Backpacker Radio #228 | Matt “Sheriff Woody” Berger, a Trained Botanist, on Interesting Plants of the Triple Crown Trails

In today’s episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are joined by Matt Berger known on trail as Sheriff Woody. If you like plants, oh boy, are you in luck today because Sheriff Woody is an experienced thru-hiker and a trained botanist who’s packed to the gills with fun flora facts. We learn about some of the standout plant species along each of the triple crown trails, how to know if a berry is edible or deadly, some of the rarest flowers along the triple crown trails, interesting facts about cacti, pine cones, and trees along these trails, and much, much more. Even if you aren’t a plant person, we are guaranteeing 100% satisfaction with this interview or your money back.

We wrap the show with our favorite grocery impulse buys, a shoutout to Kelly Floro who recently completed the Pyrenean Haute Route, a Triple Crown of mid life crisis hobbies, our preferred noise to mask a public dump, and more.

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Interview with Matt “Sheriff Woody” Berger

Time stamps & Questions

00:05:51 – Reminders: Come to the Hiker Meetup on December 1 at Improper City, check out our new website, and watch this episode on YouTube!

00:10:09 – Introducing Sheriff Woody

00:11:26 – What’s your background?

00:13:00 – What’s your favorite bug?

00:15:35 – How did your parents feel about you luring insects into your yard?

00:16:45 – When did you decide to pursue horticulture and what is the career path like?

00:18:37 – What’s the difference between botany and horticulture?

00:20:55 – Tell us about your Appalachian Trail hike in 2012

00:26:30 – What alpine plants are there on the northern part of the AT?

00:30:41 – Do you have to study Latin during horticulture/botany training?

00:33:45 – What can you tell us about the plant naming process?

00:35:55 – What exciting plant species are on the AT but not on the other main trails?

00:40:00 – Discussion about improving blight resistance in American chestnut trees

00:44:37 – Can you tell us about the hemlock woolly adelgid?

00:47:06 – What are some of the worst invasive species along the AT?

00:50:40 – What are your favorite plants along the PCT?

00:54:15 – Tell us about poodle-dog bush

00:59:38 – What other plants have utility for thru-hikers?

01:03:24 – Do people harvest ginseng on the AT?

01:04:30 – What should people familiarize themselves with to be able to confidently identify a plant?

01:08:06 – Do you have a favorite berry along the PCT?

01:10:00 – What are some standout cactus species along the PCT?

01:12:38 – What are some fun plants that are easy to identify?

01:16:24 – What plants do you see in northern California?

01:18:33 – Is it hard for you to hike big miles if you’re looking at plants all the time?

01:20:18 – What type of camera do you normally use?

01:23:29 – Tell us about iNaturalist

01:32:00 – What are the standout plants along the CDT?

01:35:33 – How would you rank the Triple Crown trails according to plants?

01:37:20 – Tell us about pine cones

01:41:05 – What are your top 3 favorite plants you’ve seen while hiking?

01:43:44 – Fuck Marry Kill: American chestnut, pygmy poppy, alpine spring beauty

01:44:44 – Do you have a favorite tree?

01:47:39 – If you were a flower/tree/insect, what would you be and why?

01:49:33 – Are there any other tools or apps you’d recommend for aspiring naturalists?

01:52:27 – Tell me about your botany road trip

01:55:29 – Are there specific plants at risk from climate change along the Triple Crown trails?

01:57:42 – Where can people go to keep up with you?


Trek Propaganda: Kelly Floro’s Pyrenean Haute Route Blog

QOTD: What’s the most surprising impulse buy you’ve made while grocery shopping recently?

Triple Crown of mid life crisis hobbies

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