Last spring, we planted sweetgrass in the Botanical Sanctuary. At the time I told the apprentices that it was probably already here and just hadn’t showed itself yet—this has happened so many times, in such surprising ways, that it seems to be part of the process of growing at-risk plants. I’ll plant a few Solomon’s Seal and 2 years later they’re surrounded by Mayapple and Blue Cohosh, or one species of Lobelia will decide it would rather be 3. So I have learned to Just Not Know and trust the plants and their process for repopulation.
Happily, the Land worked its magic: Sweetgrass spread out all over the marsh garden and brought its family along. The moist edges of the meadow are now full of Sweetgrass also, in among the Prunella, Red Clover, New England Aster, and non-native pasture grasses, just part of the community.
We divided the now abundant Sweetgrass into another bed so the Calamus, Angelica, and Blue Vervain have the space they need. We didn’t harvest—it’s still its first year!—but leaves that broke off during the transplanting process were bundled and dried (including a very tiny bundle for my daughters’ fairy house under the American Chestnut).
When gardening works like this, it builds my capacity for joy, and refills the well of my patience for the slow, frustrating process of wild-cultivation of at-risk plants. A success like this helps keep us going & I am full of gratitude. Such abundance must be shared, so divisions are going to SUSU Community Farm’s BIPOC CSA, Bomazeen Land Trust Nibezun Aw’ti, and Atowi Project.
SWEETGRASS, this lovely endangered or at-risk plant (depending where you live) is sacred medicine to Native people across its distribution, including our local Wabanaki nations, and so is right at the top of the list of herbs that should not be wildcrafted or bought and sold by non-Native Herbalists. However it is EASY to grow in a wet, sunny spot or planter.
Here are some pictures of my apprentice Nicole, and the sweetgrass in place: