Article: Old World Medicine

This is a great article from the New York Times:

artemesia plant photo
Photo by EcoCenter at HHP

On a warm, clear evening in March, with the sun still hanging above the horizon, Cassandra Quave climbed aboard a jalapeño-green 4-by-4 and started to drive across her father’s ranch in Arcadia, Fla. Surveying the landscape, most people would have seen a homogenous mat of pasture and weeds punctuated by the occasional tree. Quave saw something quite different: a vast botanical tapestry, rich as a Persian rug. On a wire fence, a Smilax vine dangled menacingly pointed leaves, like a necklace of shark’s teeth. Beneath it, tiny wild daisies and mint ornamented the grass with pink tassels and purple cornets. Up above, on the sloping branches of oak trees, whiskery bromeliads, Spanish moss and the gray fronds of resurrection fern tangled in a miniature jungle all their own.

Each of these species intrigued Quave enough to merit a pause, a verbal greeting, a photo. An ethnobotanist based at Emory University in Atlanta, Quave, 38, has an unabashed fondness for all citizens of the kingdom plantae. But on this evening, her attention lingered on certain species more than others: those with the power to heal, with the potential to help prevent a looming medical apocalypse.

Quave parked near the edge of a pond crowded with the overlapping parasols of water lilies. Here and there a green stem rose from the water, capped with a round yellow flower bud, like the antenna of some submerged mutant. Alligators had attacked dogs and ducks around here in the past. “But don’t worry,” Quave said, tracing the pond’s perimeter. “If we see one, I’m going to shoot it.” She wore lightweight cargo pants, a black tank top, a paisley bandanna wrapped around her head and a .357 Magnum revolver strapped to her hip.

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