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A Trip to the Ozarks #6

Consequently I had ample opportunity to explore the Moutains and learn
something of their flora and to compare it with the higher mountains
farther east. Of course one cannot expect to find in Mountains of the
elevation of the Ozarks, which are not common, but all too common in
the higher eastern mountains. For instance one does not find in the
Ozarks the Greal Laurel, or Mountain Laurel, or Rosebay (R. maximum) with
its rose-colored bell shaped flowers which are tinged with orange or
yellow, nor does he find the Carolina or Catawba Rho dodendron,
( R. catawbiense) with its lilac purple flowers; nor does he find the
Calico Bush, or, as the Mountaineers call it, " the Ivy," with its flowers
varying from pink to white, and which with the Great Laurel, forms
dense, impenetrable thicket-like masses along high mountain gorges, but
one does find in the Ozarks a number of plants which are common as well
to the lower ans to the higher mountain ranges of the Eastern and South-
eastern United States.

I found in all a goodlt number of herbs, shrubs and trees with which I
was well acquainted. Some were new to me. One of the commonest plants
in the Ozarks was " The Sweet Horse Mint ", or American Dittany (Cunila
origanoides. A member of the Mint family, or Labiatae, it well deserves
the name of " Sweet Horse Mint ", for every part of the Plant is pleasant
and aromatic. Growing, as it usually does, in dry, open woods, it bears
purplish-pink flowers, and is, in every respect, a fine, typical, rep-
resentative mountain plant.

When I first saw it it seemed quite familiar to me, but it was sometime
before I could recall its name, for it had been 31 years since I had
collected it for the first and only time on the high mountins of
East Tennessee when it grew at an elevation of over 5000 feet. This
sweet Horse Mint can be easily cultivated, and for that reason it is
sometimes found in the wild-flower gardens of those who have permanent
summer residences in the Ozarks.

A shrub which was not very common, in fact it is rare west of the Alle-
ghanies was Squaw Huckleberry, or Deer Berry (Polycodium staminium)
a member of the Vacciniaceae or Huckleberry Family. Its berries, unlike
the berries of the other members of the Huckleberry family, are not
edible, for they are bitter, unpalatable and somewhat astringent. An
eminent botanist describing this shrub has characterized the taste of
the berries as "mawkish". A shrub, some 2 1/2 feet high, it bears dull
yellow or purplish flowers, but its whitish or dark purple pear-shaped
berries, as they hang drooping gracefully on their pedicels, make this
bush an attractive feature of the surrounding woods. It is called " the
Deer Berry " because years ago, when deer abounded in the Alleghanies,
the Squaw Huckleberry formed a favorite food of the Mountain Deer.

Preferring, as it seems to prefer, open sunny places instead of the deep
woods one frequently finds in the Ozarks, " The Great Ironweed, " or
Arkansas Ironweed (Veronica arkansana). This is a plant that has a
somewhat limited range for it is found from Missouri to Texas only. In
the botanies it is stated that it grows on prairies and along streams.
While I found it frequently along Mountain roads I found it once only
in the vicinity of any stream. A plant some 10 or 12 feet high, it is
one of the most conspicuous of the Ozark autumn flowers and the more so
as its short, hemispherical, stout penduncled heads of reddish purple
flowers are subtended by greenish or reddish bracts - a combination of
colors which makes the inflorescence both pleasing and attractive.

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