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Hannawa Falls native plant talk teaches how nature heals

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HANNAWA FALLS — If you are a resident of the north country, chances are you’ve explored the outdoors. You might even say it’s in your nature. These are the sentiments of Nature Up North, which delivered a plant talk Thursday afternoon to a group of about 10 nature enthusiasts at Postwood Park in Hannawa Falls.

Attendees were introduced to various natives such as yellow dock, which was growing on a dirt road just inside the park. When used as a tea, the plant is known to treat psoriasis and eczema and cleanse the body of toxins, according to St. Lawrence University student Heron Hetzler, who led the discussion.

Ms. Hetzler — along with Cheyenne Youngs and Macky Young, also at the talk — are summer interns with Nature Up North.

Ms. Hetzler also demonstrated how to prepare poultices, tinctures, decoctions, and teas — all processes which use the healing properties of medicinals.

Listeners were cautioned to identify medicinals correctly before picking and preparing them. Some plants are dangerous if used improperly — for example, mullein, which is toxic in large doses, Ms. Hetzler said.

Nature Up North was started a year and a half ago at St. Lawrence Universityin response to the increased use of technology by children in recent years. The organization is seeking to draw them and their families out into a natural space.

“Our goal is to get community members out and experiencing nature,” Ms. Hetzler said.

The community can also get involved by visiting Nature Up North’s website,, where it’s possible to see an events calendar, post photos and descriptions or “nature encounters” and participate in volunteer data collection work known as citizen science.

“We envision the website as being social media for the north country environment,” Nature Up North Project Manager Jacob Malcomb said.

NUature Up North, a grant-funded project, is the creation of its director, Erika Barthelmess, associate professor of biology at St. Lawrence University.

Funding for the organization comes from the Henry David Thoreau Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the New York Power Authority-run St. Lawrence River Research & Education Fund, the Alcoa Foundation and St. Lawrence University.

Nature Up North is hosting a range of events throughout the summer, including campfire sessions, nature camps and guided hikes.

Upcoming events include a canoe paddle workshop July 9 and a natural tie dye workshop July 10, both at the Wachtmeister Field Station, Canton.

Those interested in learning more about Nature Up North can visit the website.

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