in the woods. I took the photo above of the lone red trillium I encountered that day. I had to go home and attempt to identify it on my computer. Luckily, it is an easy identification to make. Trillium is so interesting and captivating because it is one of the first plants to pop out of the ground in early spring. One of the more interesting facts about Trillium is that they are myrmecochorous; ants spread the seeds! Anywhere that you find wild trillium, just think of how it got there. Some little ants nearby carried it and acted as its gardener. It’s a great example of a symbiotic relationship, as the ants actually consume the fleshy structures that are attached to the seeds, called elaiosomes. Elaiosomes exist solely to attract ants.