Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Native Americans’

1. Mount Caesar

History says that Mount Caesar in Swanzey was named after Caesar Freeman, a freed black slave and one of the original settlers in the area. It is said that he lived with the Carpenter family, which is still a well-known name in the town today. I haven’t climbed here since last year, so I thought I’d give it a go over Labor Day weekend.

2. Reindeer Lichens

Mount Caesar seems to be a huge granite monolith. Here and there on the trail you can see where the soil has washed away from the bedrock. At the bottom where the trail starts large areas of reindeer lichens grow on a thin film of soil that covers the granite.

3. Clearcut Forest

Last year, on the other side of a stone wall from the reindeer lichens in the previous photo, large areas of forest were clear cut. This means that the reindeer lichens, pink lady’s slippers, mosses, ferns, and many other shade loving plants now get full afternoon sun. I wonder how long they’ll be able to stand it.

4. Forked Blue Curls

On the other hand, many sun loving annual plants like forked blue curls, slender gerardia, and different lobelia varieties have moved in to colonize the now sunny clear cut area. The forked blue curl blossom (Trichostema dichotomum) pictured had its anthers completely curled up and tucked under, which is something I’ve never seen them do. There are hundreds of these little plants here now.

5. Blowdown

More sunlight isn’t the only change; the loss of such large areas of forest also means that there is now nothing to slow the wind, and several trees in the remaining forest next to the clear cut have been blown down.

 6. Trail

Large log skidders dragging trees down the trail have turned it into road full of rocks and roots. This might not seem like a big deal unless you understand that this trail was probably made by Native Americans and was most likely almost invisible to settlers. Compared to what it once might have been it is now a super highway.

7. Club Coral

Yellow spindle coral mushrooms (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) seem to like growing in soil that has been well packed down, and there is plenty of that along this trail. This group was less than an inch tall. They looked like tiny yellow flames coming out of the earth.

 8. Mushroom with Yellowish Stem

I haven’t been able to identify these pretty mushrooms that I found lying beside the trail and I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen them before. Someone must have picked them to get a closer look.

9. Trail

If you compare the natural lay of the land to the trail surface you can see how much the trail has been eroded-as much as two feet of depth in some places. Parts of it are always wet and muddy but when it rains there is little to stop the entire trail from becoming a stream, so it erodes even more.

 10. View from the Top

In spite of all the obstacles you finally make it to the summit and as always, find that it was worth the effort. This was a beautiful blue sky, white puffy cloud kind of day and I wondered as I sat here, why wouldn’t Native Americans have climbed to this spot to enjoy the view just as we do? It is said that they used Mount Caesar as a lookout but I think that they came here just to sit and gaze too, just like I do.

This mountain and the surrounding lands were extremely valuable to the Native American tribe called Squakheag who lived here and they were willing to fight to the death for them. In April of 1747 they burned the town of Swanzey to the ground. The settlers, fearing the rapidly expanding numbers of natives in the area had all left for Massachusetts, but of course they eventually returned and defeated the natives. Sadly, that seems to have marked the end of any real native presence here. It’s hard not to wonder how much richer our lives would be if we had learned to coexist. The loss of thousands of years of first-hand knowledge of plants, animals, and all of nature is such a shame.

11. View from the Top

You couldn’t have asked for a better day to be sitting on top of a mountain contemplating the view and pondering a little colonial history, so I was surprised to find that I had the whole place to myself. The hardest part of climbing for me is leaving such beauty behind and going back down. There really isn’t any other experience I can think of that can compare to sitting on a mountain top.

12. Mount Monadnock From Mount Caesar

It is said that on Mount Caesar and on the summits of several other hills in the area, there are arrows carved into the granite that all point to Mount Monadnock, which is pictured here. Unfortunately every time I climb up here I forget to look for it but anyhow, there’s no missing Monadnock. At 3, 165 feet it is taller than any other feature in the region.

 13. Lowbush Blueberry

Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) were already showing their fall colors on the summit.

14. Cliff Edge

If you’re reading this and think you might like to climb Mount Caesar I would bring a flashlight if it’s going to be a late afternoon trip. There are sheer cliffs here, so this isn’t the place to be wandering around in the dark.

15. Toadskin Lichen

Besides the view one of the things that draws me up here are the toad skin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) that live on the summit, because this is the only place I know of to find them.  They grow on stone and are very warty, and they really do look like toad skin. The black dots are their fruiting bodies (apothecia.)

To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again. The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.   ~Sir Francis Younghusband.

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

According to most books and articles, dandelions weren’t seen in the new world until colonists brought them over on the Mayflower. Then presumably, word somehow got out that they had this cool new plant and Native Americans from all over the country came to Plymouth Plantation to learn how to use it.

That may sound farfetched, but it is essentially the conclusion that has to be drawn; that the dandelion is an introduced species unknown in America before 1620 (or 1607) is widely accepted as fact. 

So how could the Ojibwe from Minnesota, the Cherokee from Georgia, the Iroquois from New York and many others from the Atlantic to the Pacific have such an extensive knowledge of plants they hadn’t seen until 1620? That they did is well documented and also widely accepted as fact, but how?

The short answer is that Native Americans were most likely using dandelions for thousands of years before anyone ever crossed the Atlantic.

Twice, in 1638 and 1663, John Josselyn traveled to New England from Essex, England to see his brother Henry of Scarborough, Maine. Mr. Josselyn fancied himself a naturalist and, after living in New England for a total of 15 months, published a book in 1672 titled New-England’s rarities discovered in birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, and plants of that country. In his book Mr. Josselyn writes of “such plants as have sprung up since the English planted and kept cattle in New-England,” and one of the plants he lists is the dandelion. Ever since Mr.Josselyn wrote his book, people seem to have assumed that the dandelion came to America either as seeds mixed in with livestock feed or in the manure of cattle. This same story of seed dispersal is also found in several different accounts of the 1607 Jamestown, Virginia settlement. It is worth noting that Mr. Josselyn also wrote of a “pineapple” which turned into a swarm of stinging wasps when picked.

Dandelions were used medicinally and as food in Europe for hundreds of years before the English ever settled New England, so it isn’t hard to imagine them bringing such important plants with them. In fact a compilation titled A List of over 100 Herbs Taken to and Grown in New England by Early Settlers by Roger Tabor lists the dandelion as one of those herbs. Just because certain plants were brought to America doesn’t mean those plants weren’t also native however; the European alder was also introduced, even though there were at least 15 species of alder already here. Obviously the settlers had no way of knowing which plants they would find here.

According to an article titled Drought tolerance in the alpine dandelion, Taraxacum ceratophorum (Asteraceae), its exotic congener T. officinale, and interspecific hybrids under natural and experimental conditions by Marcus T. Brock and Candace Galen, which appeared in the August 1, 2005 issue of The American Journal of Botany, “Fossil evidence indicates that Taraxacum ceratophorum, the alpine dandelion, is native to North America.” The dandelion fossils referred to are estimated to be 100,000 years old.

The alpine dandelion is also known as the horned dandelion, and the U.S.D.A. lists it as native to North America. It grows in parts of New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, along the west coast, in the southwest, Alaska, and nearly all of Canada. Another species native to North America and now endangered is the California dandelion (Taraxacum californicum.) Both of these native species have cross bred with the introduced common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale ) and have produced numerous hybrids.

In the end the question of why nearly everything we read about the history of dandelions in America is based on one sentence written by an amateur naturalist who never left New England and who didn’t bother to mention maple trees or maple syrup can’t be answered. Though it is true that the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale ) was introduced, fossil evidence clearly shows that native dandelions have been here for a very long time, which explains how Native Americans from all over the country could have had such vast knowledge of them.

Read Full Post »