Biota of the Blue Ridge: Red Trillium

A Stinking Benjamin by any other name....

…or Wake Robin, or Stinking Benjamin.

I have never been able to confirm the latter unflattering name for this lovely and common woodlands spring wildflower. Doesn’t stink to my nose. But then, we don’t all smell the same.

Or I should say, it is not true that if you’ve smelled one rose, everyone will agree with your that it is a pleasant experience.

“Smell this” I said on last week’s Rocky Knob excursion. The husband said “It smells like dirt.” The wife: “Garlic!”

It was garlic mustard, an invasive that unfortunately grows all along the trail that parallels the parkway. He couldn’t. She could. There’s a genetic variability perhaps greater for our sense of smell than for hearing or vision. Or taste via the taste buds, too? Are you a smeller or a non-smeller?

I used to play this game using common liverwort that grows commonly on rocks near our streams in SW Virginia. What do you smell, I’d ask.

Some: dirt. Others: “wax lips!” Try it for yourself.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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