Transformational Gardening

Disclaimer: Foraging can be fun, rewarding and provide health benefits. As a novice forager, I will be sharing my foraging experiences. However, in order to be safe, always consult with local foraging experts and guidebooks before beginning foraging. Children should learn to forage safely by being guided by experienced adults. Never ingest anything unless you are certain of the identification and safety of the plant. Some plant species are inedible and some are poisonous.

May 2012 Foraging Experiences

(Back to: April 2012 Foraging Experiences)
(Forward to: June 2012 Foraging Experiences)

May 2, 2012

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

I rolled dried and crushed Coltsfoot leaves in a organic hemp rolling paper. As you can see, I have absolutely no skill in rolling cigarettes. But I was excited that this was my first herbal cigarette! Coltsfoot is very healthy for the lung when taken in moderation as a tea or by smoking.

I didn't notice much except that smoke usually makes me cough and this did not make me cough at all.

Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata)

May 3, 2012

European Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

I will take better pictures of this plant in a few weeks and those pictures will be available on the European Lily of the Valley local images web page.

May 5, 2012

I went to a Springtime Foraging for Edible Plants class with
Arthur Haines of the Delta Institute. The course was on Saturday (10am-4pm) with an extensive plant walk (and harvesting) Detailed plant identification and use information was presented.

Pictures from the class can be seen on the following web page:

Red Trillium (Red Wakerobin) (Trillium erectum)

This plant was discussed at the Spring Foraging class today. See above. Normally, I only consider plants that I find and identify for this web page. Otherwise, I would not really be learning anything. These pictures of the Red Trillium are from early this morning, before the foraging class, so I do consider it my find even though it was discussed later at class.

It is edible before it flowers in the early Spring (mid- to late-April, perhaps early May further North). It has a nice cucumber taste which turns more bitter when the plant flowers. It works well in a salad. The a decoction of the rhizomes (underground stems) are used medicinally in a poultice for wounds.

Marsh Horsetail (Equisetum palustre)

This plant was also identified before the foraging class. I misidentified Marsh Horsetail last year and removed those pictures. Notice the following features from the pictures below:

May 6, 2012

Sweet White Violet (Northern White Violet) (Viola blanda)

I am about 90% sure that this is Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda), particularly the palustriformis variation. This variation has lateral (side) flower petals that are hairy (with rounded tips at the end of the hairs), upper flower petals that are not strongly reflexed (bent backwards). The leaf blades are rounded or blunt at the tip and blade is ovate shaped (widest at the top of the leaf).

The violet that I identified as Smooth White Violet (Viola pallens) on April 20th may be either a variation of Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda) or Kidney-Leaved Violet (Viola renifolia).

Using the new botanical guide by Arthur Haines, Flora Novae Angliae: A Manual for the Identification of Native and Naturalized Higher Vascular Plants of New England, you can see the flow of steps used to identify this species of violet:

May 9, 2012

I wanted to show the difference between violet leaves (such as Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia) and Crowfoot leaves (such as Allegheny Crowfoot, Ranunculus allegheniensis). The Crowfoot leaves are slightly poisonous. Notice how the teeth on the crowfoot leaves are blocky and often wider than tall.

Blue Herron (zoom lens).

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

There are only 13 maple tree species in New England. It would be useful to know them by the leaf shape. Silver Maple has deeply cut lobes and the middle lobe is narrowed at the base (of the lobe) and its length is greater than 50% of the length of the leaf blade. The Winter buds are red.

May 10, 2012

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

The 5-lobed white flowers formed into flat-topped infloresences and opposite leaves were a couple keys to see that this is a Viburnum. Two of the keys to determine what type of Viburnum is whether the leaves are lobed and whether there are prominent leaf veins that may branch, but run all of the way to the teeth. In this case the answer to both questions is, “No.”

Using the new botanical guide by Arthur Haines, Flora Novae Angliae: A Manual for the Identification of Native and Naturalized Higher Vascular Plants of New England, you can see the flow of steps used to identify this species of Viburnum:

Field Pepperweed (Lepidium campestre)

I had thought that there were only a few of these types of plants with little seed pods growing in a whorl around the stem. Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum), and Field Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) are the ones I knew about. But apparently, there are many others. In order to differentiate this plant from other in the Lepidium genus:

May 11, 2012

Red Baneberry (Poisonous) ☠ (Actaea rubra)

There are not many plants in New England with a ball of flowers, so it makes it easy to remember. White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) looks similar to Red Baneberry (this plant), but with the following differences:
On rare ocassions, Red Baneberry can have white berries and White Baneberry can have red berries.

Strict Forget-Me-Not (Blue Forget-Me-Not, Blue Scorpion Grass) (Myosotis stricta) (Also known as: Myosotis micrantha)

This Forget-Me-Not is differentiated from other Forget-Me-Nots by stems branching from the base of the plant, hairy thoughout and lower flowers scattered amongst the leaves. A formal identification looks at:

May 14, 2012

Starry False Solomon’s Seal (Starry False Lily of the Valley) (Maianthemum stellatum)

For the last couple of years I was looking for a star-shaped version of False Solomon’s Seal in hopes of finding Starry False Solomon’s Seal. But there are easier ways to diferentiate Starry False Solomon’s Seal from Feathery False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum).

Narrowleaf Plantain (English Plantain) (Plantago lanceolata)

I had given up ever finding Narrowleaf Plantain. Fortunately, the enormously tall flower stems were up and some of them in flower to make identification a little more certain. I was thrown off in identification by a couple of the misshapen flower spikes as seen in some of the pictures below (where it looks like three flower spikes are fused together).

There are more Plantago species in New England than I was aware of (12!). In addition to the distinctive basal lanceolate to narrowly-elliptical leaves and the very tall flower stem, one picture flower shows the flower corolla being between 1.5 - 2.5 mm long and a close image shows the sepals being cililate at the tip.

May 15, 2012

Red Sandspurry (Spergularia rubra)

This quick identification owes much thanks to the XID Services Expert Identification Software. When I have no idea what genus the plant is in, I often use this software to help quickly identify the genus and sometimes species rather than flipping through pictures in field guides and online references. I may be successful with this software in only 20-30% of the plants I look up (since the software only contains 1,000 broadleaf weeds), but in those cases, it saves me hours. In this case, I marked the following attributes in the software and three possibilities where returned:
Once the three possibilities were returned, I looked at the pictures and determined that it was either Spergularia rubra or a similar species. I then went to the botanical guide by Arthur Haines, Flora Novae Angliae: A Manual for the Identification of Native and Naturalized Higher Vascular Plants of New England, to confirm the species.

Spergularia rubra is differentiated from other Spergularia species in New England by:

May 16, 2012

Black Huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata)

I walked by these plants probably more than 100 times over the last few years and I never noticed anything. But I’ll be looking for Huckleberries some time this Summer! Only three Huckleberry plants grow in New England:

Winged Burning Bush (Winged Spindle Tree) (Euonymus alatus)

This “burning bush”s is supposed to have bright red leaves in the Fall. It is distinguished from other Euonymus species by the leaf petioles being shorter than 5 mm (usually 1-3 mm) and the corky wings on the branchlets. (See last image below.)

May 17, 2012

Hooked-Spur Violet (Western Dog Violet, Sand Violet) (Viola adunca)

One of the few purple violet species where the leaves and flower stalks grow out of a stem (rather than out of the ground). Notice that this plant and its leaves are very small compared to Viola sororia (for example).

May 18, 2012

Annual Honesty (Honesty, Moneyplant, Silver Dollar) (Lunaria annua)

The easiest way to identify a plant near someone's house is for the homeowner to come out and tell you what was planted! There are a couple of interesting things about this plant:
  1. This plant looks very similar to the edible plant, Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis). Dame’s Rocket flowers are flatter (the petals are much less curved down) and there is much more separation between the flower petals. Dame’s Rocket leaves are
    longer and lanceolate (especially the lower leaves) to narrowly-oval while Annual Honesty leaves tend to be more triangular or heart-shaped. For comparison, see the following page for local pictures of Dame’s Rocket.
  2. The seed pods have the appearance of large, translucent silver coins.

Tall Hawkweed (King-Devil Hawkweed, Queen-Devil Hawkweed) (Hieracium praealtum)

There are only four yellow flower hawkweeds that are tall and have few to no stem leaves. But it is still difficult to tell the difference between them.

May 19, 2012

Field Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta)

The day before a plant identification class, I found this pussytoes plant a little ways up a trail in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. There are only five species of pussytoes in New England. Three of those have basal leaves that are less than 15 mm wide. Out of those three, only two have a “flag” (papery appendage) at the tip of the stem leaves. Out of those two only Field Pussytoes has a matting of wooly hairs on the back of the basal leaves.

May 21, 2012

Tower Mustard (Turritis glabra) (Previously: Arabis glabra)

I’ve been munching on the tops of these plants for weeks. The tops (flowers and buds) of the plant can add some flavor to a salad or are a good trail nibble. I do not remember seeing the plant last year, but there are hundreds of them all over the place this year. They plants love to grow next to foot paths and roads in the full sunlight.

I wanted to be certain that this was Tower Mustard, so I first was able to identify it as a mustard -- flowers with four petals and six stamen (four long and two short). Click on the closeup image of the flower below to see

the six stamen with curled green tops. Then, using the botanical guide by Arthur Haines, Flora Novae Angliae: A Manual for the Identification of Native and Naturalized Higher Vascular Plants of New England, I was able to divine which of the 42 mustard genuses (in New England) that this plant belongs to:
Fortunately, once I narrowed it down to the Turritis genus, there was only one species of that genus in New England, Turritis glabra.

Grass-Leaved Stitchwort (Grass-Like Starwort) (Stellaria graminea)

I am still hoping to find a chickweed (Cerastium) one day. Both chickweed and stitchworts are members of the Pink (Carnation) Family (Caryophyllaceae). Plants in that family commonly have opposite leaves, nodes just below the leaves are swollen, flowers with five petals and five sepals. Stitchworts and chickweeds have five flower petals that are split, making it look like there are 10 petals. Stitchwort flowers have only three styles while chickweed flowers have five (rarely four) styles. Click on the closeup picture of the flower below and notice how the three, white, bent pipe-cleaner-like things in the very center of the flower are the styles.

To see what type of stitchwort this is, I had to go through the key in the botanical guide by Arthur Haines, Flora Novae Angliae: A Manual for the Identification of Native and Naturalized Higher Vascular Plants of New England:

May 22, 2012

American Elm (Ulmus americana)

I am still fairly weak in my knowledge of trees and find it challenging to identify trees that seem easy for others to learn. This one appears to be American Elm. Elm tree leaves have double-serrated teeth, meaning that the teeth have smaller teeth on them. The main teeth on these leaves are so large that you have to look closely to see the smaller teeth within the bigger teeth. Leaves are alternate and have uneven bases.

One of the most certain ways to tell the difference between American Elm and Slipper Elm (Ulmus rubra) is the lateral veins on the American Elm leaf blade do not fork (branch) until near the edge (margin) of the leaf. (In rare cases, one lateral vein may have a fork well before the edge on an American Elm leaf.) On a Slipper Elm leaf, the there will be at least two and sometimes many forks well before the edge of the leaf. In addition, Slipper Elm leaves tend to be rough on the top of the leaf and much more densely hairy on the back of the leaf. Buds and twigs on the American Elm tend to be brownish while twigs on the Slippery Elm are grayish and the buds are rusty brown to black. Finally, cutting a cross section of bark from American Elm will show an alternating pale and dark bands which are not seen in Slippery Elm bark.

Catawba Rosebay (Rhododendron catawbiense)

Supposedly, the only New England state that this plant grows in is Massachusetts. But Rhododendrons can be planted anywhere. This was found in a clump of bushes, very close to a business. Pink flowers, no scales on the leaves (see closeup image) and large leaves (10-20 cm long) led me to two possible Rhododendron choices. Short sepals (0.5 - 1.7 mm long) and wider leaves (1.5 - 2.5 times as long as wide) helped me decide that this was Catawba Rosebay.

May 23, 2012

Mouse-Ear Chickweed (Cerastium fontanum) (Previously: Cerastium vulgatum)

My first time locating a chickweed! A nice-sized patch of it was no more than 50 yards from my front door!

May 24, 2012

Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis)

This flower is so tiny that it’s hard to see unless your face is on top of the plant. Like the Thyme-Leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia), the flowers fall off with the slightest shaking of the plant. Because I dug up a plant, it was very easy to follow the key to the proper identification:

Bulbous Buttercup (Bulbous Crowfoot, St. Anthony’s Turnip) (Poisonous) ☠ (Ranunculus bulbosus)

There were a number of things that made this a very difficult identification and I’m not 100% sure it is accurate. I was taking pictures right outside of someone’s apartment and I think that were wondering what the *!*$(@ I was doing! Also, the key led me to information on flower parts and I can’t pick out flower parts very well. Fortunately, it had the obvious look of a buttercup:
The key was followed in this way:

Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

Fortunately, there are not many trees that have pinnately-compound leaves. In this case, every leaf had very large, toothed leaflets. The only trees that are pinnately-compound and with leaflets this big are the hickory (Carya) species. Since there are only five species of hickory in New England, I thought it would be easy. I narrowed it down to Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) and Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra).

Click on the two closeup pictures of the leaf teeth below (and then click one more time to expand again) to see that the leaf margins have clumps of hair near the teeth. This is a sign that this tree is Shagbark Hickory. The tree is not old enough for the bark to shag into long plates that are free at the bottom.

Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

I love the look of this flower! And it was easy to identify! Trifoliate leaves. It is a member of the Buttercup family.

May 25, 2012

Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula)

I have been looking for Leafy Spurge ever since I found the similar Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias) a few years ago. Leafy spurge is clearly much bigger and with much larger leaves. There is a rare hybrid of these two plants known as Euphorbia x pseudoesula. The leaf blades of the hybrid appear 35 mm long and 3 mm wide and a similar shape as Cypress Spurge leaves (narrow and linear). But the flowers are found in both a terminal cyme and in the leaf axils similar to Leafy Spurge.

Some might categorize this plant as Russian Leafy Spurge (Slender Leafy Spurge) (Euphorbia virgata) because stem leaf blades are linear, greater than six times longer than wide and widest below the middle. However, some authors categorize Russian Leafy Spurge as a subspecies (Euphorbia esula ssp. tommasiniana), some categorize it s a variety (Euphorbia esula var. uralensis or Euphorbia esula var. orientalis) and some consider it a separate species (Euphorbia virgata). In addition, some authors recognize a hybrid between Euphorbia esula and Eurphorbia virgata and call that hybrid Euphorbia x pseudovirgata. Until the confusion is worked out, I will categorize this plant as Euphorbia esula and leave it to the botanists to figure it out.

One interesting item I noticed when reading about the different varieties is that Leafy Spurge had its own newsletter called Leafy Spurge News.

May 26, 2012

Golden Alexander (Golden Zizia) (Zizia aurea)

I went to a 3-hour presentation on Edible Forest Gardens. It was inspiring! Then I want for a walk at a nearby set of trails. This is one of many new and interesting plants flowering by the stream.

Wild Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

These plants were growing right between at the edge of a parking lot that is adjacent to a forest walking path. Other plants growing in this weedy area were species of bedstraw, speedwell, buttercup, periwinkle and wild carrot. When you do not grow your own vegetables, you have no idea what the flowering plant looks like.

Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) (Also known as: Osmundastrum cinnamomeum)

Other than Sensative Fern (Onoclea sensibilis), which is easy to identify, this is my very first fern identification that I have done on my own! I was not planning on identifying ferns, but that big cinnamon-colored center part of the fern rosette made identification possible. Cinnamon Fern has a circular rosette of leaves (called fronds) that are infertile and then one or more central, cinnamon-colored fertile fronds (that release spores).

Each large leaf has many leaflets that get smaller as they approach the tip of the leaf. In the first top picture (above), to the right, we are looking at the back of part of one leaflet. There is hairy fuzz where the leaflet connects to the leaf stem. Some people call this “hairy armpits” and is a significant identifying feature of Cinnamon Fern. Notice that the leaflets are very deeply cut, almost into leafules (leaflets of leaflets), but not quite. Identification keys include: “hairy armpits”; thin, cinnamon-colored fertile frond; and leaflets of infertile front coming to a point (see last picture below).

Creeping Buttercup (Spot-Leaved Crowfoot) (Poisonous) ☠ (Ranunculus repens)

The light-colored splotches (spots) on the tops of the leaves help identify this Buttercup. Notice in the pictures below that the sepals are spread (not recurved down), the plant spreads with runners.

The key was followed in this way:

White Bedstraw (Galium album)

There are 22 Bedstraw (Galium) species in New England. Fortunately, half of those species have four or fewer leaves at each node. This species was keyed out as follows:

May 27, 2012

Pink Corydalis (Rock Harlequin) (Capnoides sempervirens) (Also known as: Corydalis sempervirens)

I walked by this area 100 times last year and did not see this plant. But there was only one of these plants in the dirt about 50 feet from a corn field (probably genetically manipulated corn). I guess I’m a little miffed at this farm because they leased some of the land from the city and then cleared the land to plant corn. By doing so they destroyed a great field with Sowthistle, Lobelia, Canada Thistle, Red Clover and Hedge False Bindweed. This is my second favorite flower after Red Columbine.

Giant Chickweed (Myosoton aquaticum) (Also known as: Cerastium aquaticum and Stellaria aquatica)

I found giant chickweed growing next to a corn field. Given the species name, aquaticum, I would have expected to find it near water. On the other hand, perhaps it is getting some water for the watering of the corn field. So, I went through the whole Caryophyllaceae (Pink) family to see if it could be anything else:
The simple way to identify it might be that it was 5 deeply-notched white petals with 5 styles and very big opposite leaves. The plants were growing in the sun, so I picked one plant to carry to a spot with some shade for better pictures.

Common Speedwell (Common Gypsyweed) (Veronica officinalis)

Barely touching this plant will make the flowers fall off, just like Corn Speedwell and Thyme-Leaved Speedwell. It was dusk and the mosquitoes were swarming and I was lying in the tick-infested grass and being as still as humanly possible to try and take pictures without all of the flowers falling off.


May 28, 2012

Green False Hellebore (American False Hellebore) (Poisonous) ☠ (Veratrum viride)

This plant is poisonous, the root being the most poisonous part. However, Native Americans and herbalists have used minute amounts of the rhizome medicinally, harvested in the Winter when the poison levels are at their lowest.

May 29, 2012

Virginia Dwarf Dandelion (Krigia virginica)

I kept thinking that this might be Red-Seeded Dandelion (Taraxacum laevigatum) because it looked like a small dandelion. There were hundreds of these plants by a farm and a few by my home. I went through the entire key for the Aster Family (Asteraceae) to confirm identification!

If you look at the pictures below, you can see closeups of the pappus. A pappus is a modified outer whorl of flowers of the Asteraceae family. It consists of the achene (seed) with bristles or scales at the top of the achene. This species has five white scales (that look a bit like flower petals) and five long bristles. A related species, Two-Flowered Dwarf Dandelion (Krigia biflora) has 10 scales and 20-35 long bristles.

May 30, 2012

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

I must have forgotten to post this plant to the web page last year. It is the easiest ferm to identify because it’s so unique-looking. Only the Netted Chain Fern (Woodwardia areolata) has any resemblence to Sensitive Fern. There are some obvious differences:

May 31, 2012

More than plants on the trails!

Five Stamen Chickweed (Small Mouse-Ear Chickweed) (Cerastium semidecandrum)

This plant doesn't grow as upright as Mouse-Ear Chickweed (Cerastium fontanum). But the main differences are that this plant does not have sprawling stems that root at the nodes and the flower has five stamen.