Weed Walk with Susun: Mayapple and Partridgeberry

Tuesday, August 21, 2018 7:49 PM | Anonymous
Weed Walk with Susun Weed

Let’s go to the Senecio swamp. Bring your field guides. Follow me. Hey! Goats! Do you want to go with us?


Mayapple AKA American mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum)
On the way to the swamp, let’s stop by the Mayapple patch. This emetic purgative is one of the most poisonous plants that grows in my forest. It is said to have been used by Native people to commit suicide. A concentrate from the roots is currently used in scientific medicine to burn off genital warts, sometime causing severe, even lethal, side effects. Contacting or consuming Mayapple during pregnancy is said to cause birth defects. Someone once made me a travel charm from a Mayapple: she made ritual with the plant, carefully dug the root that offered itself to her, dried it, wrapped it in red flannel, tied it with a colored string, and instructed me to put it in my suitcase to insure safe journeys. I did.

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)
Just a little further, and we’ll be at the swamp. But stop here for a moment and sit. This lovely, shiny, evergreen, paired-leaf creeper rewards those who get down to her level with her exquisite flowers. Two flowers are joined at the base and, eventually, form one red berry (see previous weed walk for photo) with two little stars on it: the partridgeberry, checkerberry, deerberry, twinberry. Grandmother Twylah Nitsch told us it was disrespectful to call it “squawvine or squawberry.” According to her, “squaw” is Native American slang for the male member! The leaves, as a tea, assist the kidneys and bring deeper sleep; they are classically used as a tonic during the last weeks of pregnancy to insure an easy birth.

Powered by Wild Apricot. Try our all-in-one platform for easy membership management