Violets delight me! They visit for such a short time in the spring, yet have numerous attributes and an extensive history. Violets will protect you from “wykked sperytis” and will bring luck and love. They are featured in mythology, folk lore, literature and poetry. They have been used to cure headaches, calm tempers, and induce sleep. They have been crystallized, used for syrups and jellies, and candied.
There are over 550 species of violets, found in temperate climates around the world. They have many folk names and most of them are reminiscent of sex or love. In addition, their leaves are heart shaped, giving them a place of honor with the romancing herbs!
Like the rose, the color of the violet has great significance in sending messages. Blue violets promise "My love will always be true", purple send the message, "I return your love." White signifies "I'm willing to take a chance on happiness". They also represents modesty and humility as they often hide their spectacular beauty under heart shaped leaves. In William Cullen Bryant’s poem The Yellow Violet, it symbolizes a lost love. In the language of flowers, yellow symbolizes friendship, happiness, joy and success.
They are highlighted in many myths and legends. One story comes from the goddess Venus asking her son Cupid if he thought she was more attractive than a group of maidens playing along the edge of the woods. He said he found the maidens to be more beautiful, so she beat them until they were blue. Since then, because of their association with Venus, they have been associated with love and romance. Huh?
Another legend suggests at one time violets were white, but Mary's grief at seeing the suffering of Jesus on the cross turned them all blue. They have been associated with the modesty of the Virgin Mary, the Angel Gabriel, the Holy Trinity, and Greek and Roman legends and lore. Athens has been referred to as the "Violet Crowned City”. Napoleon returned from exile in the spring and used the violet in a secret code to determine loyalty. This tiny, delicate little flower has had a powerful impact.
In addition, there are recipes for aphrodisiacs, love portions, and beauty products.
My favorite use for violets is sprinkled on a tossed green salad when she first appears in the spring. She is rich in vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants. Add strawberries, orange sections, and avocado. My raspberry poppy seed dressing from an earlier blog post, 5-27-2013, is a lovely compliment.
Named “milk flower of the snow” by Swedish botanist
Carl Linnaeus in 1753.
The snowdrop is a segue between winter and spring, symbolizing hope, even in the most challenging situations. This precious herb is associated with magic and miracles, divine love, purity and innocence. You’ll often find it at weddings, encouraging a future filled with the promise of everlasting love.
The snow drop is also associated with death, as it was often found in graveyards. The ancient Greeks noted Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, carried snowdrops when she returned from Hades each spring. Its association with death is the reason it is often found at funerals and featured on sympathy cards.
Folk names echo the flower’s contradictory symbolism. It has been called the the Flower of Hope, Mary’s Taper, Candlemas Bells and Eve’s Tears. On a more somber note, it is called Death Flower.. In Victorian England, seeing a single snowdrop indicated there would be a death. It was bad luck to pick a snowdrop, and bringing it into the house would have dire consequences. Regardless of its names, it is always a harbinger of spring, bringing hope for the end of winter and warmer days ahead.
This post is from January 2021. I’m reposting and hoping to find someone who can provide directions to the Losh Run Box Huckleberry. I’ve visited the Hoverter & Sholl BoxHuckleberry but have never found the Losh Run. Please send me a message if you know how to find it. Thank you!
The Hoverter & Sholl Box Huckleberry
Can you name a plant that covers 8 acres of land, is 1300 years old,
will protect you and bring you luck as you enter the new year?
My quest to find an herb worthy of being featured as the first in a series for 2021 unfolded magically! My daughter Mycenea self quarantined for 14 days, as did I, so we could be together for Christmas. We spent a lot of time outdoors, and one of our favorite jaunts was to visit the Hoverter and Sholl Box Huckleberry in Perry County, Pennsylvania.
The box huckleberry is a member of the acidic soil loving Ericaceae family, which include azaleas, rhododendron, trailing arbutus, cranberries and blueberries, among others. Unlike the giant Sequoias and the Bristlecone pines, also known for their their age, the box huckleberry is only about a half a foot tall. It covers the forest floor and can easily be overlooked.
The box huckleberry and blueberry are often confused, but there are differences. The blueberry grows in clusters, and the box huckleberry, as well as the huckleberry, has more singular berries, with occasional small clusters. Though the skin of all of the berries are blue, the blueberry is white or light green inside, and the huckleberry and box huckleberries have a deep red violet or purple inner flesh with a tendency to stain.
There are several folk names for the Huckleberries, including Blaeberry, Whortleberry, Bilberry and Hurtleberry. Bilberry is a folk name for the Blueberry. It gets confusing. Fortunately, scientists use Latin names to provide clarification. We are referring to the box huckleberry (Gaylussacia brachycera) in this case.
There were two box huckleberry plants in the area we visited. One, at Losh Run, is thought to be over 13,000 years old! Bristlecone pines, at 5,000 years old, were considered to be the oldest living organisms on earth, yet the box huckleberry is significantly older. The age is determined by the rate of growth, approximately 6 inches a year, and was calculated by the size of the plants.
The Losh Run Box Huckleberry, which at one time covered an area of about 100 acres, nearly 10 times larger than the Hoveter Sholl, was damaged by a forest fire in 1963, then partially destroyed during the 1970s due to road construction of U.S. 22/322. The remainder is in an area difficult to access.
The younger plant is estimated to be 1,200 to 1,300 years old, and fortunately has been in a protected area as a National Natural Landmark since 1929. The 8 plus acre box huckleberry, named because its leaves resemble boxwood, is situated within a 10 acres area in Tuscarora State Forest with a quarter mile path around the plant. Twenty-seven stations along the loop give an educational overview.
The Hoveter Sholl plant was discovered in 1845 by Spencer Fullerton Baird, a professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle. He was a naturalist and later became the first curator of the Smithsonian Institution, advancing to become the second Secretary of the institution.
The box huckleberries were almost forgotten until 1948 when Dr. Fredrick Coville, a graduate of Cornell University working for the Department of Agriculture, determined the plants, one covering over 8 acres, and the other nearly 100 acres, were each individual massive plants! The relict species, miraculously surviving the ice age, is considered self-sterile, and reproduces through a system of root stalks.
This remarkable plant has not always been well revered. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is probably the most well know of the huckleberries, and in an interview in an interview in 1895, Twain said he used the name to indicate Finn was a boy “of lower distraction” than Mark Twain.
A more positive huckleberry reference was featured in the song Moon River in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It is beautifully explained by Jessica Dang, Single Girl Dinner. “For years I had no idea what it meant: "My huckleberry friend." It hung in my mind. I searched Paul Varjak's relationship with Holly Golightly for the answer. Theirs was a mutual adoration laced with innocent flirtation; there was a certain playfulness that freed them from being neither friends nor lovers."
On New Year’s Eve, the residents of New Bloomfield, PA traditionally assemble to pay homage to their oldest resident. They lower a huge huckleberry from the courthouse clock tower at midnight to pay tribute to this humble herb. This year’s pandemic will prevent the assemblage, but they will hopefully meet on New Year’s Eve next year to honor this enormous, ancient plant.
As you enter 2021, I wish you the blessings of huckleberry! May you gather magic and find luck and protection in “berried treasures”, I’m hoping there will be unexpected blessings and virtues all around you. And may each of you find a ‘Huckleberry friend”!
“Everyone should have a huckleberry friend at one point or another.
It is an experience that showers your life with magic for as long as it lasts,
whether it be for a couple of weeks or a couple of years.”
~ Jessica Dang, Single Girl Dinner, #SingleGirlDinner
The legend states, "those who kiss under the mistletoe
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!