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, 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 elder 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 first project was a flowing caftan, followed by a skirt made from scarves in similar colors. I gave the skirt away before I thought to take photographs.
The skirt above is made from 10 silk scarves with the top corners pressed to the outside to form a casing for an elastic band.
I ripped two scarves into sari ribbons and crocheted the strips to form a matching belt.
Kinetic Sculpture Race
On Saturday, May 5, we headed to the harbor early to see the start of the kinetic sculpture race, followed by lunch at Marie Louise Bistro and a stroll through historic Mt. Vernon for their annual Flower Mart.
Baltimore's Visionary Art Museum's annual kinetic sculpture race - "a race through Baltimore of wacky, imaginative, TOTALLY HUMAN-POWERED WORKS OF ART, DESIGNED TO TRAVEL ON LAND, THROUGH MUD, AND OVER DEEP BALTIMORE INNER HARBOR WATERS, constructed out of used bicycles, gears, and parts, created by a lunatic genius who tinkers around in the garage or backyard.
This is just a small sampling of the delights in Jim Thorpe. I've narrowed the number of photos down by focusing on all things Alice in Wonderful!
The Paper Moon Diner
Years ago I wrote and piloted a curriculum for middle school students in the Harrisburg School District. It began in 5 schools and I worked with 180 students for two years. It was later funded in all schools through out the district.
When Christmas arrived, I wanted gifts for all of my students and hoped to find something useful and meaningful. My budget was already strained and even at $1 a present, the cost would have been almost two hundred dollars. I had no idea how I'd ever afford anything worthy of such wonderful kids.
Then one December weekend I traveled to Upper Dauphin for a sale on fabric at an arctic wear store that was going out of business. They had a sign for free scarves! Lots of free scarves! Enough for me to gather 180! II wish I had a photo of my car - there was barely room to sit! It is surprising the amount of space that many scarves will take up!
This photo inspires me to remember that thoughts become things. We can manifest from nothing if we have faith. At the time I didn't really understand manifesting, but wishing with all my heart for something special for these young people, and having it materialize, was a first step in understanding. And as I've learned over the years, the universe always gives me much more than I could ever imagine for myself.
The scarves represented warm hugs! This photo also represents why I love working with kids! Each young person had a different creative interpretation for their scarves! Adults would have probably draped them predictable around their necks, but not these kids! Every day - every moment - we have opportunities to interpret things creatively and express our own unique point of view. Striving for new ways to use the things in our lives can create dramatic results. (Remember my story about the young person who changed the economy of an entire town in W.V. when he realized the temperature in a coal mine was the same as the temperature to raise fish?) We should never underestimate the power of creative thinking.
Oh, and years later, I occasionally get a call from a friend mentioning they have spotted one of the scarves on someone walking by!
I can't imagine a better way to describe Carrie's gift to me than the sentiment she included (above) in the gorgeous card she created. Just look at the way she has packaged these treasures! The attention to detail and the intricate laces are pure delight.
A few weeks ago I was painting roses and there was a photograph of the vase Nancy gave me in one of the pictures. Carrie mentioned that she had the tray to match it. It never occurred to me that she would pack it up and send it! She included a card, an embroidered linen doily, a crabapple candle that smells good enough to eat, and a candle holder adorned with stars and berries!
"Orange roses - a literal mixture of yellow and red, orange roses were seen as a bridge between friendship symbolized by yellow roses and love represented by red roses. They can be an expression of fascination, or a gift to say 'I'm proud of you." Aw! Hope so!
Mycenea, Nancy and I met for dinner at Rockbass and shared appetizers and desserts as well as lively conversation. The food and view were divine. It's one of my favorite restaurants in Harrisburg.
The festivities continues when I returned home! Mycala took me to the Melting Pot for a full course fondue experience! We had cheddar cheese fondue with veggies, breads and applies followed by the house garden salad. Next came surf and turf with a variety of vegetables and six sauces. The meal ended with Pure Chocolate fondue with cookies, cakes, marshmallows, strawberries, pineapple and bananas. Bliss!
For those of you who check in from time to time, you know I love roses I have them all over my house and recently I've been living with, and painting, white roses. But one of my favorite white roses has been around for a very long time.
Today's treasure is my great grandfather's white ivory rose autograph book from January 1, 1899. At one time the velvet cover appears to have been a bright red but it is faded from age. The softening makes it ever more beautiful. I feel that way about a lot of vintage treasures - buildings, fabrics, people . . .
The penmanship is exquisite. It may be difficult to read so I've included the inscription.
Mr. Albert Shuey
New Year's 1899
January 1, 1899
Leaves may wither,
Flowers may die,
Friends will forget you
But never will I.
January 1, 1899
When you get married
And your old woman gets cross
Come over to our house
And eat apple sauce.
Ever remember Dec - 29, 1898
There will be more from this book - there are 40 pages and I'm only including a few for now.
There are autographs from Daisy, Albert's wife (his fiancé at the time), and later from his daughter, my grandmother, and some very cynical entries from my mother. Apparently I wasn't the only family member inspired to leave comments after his death.
It's an interesting mix and gives me some insights on my family.
"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."
Do The Write Thing
Fashion And Fabrics
Lessons From Nature
Pay It Forward
Take The Rose Instead
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!