Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jewel Weed and Jewish Melungeons

Jewel weed is in bloom now, its delicate blossoms trembling on wispy stems. Bees crawl deep inside the flowers, making the whole leggy plant shake. Also known by the lovely name, Lady's Earring, around here the plant is called Ol' Touch-Me-Not for the seed pods that, when fat and ripe, explode at the slightest touch.

My boys used to enjoy popping these pods as they climbed the half mile of our road after the school bus had let them off at our mailbox. That walk could stretch out well over an hour when Jewel Weed seed pods were ripe . . . or mulberries . . .or wild raspberries.

Orange is the most common variety but Pale Jewel Weed grows here too, its yellow blooms shining out in the dappled shade. Jewel Weed often grows near Poison Ivy and a folk remedy for the itching caused by this unfriendly plant is to crush the fat hollow stems of the Jewel Weed and rub on the afflicted skin. It works a bit like aloe and is handy, though not as effective as hydro cortisone.

And now for the Jewish Melungeons!

I recently had an e-mail from a new reader who said she'd loved the characters of Ish and Mariah. She also said that she had been exploring the history of Jews in Appalachia and had come across some interesting suggestions that the Melungeons were descended from Jews fleeing persecution in Europe.

This caught my fancy and I found that there's lots of info on this theory out there -- this website being just one. And then I began to think about what if somewhere down the road I were to explore Ish and Mariah's story much more fully in a standalone.

Then I could use that book I got at the library book sale -- the one about keeping an orthodox household.

I knew there was a reason I had to have that book!
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Anonymous said...

I want to live in whatever place you're taking pictures of. Those weeds and flowers look so beautiful!

Pat in TN said...

One area of our woods is covered with the Pale Jewel Weed, and it's a unique sight to see them shining brightly back in there ... almost like little bits of sunshine flitering through the trees, BUT I never realized that it grows near Poison Ivy ... YIKES!!! Yep, I even look at the stuff anymore and get it, so I will admire my pretty yellow flowers from afar. In one more open area we have only a few of the Orange Jewel weed. Both awesome plants and welcome to see this time of year and especially with the dryness we're experiencing.

Vicki Lane said...

Howdy, Wishing, from the mountains of Western North Carolina -- an earthly paradise.

And Pat, I should have said it OFTEN grows near poison ivy -- not always.

You can biggify (Tammy's word?) the pictures to see how beautiful and orchid-like these tiny gems are.

Liz said...

We call Jewel Weed "Johnny Jump Ups" - and they are also a good remedy if you happen to touch nettles!
Hope the rains from "Fay" make it to you, Vicki - I heard one of Marshall's town wells went dry - I hate to hear that! Welcome back.

Vicki Lane said...

Yeah, boy! We're hoping for some rain from that hurricane or tropical depression or whatever it calls itself. The French Broad is a river of rocks -- the lowest I've ever seen it -- very close to the lowest on record. Scary.