Galax (Galax urceolata )
by Carson Feather Whitmore
If you enjoy hiking in our region’s oak-hickory or oak-pine forests, you have likely encountered the distinct musky aroma of galax. An important understory ground cover, galax is most often found in mountain laurel or rhododendron groves.
Such groves are often second growth from blight-infected chestnut stands, established when shade is available. In the winter, you may see galax with a maroon blush- when exposed to sunlight the leaves turn red, becoming green once again with the shade of spring leaves.
In the spring you may also catch galax’s long white wispy flowers that give this plant its other name, “wandflower”. This evergreen is a food source for wildlife such as white-tailed deer and turkeys. Galax is also desired by the floral industry. The long shelf life of the shiny, hardy green leaves makes this plant a commodity. Take note to leave galax in its natural home, as overharvesting has become a conservation issue. These gorgeous flowers and denizens of our landscapes are often found in some of our wildest, most special places that we are proud to support and protect for generations to come. Wild South, ENO and Second Gear are partners in protecting wild places and supporting your leave-no-trace adventures in our wild mountain landscapes. You can find what you need for your next outing, including Wild South hats and tees at Second Gear’s 2 locations in Asheville, NC.