By William T. Hathaway

Beetleweed (Galax aphyla)

Upstream from the Schoolfield Dam in Danville, Virginia, a short walking distance beyond the old Country Club building, hikers and fishermen may find themselves surrounded by an evergreen surprise. At a certain location, slopes descending from the hilly terrain along the Dan River are subject to a cooler north-facing exposure — ideal for Beetleweed (Galax aphylla).

The large, shiny, bright green leaves of this species literally cover the open woodland coves adjacent to the river's edge. Since the leaves are evergreen, winter-time carpets of these leathery, heart-shaped leaves present a welcome relief from the somber gray and brown hues of cold weather. In late May, many small, white flowers are borne on a slender, leafless flower stalk rising from the matted underground stems beset with fibrous red roots.

At times past and perhaps today, Christmas decorators may make use of “galaxy.”