Wild Plants In The Wilderness

by Curt Kovener

As I mowed in the wilderness this past weekend, I noted that it was a week after the Kentucky Derby but I was wearing a flannel shirt and an insulated jacket while I trimmed the lush spring greenery.
And it must have been, as the old timers call it, “blackberry winter” as the blackberries are beginning to bloom. If it is any indication (and hopefully the cold front winds didn’t blow too many blooms off the plants) it could be a bumper crop year for wild blackberries.
Even the ground hugging dewberries can be easily spotted now (and mental notes of their location made for when the berries ripen).
You’ll recall Charley likes dewberries and some of the low hanging blackberries. I am not sure how he manages to avoid thorns in his tongue or lips but last year as I was picking berries I thought a yellow pig was rooting around nearby.
Another springtime surprise greeted me this weekend as well.
But some background is first needed.
I have a neighbor down the road…well actually they are nine miles south but in country terms they are still neighbors…who has a persimmon tree growing near the roadway. And for the past several years I have admired the billiard ball size fruit on this tree.
Last year I called for permission to pick up a few persimmons explaining I was seeking the seeds hoping to get some of the large fruited trees growing on my property.
My neighbor said she had just processed a back of persimmons and would clean and bag some seeds and leave them on their picnic table for me to pick up.
She also told me her father bought the tree about 50 years ago from a nursery in nearby Pekin.
So late last fall I carefully planted a single seed in 25 4-inch pots, watered them well, covered them with fallen leaves and walked away.
Persimmons, you see, must go through a scarification process of winter cold before they will sprout. Throughout the winter I would shovel a bit of snow onto the pots for insulation from the cold and for moisture when above freezing temperatures arrived.
Now back to my weekend surprise, eight little persimmon trees are now about four inches tall and some are getting their second set of leaves.
Eventually I will set these trees out in some sunny part of the meadow and then put some deer fencing up to help insure they don’t become a part of a whitetail salad.