Flower of the Day: Horse Balm

Collinsonia canadensis; Lamiaceae (mint family)

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The Cabin John Trail irritates me.  It’s overused and in poor condition, treacherous when wet, sometimes smelling from the sewer main it follows… and yet I’ve found some great plants there.  On August 7 I walked along the stream looking for goatsbeard (FOTD June 9), wanting to see what it looked like in seed (still pretty impressive), when I spied something else growing out of the rocks over the creek.  Something I’d never seen before, or even heard of.

I love when that happens.

Horse balm is a big plant, growing to five feet tall and three feet across.

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The leaves have a pleasant scent (as so many mints do); the plant was used medicinally by Native Americans and settlers.  It’s native to eastern US and Canada, and endangered in Wisconsin.

Here’s what the goatsbeard looked like, by the way:

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Flower of the Day: Indian Tobacco

aka pukeweed; Lobelia inflata; Campanulaceae (bellflower family)

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This eastern North American native forb grows to about three feet tall in partly sunny areas with moist soils. The flowers are about 1/3″ wide.  The internet is full of interesting claims about the medicinal uses of this plant; some sources simply state that it’s poisonous and shouldn’t be used at all, while others note its use by Native Americans for a variety of purposes, including treatment of respiratory ailments, as an emetic, and as an entheogenic (go ahead and click, I had to look it up, too).

For more on medicinal uses, including current practices, check out the University of Maryland Medical Center page.

The next photo shows what I call the “five foot view”: this is what I see when walking along (my eyes being about five feet above ground level).

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One little spot of color and I’m down on my knees having a closer look. Shame about all the Japanese stiltgrass, though.