Starksboro Herb Trail is taking shape


MANY USEFUL HERBS, including the pink Joe Pye weed shown here, grow along the Starksboro Creekside Trail off Route 116. On Saturday morning, herbalist Margi Gregory will lead a Guided Herb Walk along the trail, explaining the various uses of 10 of the herbs that grow wild there. Photo courtesy of Margi Gregory

Photo courtesy of Margi Gregory

STARKSBORO — The Starksboro Creekside Trail, which makes a 1.5-mile loop around a short stretch of Lewis Creek off Route 116, has been getting some special attention lately.

“There are many wild, medicinal herbs growing along the (trail),” wrote Starksboro resident and practicing clinical herbalist Margi Gregory in a Front Porch Forum post last March. “I thought it would be fun, interesting and hopefully helpful to the community to begin a project to identify the herbs, mark them, learn how to harvest them sustainably, learn basic uses and safety considerations and create an educational tool for the community to use.”

Six months and several volunteer meetings later, an inaugural Guided Herb Walk has been scheduled for this coming weekend, during celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Starksboro Baptist Church.

The walk will begin at the trailhead kiosk at 9:55 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, and last about an hour.

“Margi will identify communities of herbs on the trail and explain how each may be safely used,” said Jan McCleery, a member of the Starksboro Conservation Commission, whose members not only help maintain the Starksboro Creekside Trail, but have also contributed significantly to the herb trail project and have organized Saturday’s walk.

Information about 10 different herbs — burdock, dandelion, elder, goldenrod, hawthorn, Joe Pye weed, nettles, red clover, viburnum and willow — including their locations around the trail, will be made available before the walk.

“One thing I needed to spend quite a bit of time on was learning how to differentiate the various herbs in the parsley family,” Gregory told the Independent in an email. “This is important since they include both poison parsnip, which is all along Rt. 116, including heading down the bank toward the herb trail, and Angelica atropurpurea, which, like its cousin Angelica archangelica, is a very useful medicinal herb. Both are now dried so it’s a bit tricky to tell them apart. Angelica atropurpurea is native to the Americas. It is one of the very best warming, aromatic, bitter tonics, with many uses for the digestive, respiratory and reproductive systems.”

There will also be an exhibit of herb books and other herbal materials at the Starksboro Library around the time of the event.

The Green Mountain Club categorizes the Starksboro Creekside Trail as an “easy” walk, so participants should not expect to encounter any issues with the terrain.

 “We will be sticking to the main trail,” Gregory said.

The suspension bridge that crosses Lewis Creek near the trailhead has also recently been repaired and is safe to walk on.

Preparation for the Guided Herb Walk has been Phase One of what Gregory expects will be a two- to three-year project, she said. Initial plans to create an herb map for the Starksboro Herb Trail have been set aside for now. Instead, the group plans to install markers next to examples of the targeted herbs and will post on the kiosk a laminated sheet instructing walkers on how to find the herbs.

More herbs will get highlighted in the future.

“I have identified about 30 wild native herbs, including trees that have medicinal uses, along the trail,” Gregory explained. “Next year we’ll plan to add 10 more herbs to the list that will be identified by stakes and laminated sheets available at the kiosk.”

Gregory is a member of the American Herbalist Guild and has been studying and working with herbs for years. Through her practice, Spring Mountain Herbs of Vermont, she offers herbal consultations, classes and apprenticeships. She also operates an apothecary garden and sells herb-related products.

Guided Herb Walk participants should meet at the Starksboro Creekside Trail kiosk, at Cota Ballfield, at 9:55 a.m. on Saturday.

The use of sunscreen and bug spray is strongly encouraged.

For more information, email Margi Gregory at margigregory@gmail.com.

Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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