Plants and Music

Wildflower Galax / Digital Photo / Fred First / Floyd County, Virginia<br />” border=”0″ height=”304″ hspace=”10″ vspace=”10″ width=”452″ /></center>I’d be interested to know how many people recognize this common Appalachian plant in winter. It doesn’t always turn such a nice red color. I think it may tend to do this more in sunny places, and it often grows under Rhododendron in the thickest of shadows. But red or green, in parts of the Southern Mountain forest, it is being gathered in quantity–poached, if you will–and sold on the “green market” to florists shops.</p>
<p>The common name for this plant is based on the latin word for MILK. There are cosmic applications of this term as well, and the name makes sense should you find a thick carpet of this plant in flower in summer: it’s white spikes give the rocky hillsides a milky appearance.</p>
<p>Who will be the first to give this plant its proper common name?</p>
<p>Hint: the nearest town to the <!-- google_ad_section_start --> Blue Ridge Music Center<!-- google_ad_section_end --> at Milepost 213 is named after this plant.</p>
<p>On the interpretive signs that someday will be placed along the trails at Fishers Peak, the hope is to tie the plant’s natural or cultural history back in some way to the traditional music. Was it named in a song? Was it used to make instruments or used to treat an illness named in a mountain tune?</p>
<p>Come back later. I’ll have a shot from yesterday’s visit to the Music Center. You can let me know if you think it will work for the upcoming newsletter. More about that directly.</p>

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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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  1. I think it’s a Galax,Fred. But living in the proximity of the town named for it does give me an edge.

  2. I’m not the first, but it’s Galax. When we got married and my husband started taking me hiking, it was one of the wildflowers he taught me the first year.

  3. Ahh, Galax. I recognized it right away. The musky scent of it means summer to me, and Appalachian forests, and home.