Chestnut Herbal School

Oconee Bells

Written and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor

Oconee bells (Shortia galacifolia, Diapensiaceae) in flower at the UNCA botanical gardens, March 12th, 2010.

Oconee bells (Shortia galacifolia, Diapensiaceae) in flower at the UNCA botanical gardens, March 12th, 2010.

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This extremely rare, legendary flower heralds in the early spring in the southern Appalachians. Oconee bells is in the fairy wand family, along with Galax diphylla, which really lives up to its family namesake with its white raceme, perfectly sized for a midsummer fairy procession. Oconee bells was first collected, with an obscurely-noted location, by Andre Michaux, a French botanist, in 1788 and subsequently became the holy grail of wildflowers for many early American botanist, including Asa Gray. Its location remained a mystery for botanists for almost one hundred years until it was “rediscovered” by a seventeen-year-old boy in 1877, near the Catawba River. The Native people and European settlers, who lived near this rare wildflower, could neither see nor utilize it until it received a scientific name and proper recognition; it then became real.

Meet The Green Mastermind Behind Blog Castanea:

Juliet Blankespoor

JULIET BLANKESPOOR founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007 and serves as the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. She's been a professional plant-human matchmaker for close to three decades. Juliet caught the plant bug when she was nineteen and went on to earn a degree in Botany. She's owned just about every type of herbal business you can imagine: an herbal nursery, a medicinal products business, a clinical practice, and now, an herbal school.

These days, she channels her botanical obsession with her writing and photography in her online programs and here on her personal blog, Castanea. She's writing her first book: Cultivating Medicinal Herbs: Grow, Harvest, and Prepare Handcrafted Remedies from Your Home Garden. Juliet and her houseplants share a home with her family and herb books in Asheville, North Carolina.

Learn more about cultivation, identification, and uses for medicinal herbs in our 1,000-hour Herbal Immersion Program, which is the most comprehensive handcrafted online herbal course out there.

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