Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gallberries and Bellyaches!

Back when I was a kid growing up on the farm, we would head out into the woods during the summer to pick the wild Huckleberries. There were numerous bushes scattered throughout the woods and we could fill several buckets in a matter of no time at all. Occasionally, we would come across a wild Blueberry bush mixed in the clumps of Huckleberry bushes. Those were a prize as the berries were larger and our buckets would fill quicker! Mom would use these fine berries to make jelly, pies or cobblers so we never complained about picking. One thing that has stuck in my head after all these years is the constant warning from Pop to not pick the Gallberries! I can remember his stern warnings that these would "give you a bellyache!" I usually got a bellyache anyway since I ate as many Huckleberries as I picked but often wondered about those Gallberries! They were much larger and shinier than the Huckleberries and I so wanted to pop one right in my mouth! I knew better though since I would have most likely caught a switchin' to go along with my tummy ache had I not listened! So I picked the teeny Huckleberries and never got up enough nerve to taste that Gallberry!

This evening while out and about the hillside, I picked up a delightful aroma. Now I knew that the Bayou was not smelling wonderful..mud just doesn't have the scent that I would ever imagine as pleasant but something sure had a nice smell about it. As I was looking about, I noticed that the Gallberry Bush was covered with tiny, white flowers. It was already loaded with many, many berries but there were still lots of blooms as well. These blooms were abuzz with a huge swarm of honeybees! They were attracted to the sweet-smelling flowers just like I was! It appeared that there was to be a bumper crop of the berries this summer and Pop's voice rattled my brain..."Don't eat the Gallberries! They will give you a bellyache!" Ok..ok! I promise I won't eat those Gallberries!

I pondered the fact of the Gallberries and the Bellyache. Are these things really that toxic? I looked it up when I got back to the Little Bayou House and, yep, they are! The Gallberry, also known as the Inkberry or Ilex Glabra belongs in the Holly family. Well, that explains it! This is definitely not a Blueberry nor a Huckleberry and I would never eat a Holly berry! The bush in question does make me happy though as a few of the birds that overwinter here feast on the bush. Plus, its compact foliage makes the perfect nesting site for a Mockingbird pair! When I saw the nest, I backed away as I did not want to disturb Mama Bird. Then another thought passed through my head...I am sure glad Pop took the time to teach me about plants! It is nice to walk through the woods and be able to identify most trees or bushes and to know which are poisonous. The Gallberry bush can keep its berries and I will search on for the Huckleberries! Pop would be proud that I did not get that bellyache!

No comments:

Post a Comment