Occupiers of Northern Illinois came earlier this year to sneak onto the hillsides into shady gullies to lure the curious to their signs of Spring and to protest against Winter. The wildflowers wave their colorful placards with individual messages in white, yellow or pink among other hues.
They have come far distances as Occupiers do but silently and stealthily each to endorse their own plot and cause in some way but each announcing Spring.
Climbing up a steep slope at Palisades State Park, over rocks and muddy spots you’ll come upon Bluebell Valley, a sea of blue, like water from the high perspective, but by looking closely you’ll see bits of pink, light purple even white to make them unique and to accent the watery blueness.
At Lookout Point a path to the left hikes you along to another point to view the Mississippi River but first there are fireworks of the Shooting Stars covering the hillside the explosions of pink and white accented in slices of brown as they nod in animation. Their accumulation produces an aroma that surely must be some fantastic lure to seduce you into Nature’s cause ... Authorities tell us that the Shooting Star is not to be relied on no matter their pretty fireworks to divert you. They will grow on open prairie or in shade timbers to demonstrate against Winter.
This widespread versatility must be watched.
East of the bridge near the entrance to the Park if you turn left and climb, you may see a congregation of red and white Trillium, it being integrated here, the tri-petaled flower nodding their faces as Jack-in-the-Pulpit preaches its age-old sermon of righteousness and points of honor among parishes of plants. Wild Ginger sways and chants psalms of the season.
Rocky bluffs aren’t the only places these exclusive liberal thinking Occupiers congregate but also inland near creeks and in deep shady woods like the Celandine Poppy whose dark green leaves are so sensitive that they leave a small mark of blood if touched similar to the Bloodroot which is far more tender in its character. The Poppy is said to becoming rare but with its rapid spread in any bed, its four-leaved petal always looking around to proliferate, it’s hard to believe it could become uncommon.
Some of these Occupiers have come from afar and form clans of purpose in odd patches to wave their messages of help and caring where they may because as you know many of these plants in part have been used for medicine or as food for centuries. Many of the Occupiers have been around so long, so noting their deeds in other places their names have become familiar. We intend to tell some of them so you, too, may know those Occupiers that signal you to hear their plea and watch for the coming consequences.
Would they take over an entire woodland as the Blue-eyed Mary had done near Hitt? Or take over a quarter of a mile of ditch like the Violets have done in York Township without a bit of remorse? Violet and (blue-eyed) Mary are only two Occupiers we come to know by name because of their long history of protesting against Winter and supporting the cause into Summer and Autumn.
Not all are anonymous. Besides their common names they have aliases that are added to their case files and record. Take for instance: MAYapple which goes under the alias of Mandrake, nearly all of it being poisonous and one must know the parts that are usable. Bluebell disguises itself as Cowslip while Jack-in-the-Pulpit has mostly sublimated its native background, Indian Turnip, by becoming Jack. Some Occupiers have such traits that their boisterous nature comes out in their names such as Wild Iris, Wild Rose, Bouncing Bet, Wild Hyacinth. Others go by such human names as opposite the wild side as Sweet Cicely, Sweet William; the helpful Jacob’s Ladder and Two-flowered Cynthia, the exotic sounding Black-eyed Susan, or Veronica and the wholesome Juneberry and Day Lily. By name we also have come to know Mt. Laurel and the royal Queen Anne’s Lace or the god-like Golden Alexander.
Yes, we have their names, faces, their purposes from a long record and the WANTED signs we come to experience in about March when a long, dreary winter has wiped out our positive natures. Now and then you might see a picture in the papers of Wildflower Occupiers as a public relations nod to natural history buffs ... A child picking a large bouquet of Violets or a Bloodroot peaking out of a short flurry of snow. Yes, the names of those spring Occupiers are known but as for their backgrounds most of them have been written up in ledgers of ancient pharmacopoeias.
Only one name is known to have come from an actual, real live person and it’s an autumn Occupier, Joe Pye Weed. It stands piously along railroad embankments or at the edges of woods or quarries telling that it went many places and had many uses in its days of glory. Joe Pye was a widely known Native American medicine man who roamed the New England trails and roads making medicine for both his fellow tribesmen and the colonial settlers in the late 1700’s. An entry in a general store ledger read his name and the purchase of one quart of rum in 1775. He thus may have made elixirs as well as herbal infusions. The tall stalk of the Joe Pye plant topped with dark reddish umbrella type flowers reminded the clients of the medicine man himself thus the naming of the weed for the skilled “yarb doctor.”
He was especially able to cure fevers and kidney troubles with some concoction which before his peak of success, the plant was rightly known as “the Agu Weed,” Indian sage, kidney root and gravel-root because it would dissolve kidney stones. Goneset was another.
Think how many plants helped the early settlers especially if we knew them by name today they might do the same for us.
Occupiers in the headlines today are anything but new. We’ve had pretty ones, quiet ones to perk us up and not loudly protest in some plot to interfere with the everyday life of someone else. The Herbalist, by Joseph Meyers, early twentieth century, was the source of the drawings.