Wild things

Pam Droog Jones

By Pam Droog Jones

Wildflowers are popping up all over our woods. The colorful and varied parade will continue straight through October. Unfortunately right now it’s too hot to venture too deep into the woods which are full of chiggers and ticks that seem to defy bug spray. Still I enjoy the species I can see along the edges—black-eyed susans, wild sweet William, spring beauty, field mustard, germander and many more.

When I lived in the Hermann area several years ago, one of my favorite activities was the annual wildflower walk held every spring at a nearby state park. Whole families would take part in this highly anticipated event, during which we’d see at least two dozen species. Several people who had been going on the walk for many years kept journals and noted having seen more than 100 different flowers, including some extremely rare ones.

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Some of these same people also hunted morels. I knew nothing about this hysteria-inducing mushroom before I moved to a rural area. No one ever organized morel walks because everyone had his or her own so-called secret morel-hunting spot and made a big deal out of it.

As a result, over time I found the whole morel business more and more bewildering. First you have to know what you’re looking for, supposedly a disturbance in the fallen oak leaves on the forest floor. Next you have to find enough morels to make a meal. Then you have to put the things through several steps—soaking, cleaning, salting and so on–to get them ready to eat. After all the fuss, the mushrooms taste okay, but really, what doesn’t taste good with a little butter and garlic?

Last spring I looked down at a brushy area right next to my patio and lo and behold, there were a few morels. That was easy, I thought, as I was reminded once again that the supposed secret location of a bunch of ugly mushrooms is an odd thing to act all mysterious about.