Last Friday we had the pleasure of attending a guided hike in the Green Swamp with area resident expert Frank Galloway. Frank grew up in the Green Swamp region and many of his distant relatives called the swamp home as well. We enjoyed Franks stories about the Green Swamp’s naval stores history and the medicinal uses of many of the native plants. It was a beautiful day, a cool morning for June, and we saw lots of interesting things.
Frank has been roaming around the Green Swamp for years but he is a horticulturist by trade. With a degree from NC State his specialty is hybridizing pitcher plants but his knowledge of medicinal plants and Green Swamp history is quite extensive too. He explained how a common savanna plant, colic root, was used to treat many ailments including stomach ache, anxiety, and appetite loss. The roots and leaves were used to make herbal infusions in water or oil tinctures.
Frank told stories about his distant relatives using the Green Swamp savannas to make tar and turpentine during the naval stores industry in the 1800’s. We saw remnant tar pits where longleaf pine trees were slowly burned to extract the tar.
He also showed the remains of cat faced longleaf pine stumps which were tapped to collect sap to make turpentine. The trees were scarred with a chevron cut and the sap was collected in a bucket at the base of tree. There are many of these old cat faced stumps in the Green Swamp.
Amongst the group was another savanna plant expert, Richard LeBlond, a botanist that is retired from the NC Natural Heritage Program and remains an Associate of the University of North Carolina Herbarium. Richard shared lots of plant information with us, including the unique structure of the savanna iris.
The Venus flytraps were still blooming away, it has been a great year for them due to the copious amounts of rain we have been getting…
…and the huckleberries were ripe; delicious!
We can’t thank Frank enough for leading our hike, hopefully we can do it again someday! Thanks Frank!