Sanctuary Steward: Cynthia Johnston
I moved to the Smoky Mountains in 2003 to explore my dream of living closer to the land. I knew there was ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) here but had no idea how many other endangered native species existed and were abundant here. These include black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), trillium (Trillium erectum), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), as well as wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), an herb I use in my product line. It has been exciting to explore and learn, not only about these plants, but also the many others that greet me on my walks in the woods.
I came here to this small five acre piece of land nestled in the Smoky Mountains to grow some or all of the herbs I use in my business. I have been able to cultivate comfrey (Symphytum officinale), calendula (Calendula officinalis), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), roses (Rosa spp.), and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis); but the idea of cultivating natives had not occurred to me. This site is a natural place to encourage those natives that are already here, but also to propagate ones like wild yam and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) that are not so abundant. I use a large enough amount of wild yam that I am not quite comfortable harvesting it from here, but it is a comforting feeling to know that the energy of the plant is all around me.
Exciting news for us here at MoonMaid Botanicals Plant Sanctuary—we are adopting wild yam in cooperation with United Plant Savers. It is a plant I love, marvel at each year as it spirals into whorls in the garden and woods and shows up in the most amazing places like our Medicine Wheel. And every year brings new surprises.
Our five year plan is to build a classroom, increase our outreach into our community here with programs for kids and increase plant walks, both here, for schools and even on other folks’ land. I believe that if more people knew what was growing in their backyards, we would have a lot less pesticide use. If you are ever here in the Smokies, please come visit. We love folks dropping in and showing them around our little patch of paradise.