‘We won’t be eating anything today’

By Keith Strange

June 1, 2014

PILOT MOUNTAIN — Many people walk around plants they see growing and largely consider them weeds, but when Matt Windsor sees them, he sees a link to the history of the area.

Windsor, park supervisor at Pilot Mountain State Park, hosted a half-dozen attendees on a stroll around the park, a stroll that was designed to help people appreciate the value of native species in the area.

The hour-long Medicinal and Edible Plant Hike was held at the summit of the park, and to find specimens Windsor simply had to look down.

“There are lot of common plants that were used for various purposes by Native Americans and early American immigrants,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is build appreciation, not only for medicinal and edible plants, but for all plants.”

Uses of the plants are as varied as the species themselves, Windsor suggested. From using the leaves of one plant for a coffee substitute to using plants to cleanse the system by inducing vomiting, many plants can prove useful.

“There can be multiple uses for some plants,” he said. “The common blackberry plant has fruit that everyone knows, but many people don’t know that the root can be used to make a salve-like substance to clean wounds.”

Other plants, like the often-annoying ragweed, have edible flowers, Windsor said.

“There are some plants that could be ground up and used as a flour substitute,” he said.

Plants, Windsor told the attendees, are his thing.

“I tend to get excited about them,” he said with a shrug.

“I want to get people to appreciate the native vegetation of the area,” Windsor added, holding a sprig of White Snakeroot which, he said, could be used to cleanse the system. “Native plants need little maintenance, take less water and need virtually no fertilizer because they’re adapted to this area. Some plants that people call weeds could be planted in a yard and make beautiful landscaping.”

The program featured a short, easy hike with Windsor pointing out commonly-seen plants and discussing their medicinal uses.

It is one of many free public interpretative programs sponsored by the Park Service.

“A lot of them are hikes, but others include things like finding Indian artifacts,” Windsor said. “They just run the gamut.”

The park supervisor said his ultimate goal is to get people to take care of the plants and animals in the area.

“People may not appreciate things they are unfamiliar with, so if we can get one or two people to develop an appreciation, it will be rewarding,” he said. “We hope that as we learn a little bit more about the uses of these plants, they will take better care of them.”

He looked across a crowded parking lot at the clear blue sky.

“It’s also a chance for kids and adults to get away from the television for a little while and get out into nature,” he said.

For attendee Angela Roach and her brother Gary, it was a chance to learn a little bit more about the uses of native plants.

“I just love plants,” Roach, who traveled from China Grove, said. “We heard about this and were in the area and we just wanted to come and check it out.”

As the group got under way, Windsor had a word of caution.

“A lot of these plants we’re going to be talking about today were used to induce vomiting or diarrhea in order to purge the body,” he said. “So we won’t be eating anything today.”

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.