Welcome to this site in celebration of a beautiful new public garden in historic Old New Castle, Delaware. It is located behind The Dutch House at 32 East Third St, Old New Castle, DE 19720. Directions

The garden is home to over 200 different species of trees, shrubs, perennials, ferns and grasses. They are all North American native plants and almost every one is native to the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Many are native to Delaware.

If you would like to schedule a guided tour, please contact The New Castle Historical Society at 302-322-2794.

Click on any of the photos for an enlarged view

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Galax urceolata

The beautiful evergreen leaves of Galax showing a hint of their characteristic dark red winter color. These plants are in a very shady section of the garden. With more light exposure the entire leaves would turn dark red in the fall. The plant is also known as Galax aphylla and common names include beetleweed and wandflower. Little did I know that five hours after initiating this post I would still be engaged in online exploration of information about this fascinating little plant, its economical impact, regulations governing its harvest, research and discussions concerning sustainable harvesting and propagation techniques.

The leaves are popular in the florist trade as they are lovely, durable, long lasting and dark red at the end of the year. The majority of the leaves harvested for this trade are picked from plant populations in the mountainous regions of North Carolina. And the majority of the harvest is shipped to Europe.

Native Americans used the plant to treat kidney ailments.

Harvesting leaves from plants growing in national parks is prohibited but the USDA Forest Service issues permits for picking in some portions of national forests. Regulations prohibit harvesting from May 1 through June 15 to protect the plants from trampling when their new leaves are emerging.

Some poachers of Galax leaves from private and public lands have been arrested and convicted. In one case occurring in 2001, the poacher received a jail sentence of 45 days.

This document from NC State University called Domesticating Galax contains an estimate of the annual harvest as 2 billion leaves worth 20 million dollars to the collectors.

The following paragraph is copied from the book called The Galax Gatherers: The Gospel Among the Highlanders originally published in 1910 by Edward O. Guerrant - a doctor and theologian performing missionary work in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. This book can be accessed online in pdf form here.

This is their native country, and the galax is a wild
foliage plant which grows on the bleak sides and summits
of the big mountains of North Carolina. It has a
rich green color in the summer, which deepens into a
splendid bronze as the winter approaches. These leaves
(about the size of a colt's foot) are used in the homes
of the rich people in the cities for decoration. During
the fall and winter, the poor people find employment
and small compensation in gathering the leaves and selling
them, at from fifteen to twenty-five cents a thousand.
It is a hard way to make a living, especially when snow
and ice cover the mountains, and when the leaves are
most valuable. Probably none who enjoy their gorgeous
foliage in a stately mansion ever know what labor
and sacrifice and suffering these leaves cost the poor

The plant grows naturally in deciduous woods and prefers moist to dry rich well-drained acidic soil in part to full shade. The white flower on a slender stalk appears in late spring.

Much of the information written here was gathered from a wonderfully detailed document by Mary L. Predny and James L. Chamberlain - research scientists in Blacksburg Virginia.

Here are some pretty pictures of the plant by Will Cook of Duke University.

Here is a link to the USDA Forest Service data sheet for Galax urceolata.

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