The text and paintings on The Trowbridge Chronicles are taken from the illustrated journal of Violet Trowbridge, a shrew that once lived in a village deep in the Olympic Rain Forest. Each new post will represent a portion of Mrs. Trowbridge’s journal.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Mrs. Trowbridge painted this portion of a large bank of Maidenhair ferns which grew near the Trowbridge family cottage. She did many charcoal and color studies of the rain forest flora. This fern bank was a favorite play area for Mrs. T's children and their friends. They loved to play tag, and hide-and-seek among the fronds, and beneath the oxalis leaves. Sometimes their play would become rambunctious and one young shrew would stub their paw or bump their head on a root. They would then run squeaking and squealing to the Trowbridge family cottage for comfort and first aid. She was always there for the children and their friends.

I shot these Maidenhair ferns (Adiatum pedatum) near a boulder overhang in the Dosewallips region of the Olympic Wilderness. Maidenhair ferns are recognized by the fine black stems and fan-shaped leaflets. They are always a delight to see along the trail.

Herbalists have used Maidenhair fern syrup just as Mrs. T once did, for chronic pulmonary conditions such as bronchitis, as well as anemia, and persistent skin disorders. If you would like to brew up a batch for yourself, here's Mrs. T's recipe, which I adapted to human measurements.

2 cups (40 grams) fresh Maidenhair fern leaves (equal parts, dried and crumbled)
4 cups (1 liter) water
2 cups (500 ml) unpasteurized honey.

Boil plant in water for three minutes, cover and infuse for three hours. Strain the decoction, and then gently melt the honey, without bringing to a boil, for five minutes. Pour the mixture into a glass bottle. Store in the refrigerator and consume within two months at a rate of 1-2 tsp
(15-30 ml) diluted in water, three times daily. Let me know if you should decide to try this recipe. I would love to hear of your results.

Oxalis (oxalis oregana), or wood sorrel, is the "clover of the rain forest". The plant bears small white, five-petaled flowers, as seen in Mrs. T's painting. It grows in abundance on the forest floor in the Olympic montane zone. Oxalis is edible...I've eaten it many has a kind of tart lemony taste. The tartness comes from its oxalic acid content.

Indians ate the leaves fresh or cooked. They also used the plant juice for digestive problems. Oxalis blooms from April to August.


Ginger*:)* said...

Although I have never tired the methods Violet relies upon, I will save her recipe for a future useful purpose.

She created a lovely illustration of the woodland fern.

studio lolo said...

Delightful and informative!! I love the delicateness of this one Bron.

Andrew W. Moir said...

Wow, this is really interesting what you do with these letters and illustrations! What typeface is that (if you don't mind my asking)? Nice work! :)

Anonymous said...

Oxalis is the plague of my yard in Florida.....wish it would stay in the Olympic rain forest. Nothing will kill it unless it kills the whole yard of St Augustine grass.
God knows how to keep up humble.


Bron Smith said...

I didn't realize that oxalis is also a pest. It's a lovely addition to the atmosphere of the rain forest.

Princess Pepper Cloud said...

Does oxalis grow from a “caterpillar” like tuber? I have a type of clover that grows from an orange-ish colored tube, most of the leaves are green but I also get purple ones, and the flowers are exactly as you described. My friend who lives in Benicia (Ca.) gave me the plant many years ago.

Also, the syrup sounds awesome... not sure if we would have the same ferns in Southern Oregon, but I will keep my eyes open on our next hike.