Appalachian Thursday – Early Spring Flowers

Bloodroot in bloomAt last. It’s the time of year when the woods begin greening and the first flowers come pushing through last year’s leaf litter.

Trout lilies, toothwort, and bloodroot. I love how bloodroot practically sparkles with its perfect white petals against the grey of waning winter.

All of these plants are more than just pretty, being used for medicine or food (I am NOT recommending consuming ANY of these plants–this is just some interesting information.)

BLOODROOT – The plant has been used for medicinal purposes since the American Indians used it to treat skin conditions and as a blood purifier. When you cut or break the stem of bloodroot, the sap looks like blood.

Of course, it’s also poisonous.

Today it’s touted as a treatment for skin cancer and for plaque and gum disease. It can also induce vomiting.

CUT-LEAF TOOTHWORT – A member of the mustard family, the leaves, flowers, and root are all edible with a peppery taste that would be nice in salads. The roots were also once chewed as a cold remedy or made into a tea to treat hoarseness.

TROUT LILY – The lovely, little trout lilies are actually edible. You can use the leaves and blossoms in salads or, if you collect enough of them, roast the corms. Eat enough of them and they will cause vomiting, though, so moderation is key!

Again, I’m not suggesting you go out and start sampling spring flowers in the forests of Appalachia. But I do find it interesting to consider the types of “medicine” my great-grandmother might have used.

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