Every time I visited Pipestem Resort State Park, I knew it was filled with beautiful scenery, great trails and an abundance of native plants. Thanks to Elkview resident Mary Jane Cole, now I know a bit of history and some interesting horticultural facts about the Summers County resort area.
Pipestem wasn't named for a smoking device, according to Cole's research, but for a plant that was often used to make pipes. Her relative, Drewry Farley, settled about a mile from what is now Pipestem, more than two centuries ago. His grave marker, located in the town of Farley, reads:
"Drewry Farley settled 100 yards south of this grave. He and his wife, Mary Adkins Farley, were the first white persons to make their permanent home in this area, around 1800. He served with Daniel Boone in the Hugh Caperton Company in frontier militia at the present site of Charleston in 1793. Born 1760, Bedford County, Va., died 1861. He named Pipestem because of the hollow stems found along the creek."
Cole's mother-in-law, Evelyn, received a Pipestem plant from relatives in Southern West Virginia, which has turned into a very large specimen. She's also descended from Drewry Farley, so she's interested in the plant that gave its name to the park.
Mary Jane planted her own Pipestem plant. "Ours started out really small," she said. But now at 3 years old, "We have had to stake it up." Additionally, Cole said the bloom "stays on quite a while and some type of black bees love it." She's been advocating for this lovely native plant by talking and writing to Pipestem park personnel.
"I'm urging them to have some actual plants they can be proud of and show the public so they will understand and learn," Cole explains. There is one plant in front of the lodge now, but it's not labeled.
According to a map and trail guide issued by the resort, the plant is also known as Spiraea alba, or narrowleaf meadowsweet. Norma Jean Venable of the WVU Extension Service compiled "Common Summer Wildflowers of West Virginia," and her description of the plant follows:
"This relative of cultivated spiraea grows in wet soil and reaches 8 feet tall. Often this shrub is the most conspicuous part of the vegetation, taking over large areas. Its white flowers grow in spikelike clusters at the top of the plant. Leaves are oblong or lance-shaped, toothed on the edges. Twigs are tough and yellowish brown. The hollow, upright stems were used as pipe stems. A related shrub is steeplebush, which has pink or purple flower spikes flowering the same time as meadowsweet in early summer through September." (www.wvu.edu/~Agexten/