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Rosepink Birthday

Friday, August 3, 2018

Longtime readers of this blog know that my favorite wildflower is Sabatia angularis, Rosepink or Rose Gentian. Not only is it spectacular, but it smells like honeysuckle in heaven, with a distant forest fire smoking away somewhere down beneath the sweetness. Sabatia is a biennial, meaning it perks along as a small plant for a year before bursting into bloom, going to seed, dying, and starting the whole glorious cycle over with dust-fine seeds again. 

July 18, 2018. Just coming out.

The same plant on July 27, 2018. You see why I revisit things...

I check my nearest Sabatia spot, one I can walk to, obsessively as my late July birthday approaches, the goal being to find a plant in bloom on my birthday, to drop to my knees and inhale that fragrance, to give thanks for another year on the planet, and for this marvelous plant that somehow survives all our insults and smiles back at us from dry roadside meadows and banks. This year, I found one, count it, ONE plant that had escaped both the township's roadside mowing in early July and the landowner's vigorous and unaccustomed mowing of the area, just off the road banks, that formerly harbored this fabulous plant. I plunged into despair. ONE PLANT??  The Lord giveth, and the mower taketh away.

And what doesn't get mowed gets smothered around here. My two other nearby Sabatia patches--my little July chapels-- have been taken over by the enormous, razor-edged "ornamental" Asian Miscanthus grass that I despise, that has robbed so much great habitat in Washington County and many other places in southern Ohio.

Ooh, isn't that pretty? Well, the towhee is. Each puffy seedhead is poised to scatter several thousand fluff-topped seeds to the winds. And each of those thousands of seeds, ready to spawn ecological havoc on native plants and wildlife wherever it lands. This photo taken on Dean's Fork, my church, my sanctuary, also rapidly being taken over.

People and their mowers, people and their ornamental plants. People. They're still planting that horrid grass, coming to my road to dig it up and take it to their yards so it can continue spread like wildfire everywhere else. They think it's pretty. They don't notice, as they dig up plants for their yards, that everywhere it occurs, it forms solid, razor-sharp, 6' tall monocultures that not even a deer can walk through. Nothing eats it. Nothing can live in it. There are people right on my road that are still planting it in their yards and along their driveways. They cannot perceive what's happening right under their noses. Or maybe they think monocultures of impenetrable grass are pretty, to be preferred over trillium and rosepink.

 I hate this grass, and the ignorance that keeps people planting it, with the fire of a thousand suns. Trace such ecological devastation down to the root, and you'll always find people. Scratch a naturalist, especially an older one like me, and you'll find despair at the heedless damage people do to the natural world.

I work, in this blog and in my Facebook and Twitter posts, to emphasize that which is beautiful, and what is still here. I try not to bemoan stuff like invasive exotics too much, and I stay completely out of politics, though Lord knows there's plenty to bemoan in this world gone barking mad. If you want to sum up my blog and social media philosophy, it might be: Nobody needs more angst and negativity.

Celebrating what's here; rooting out the beautiful and good in this agrarian landscape; spreading beauty: I see that as my job. It's not entirely altruistic. It helps me appreciate the abundant gifts that shower down on me, every day. Focusing on what's good and true and beautiful keeps me moving forward and deepens my quality of life. If it brings you happiness, that makes me happy. When you tell me you like it, it just makes me want to give more.

I'm always looking for things to celebrate, and it isn't hard. I love this place so fiercely that I find myself photographing it as I photograph my children (and as I depicted my beloved Bacon)--in every mood, light and setting. So, but for a short rant about Miscanthus, this is a celebratory post. Because I kept visiting the one Sabatia plant I'd found in my favorite spot. And each time I did, I'd range a little farther to try to find more. There had to be more. Maybe it just wasn't in bloom yet.

On July 27, I forged down an overgrown powerline cut near the lone plant. Stepping over fallen logs and snaky tangles, I came upon a scene that heretofore had occupied only my dreams. I found Sabatia Valhalla. 65 blooming plants! My subsequent count on July 31: 79!! There, tucked away where nobody could get to them to ruin them, in a powerline cut that had only been cleared about three years ago, was the finest population I'd ever found. People again at the root, this time for the good; it wouldn't be here if the cut hadn't been cleared. All along, those plants had been setting their super-fine seed and broadcasting it around--how I'm not sure, since it's fine as dust. Maybe the wind carries it. Maybe ants carry it. I don't know. I'm just grateful and so, so thrilled that it's found a place where it can grow, away from humans, and under the adoring eyes of those who appreciate it enough to seek it out. Phoebe and I wandered around in the stand, oohing and aahing and stooping to smell and admire, until it was almost dark.

This is just one section. So fine, so fine. There's even a nearly white one there.

What could be better than my woodland sprite, thigh-deep in rosepink?


It smells as good as it looks. 
 That little lime-yellow star in the middle kills me. 


Phoebe baked me a cake for my birthday.

 I insisted on making the icing beforehand, because I wanted a buttercream-cream cheese-almond flavored icing and it was my birthday so I could be as fussy as I wanted. I also had a specific color in mind that I wanted to mix, one we'd never made.  She took the icing and the cake away to frost it and decorate it. She brought it back and Oh!! OH!! I had no idea she was going to use Sabatia to decorate my cake!

When I saw how perfectly the Sabatia stars coordinated with my lime-yellow icing, my jaw dropped. Meant to be!

My kids and my friends made this birthday extra special. It kinda needed to be. And it exceeded all expectations by miles. I'm still glowing from the love they poured over me.

 Sabatia? That was the icing on the cake. 

Look for it now. Gobs of it in Athens and Hocking Counties, OH, right along Rt. 33!


Ohhh, wish I’d known about this plant. I grew up back East, MD, NJ, VA, but don’t recall seeing this and I gravitate to ANY plant that smells lovely! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and love the cake!

I have never seen or smelled this lovely, perhaps a pilgrimage next year.

I need to know that you rage inside against all the evil that people do and sometimes ARE, just as I need to see all the blessings you share with us. And you deserve all the love that your kids and friends showered on you!!!

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