Spring ephemerals are something that are here one moment then gone the next. But this year I’m fortunate because I am already seeing them pop up in North Carolina, then I get to experience them all over again when I head to northern Wisconsin in May.
Species names are in the captions. Taken this morning at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. (Still need to figure out where I can find my precious skunk cabbages around here!)
The Marshalls Creek mastodon was excavated from a commercial peat mine in 1968. It’s been on display at the State Museum of Pennsylvania ever since, originally as a relief mount and more recently as a complete, free-standing mount. The tail was damaged while the animal was alive by a crushing and/or twisting force, perhaps in a fight with another mastodon.
I’m currently working on translating a giant document of Louisiana Creole folk remedies, and so I thought I would share some common plants that I’ve come across so far. There will be more to come, I’m sure, as I’m only half way through the document.
Bachoukta: Sumac, Rhus glabra. ex. Pou jonsiv gonfle fe bouyi la rasin bachoukta. For sore gums boil some sumac roots.
Betrav, betwav: Beet, Beta vulgaris. ex. Pou koklich fe en siro avek de betrav. For whooping cough make a syrup with beetroot.
Bòm, dibonm: 1) Mint, Mentha. ex. Vou pe fe enn tode avek du te, avek de kalite d afèr vou kas deyòr kòm lo bòm. You can make an herbal tea with tea, and with things you get outdoors like mint. 2) Anise, Pimpinella anisum. ex. Fe li boi ain ti tasse di te baume shauvage, metté li ain cataplasse la feuille patate sou so ti vente. Give him a cup of anise tea to drink. Put a poultice of sweet potato leaf on his little stomach.
Chasparèy, sasparèl: Sarsaparilla, Smilax ornata. Also referred to as sarsepareille which is referenced as Callicarpa americana, American Beautyberry. ex. Pou move son ye te bouyi trwa ou kat laliyonn chasparey pi ye te bwa sa. For anemia, they used to boil three or four sarsaparilla vines and drink that.
Chougra, chou gras: Pokeweed, poke berry, Phytolacca americana. Not to be confused with the “chou gras” of French Canadian origin which is “lamb’s quarters” Chenopodium album. ex. En chougra sa sanm lameriz. Sa gen de grap e se mèm koulèr ke lameriz. Pokeberry looks like wild cherries. It has clusters of berries and the same color as wild cherries.
Flè gombo fevi, fleu gumbo févi: Okra flowers, Abelmoschus esculentus. ex. To bouilles trois fleu gumbo févi et to fais li bois ein ti tasse a café tous les heures ou les démi-heures. Boil three okra flowers and you make them drink a coffee cup of that every hour or every half hour.
Frenn pikon: Prickly ash, toothache tree, Zanthoxylon clova. ex. Pou mal o don, fe twa en chik avek frenn pikon e met sa si to don. For a toothache, get a chaw of prickly ash and put it on your tooth.
Kontak: Greenbrier, carbrier, Smilax ap. Pou flou, en nimoni e de doulèr, fe en di te avek larasin kontak e enn avek larasin mamou. For the flu, pneumonia or labor pains, make a tea with greenbrier roots and another with the roots of the mamou, mix them together and drink that.
Kòrna, cornard, cornar: Jimsonweed, Datura stramonium. ex. Pou lopresyon fimen korna di taba, sa geri opresyon. For asthma smoke Jimsonweed like tobacco, that will heal the asthma.
Krokjirak, krodiròf, kouduròf: Clove, clou de girofle, Syzygium aromaticum. ex. M ap bouyi en janbon. Mo mèt krodiròf andan li. I’m boiling a ham. I put cloves in it.
Lamoulen, molène: Mullein, Aaron’s Rod, Verbascum thapsus. ex. Lamoulen, se en zèrb. Sa sanm en plant zepina. Sa fe debranch e sa fe de grenn tou piti. Mullein is an herb. It looks like a spinach plant. It has branches and makes small seeds.
Lèrb-a-vèr, albavè, larbavè: Wormseed, Chenopodium ambroisaides. ex. To lav larbavè byen e to bouy sa dan dile. To pran sa kan en nanfen gen devèr. You wash the wormseep and boil it in some milk. Give that when a child has worms.
Lèrb-malo, lèb-malo, zèrb-malo, lab-a-malo: 1) Swamp Lily, Alisma odorata. ex. Lèstæ se kouri dan l bwa pou li se fouye sa ye pèl lab-a-malo; se tou maye; se maye konm en dwa. Lester went to the woods to dig up what they call swamp lily; it’s jointed like a finger. 2) Lizard’s tail, Saururus cernuus. ex. To trouve li dan le pleri, lèb-a-malo. You find it in the swamp, lizard’s tail.
Mamou: Coral tree, mamou, Erythrina herbacea. ex. Pou fliksyon pwatrin, to pronn lagrenn mamou e fe en di te avek li pou pèrsonn-la bwa. For pneumonia, you take some mamou seeds and make a tea that the sick person will drink.
Mèksiken: Balsam pear, Momordica charantia. ex. Pou de koupir, met en mòrso mèksiken si to koupir, ou met di mèksiken don wiski e vide sa si laple. For cuts, put a piece of balsam pear on your cut, or put some balsam pear in whiskey and pour that on your wound.
Plakmignen, plèkmiyen, plaqueminier: Persimmon tree, Diospyros virginiana. ex. Vous pren des bourgeons plaqueminier et bouilli-yé. Vous mette dé ti pincées borax en dans-là. Vous gargarize la gorge avec ça. Take some persimmon buds and boil them. Mix in two small pinches of borax. Gargle with that.
Rave, raven, ravè: Cockroach, Blattodea. ex. En lòt kichò ye te kònen sèrvi si to te ge en bobo ki te e abouti pou vini myeu, ye te me en rave on sa. Another thing they used if you had a sore that was coming to a head and healing, they would put a cockroach on it.
Refò, raifort: Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana. ex. Pou jonsiv gonfle, pron en rasin refò e to chik sa konm la gonm. For sore gums you take some horseradish root and chew it like gum.
Sasafrwa, sasafra, dibwa gombo: Sassafras, Sassafras albidum. ex. Pou rezipel kon li vini blon ye te pron farin, trwa ti moso sasafra pi wiski e ye te met sa onsonm pou fe kataplonm. For erysipelas, hen it turned white they used to take flour, three pieces of sassafras and whiskey, and they put all of that together to make a poultice.
Siro, sureau: 1) Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis. “fey siro” elderberry leaves, “laflè siro” elderberry flowers. ex. Pou la fyev on frison mase flè siro on jou Fet de Dche pi bouyi sa don dolo pi bwa ti vè trwa fwa pa jou. For fever with chills collect elderberry leaves on Corpus Christi Day and boil them in water and then drink a glass of it three times a day. 2) Blackberry, Rhubus genus.
Sol, sòl: Willow, saule, Salix alba. ex. Pou deronjmon, pronn de kalite lekòrch konm frenn e sòl, avek larasin kontak e en ti kirelye di sel opsonm. For diarrhea, take two kinds of bark like ash or willow, with some greenbrier roots and a teaspoonful of Epsom salt.
Zèrb-koken, zèr-koken, zèr-kotchen, zar-koken: Cocklebur, Xanthium americanum, Xanthium strumarium L. ex. Zèr-koken, kan li chèch li kòl an to lenj, li s tach an to lenj. Cocklebur, when it’s dry it sticks to your clothes.
Eastern tent caterpillar nest (Malacosoma americanum) on a cherry tree. These guys are pretty late instar (almost ready to pupate), so they’re big and fuzzy, and their nest is stuffed with frass pellets (caterpillar poop) along with a few 4cm+ long cats.
The forest floor is covered in these amazing trout-lilies (Erythonium americanum). This patch was getting a lot of sun, and the leaves have turned a lurid purple. Trout-lilies are part of a group of plants - the spring ephemerals - that get their blooming done early, sneaking it in before there are enough leaves on the trees to darken the forest floor.
Trout Lily - Erythronium americanum. Watercolor on Illustration Board.
A common and beautiful woodland wildflower native to eastern North America. Named for its unique dappled leaves, the trout lily blooms in early spring and is sometimes found in huge colonies of plants that have spread via underground offsets from their bulbs.
I feel another area of vocabulary that often gets neglected when studying Classical languages is hobbies, yet if your intention is to be conversationally fluent they are incredibly important to be able to discuss! Here below are a few popular hobbies but of course it’s an incomplete list. If you have a hobby not mentioned, feel free to send me an ask! John C. Traupman’s Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency also has really nice compilation of hobbies in his chapter “Leisure Activities”, I used it on occasion for my own list, in fact!
As always questions, comments, or suggestions are most welcome!
avocamentum -i hobby
interretenavigo  I surf the web
linguisstudeo  I study languages N.B. the dative is used with objects of the verb studere, think ‘I dedicate myself to ____’ to remember!
> linguaeGraecaestudeo  I study Ancient Greek
> linguaeLatinaestudeo  I study Latin
> linguisclassicisstudeo  I study classical languages
libroslego  I read books
> ephemerides lego  I read magazines
> acta diurnalego  I read the newspaper, N.B. though acta diurna is singular in meaning, it is always plural in form. Words like these are called pluralia tanta.
pelliculasspecto  I watch movies
> series cinematographicasspecto  I watch TV shows
> ludos specto  I watch sports
pediludium -i soccer, football
basipila -ae baseball
harpastum -i rugbee
harpastum -i Americanum -i American football
lusor -oris player
pilamiaceo  I throw the ball
cuamicīs meīssalto  I dance with my friends
in culinācoquo  I cook in the kitchen
in areā ludo, lusi, lusum  I play in the yard
in hortōlaboro  I work in the garden
epistolas ad amicos scribo  I write letters to friends
chartulislusoriisludo  I play cards
> chartula -ae lusoria -ae playing card
musicaeausculto  I listen to music, N.B. ausculto takes the dative, thanks to Diaphanus for pointing this out!
> musica -ae classica -ae classical music
> musica -ae barocca -ae baroque music
> musica -ae vulgaris -is pop music, also popularis -is
> musica -ae hodierna -ae modern music
carmencompono  I compose a song
textumacū pingo  I embroider fabric, N.B. the acū is a necessary part of this phrase meaning ‘by means of a needle’
picturampingo  I paint a picture
fabulas fautoriasscribo  I write fanfics
> fautoritas -atis fandom
> fautor -oris, fautrix -icis fan
> liber -i book
rescolligo  to collect things
vestemtexo  I knit a piece of clothing
birotamguberno  I ride my bike, (lit. I drive my bike)
The amazing bark of Zanthoxylum americanum (prickly ash, toothache tree) a small tree or large shrub. Grown mainly for the trunk it has spiny young shoots with small yellowish green flowers crowded around the joints of the previous season’s shoots. The bark and fruit have a pungent acrid taste that is said to numb the mouth. Here it is underplanted by Danae racemosa (Alexandrian laurel) which can cope well with the dry shade. I find the contrast of this planting makes me smile as the tough persona created by the tree bark is embraced by a plant often called ‘soft ruscus’ in the floristry trade.
“It’s super, super scary,” says F. Scott Dahlgren, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If you don’t treat for Rocky Mountain spotted fever by the fifth day of illness, there’s a really good chance you’re going to die,” says Dahlgren. “And it’s an ugly, ugly death, too,” he adds. “It’s a horrific thing to go through and to see a loved one go through.”
New findings published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by an international team of researchers, including Museum Curator Ross MacPhee, are revising estimates of the age of American mastodon fossils—and helping to resolve a quandary about how these extinct relatives of elephants once lived in the Arctic and Subarctic.
Over the course of the late Pleistocene, between about 10,000 and 125,000 years ago, the American mastodon became widespread and occupied many parts of continental North America as well as peripheral locations like the tropics of Honduras and the Arctic coast of Alaska.
Existing age estimates of American mastodon fossils had indicated that these animals lived in the Arctic and Subarctic when the area was covered by ice caps—a timeline that was at odds with what scientists know about the massive animals’ preferred habitat: forests and wetlands abundant with leafy food.
The new research, which adjusts fossil age estimates based on new radiocarbon dates, suggests that the Arctic and Subarctic were only temporary homes to mastodons when the climate there was warm.
Bear’s Head Tooth Mushroom – Hericium americanum It tastes like lobster or crab if prepared in butter, but can be bitter if old. It is also a great medical mushroom sort of a mental stimulant. It grows on living and dead deciduous trees. It can grow quite high in the tree. So you may have to climb to get one. Happy Hunting