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.

June 2010 Foraging Experiences

(Back to: May 2010 Foraging Experiences)
(Forward to: July 2010 Foraging Experiences)

June 1, 2010

Maryland Black Snakeroot (Maryland Sanicle) (Sanicula marilandica) (Synonym: Sanicula canadensis var. marilandica)

My first Maryland Black Snakeroot tincture! See the description of this amazing plant in the Sanicula marilandica May Foraging Experiences section. Yesterday, I picked about 10 out of 50 plants in the area, washed the leaves and roots and then let them dry out a bit until today. It took about 10 plants to make 1-1/2 pints of tincture. (I also sprained my ankle on the way down the hill -- a sign to stay out of the field for the first part of this week and catch up on my garden and other tasks.)
It will be very interesting to see if my own teas and medicines made from freshly-picked herbs are more potent than the typical (and often non-wildcrafted) store-bought herbal medicines.

Silver Cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea)

This is the second of six New Hampshire cinquefoils that I am profiling. I profiled the Sulphur Cinquefoil in May. It is getting easier to tell them apart and the Cinquefoil Identification page is helping. Silver Cinquefoil is a 6 to 12 inch plant with leaves that contain 5-7 palmately-divided leaflets. The leaflets have a silver back and a bird‘s-foot like toothing (unlike the other cinquefoils). The flower is a 5-petals and yellow. While the images to the right seem to show a very light-colored almost sulphur-colored yellow flower, the sunlight made it seem lighter-colored than it really is.

Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex) is the most common of the cinquefoils in my area and will be profiled next. The Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil is one I need to locate. It is only 2 to 6 inches high and the leaflets have teeth only on the top 1/2 of the leaflet (unlike the Common Cinquefoil leaflet that has teeth on the top 2/3rds). The other cinquefoils, Norwegian Cinquefoil (Potentilla norvegica) (has leaves with only 3 leaflets) and Dwarf Mountain Cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana) (1/2 to 2 inch plant only found in alpine regions) will be profiled if they are found.

Mugwort (Common Wormwood) (Artemisia vulgaris)

I wandered up to this weed and said, “Hmmm. That looks like Mugwort!” I must have seen it in a book or something. When I got home, I confirmed that it is, in fact, Mugwort. A mature plant grows 2 to 4 feet tall. It has alternate leaves that are deeply dissected (cut-out) in parts of the leaf. The front of the leaves are green, but the back is covered with a silvery bed of hairs. As the leaf dries, this silvery bed of hairs feels more like a soft cotton or velvet. Notice how the edges of the leaves are pointy. As Mugwort leaves mature, the leaf lobes become much bigger. The links to the pictures below show younger to older Mugwort leaves:

Young Mugwort Leaves Intermediate-Aged Mugwort Leaves Older Mugwort Leaves

Before we discuss medicinal uses, it is important to differentiate Mugwort from plants that we might confuse to be Mugwort. Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) leaves have some similarity to Mugwort. Carefully compare the top two images of the Mugwort leaves (above and to the right) with images of Common Ragweed. Notice how the leaves for Common Ragweed are much more dissected (larger cut-out sections of the leaves) and that the tips of the leaves for Common Ragweed are more rounded. After looking at these pictures, it should be very easy to differentiate Mugwort and Common Ragweed.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is one of several Artemisia species in New Hampshire. Three species have similar leaves to Mugwort: 1) Absinthium (Artemisia absinthium). Notice in the picture of Absinthium to the immediate the right how both the front and back of the leaves are silver and that the edges are much more rounded than Mugwort. 2) Biennial Wormwood (Artemisia biennis) has leaves cut similar to that of Mugwort, but Biennial Wormwood is a more erect plant with a thicker stem and shorter, feathery leaves with a large number of lobes and cut almost to the midrib. Biennial Wormwood is a taller and thinner plant (in outline), while Mugwort leaves grow out further from the stem making the plant wider and more like a bush. 3) Roman Wormwood (Artemisia pontica) has leaves that are Grayish Green while Mugwort leaves are green in the front and silver and hairy on the back. The picture to the far right is a recent image of a Common Ragweed leaf.

Finally the Mugwort leaf has some slight similarity to the garden chrysanthemum leaf. In the image to the right, you can see the leaf of one chrysanthemum, Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Notice that it has more teeth along the dissected edges. In addition, garden chrysanthemum leaves are only slightly hair beneath while Mugwort has a very hairy silvery coating beneath that can feel like velvet.

Mugwort leaves are well known as an effective treatment for worms and parasites. They are a bitter tonic for the stomach and liver. The leaves are used for weak digestion, constipation, to stimulate gastric juice and bile, to treat epilepsy, to treat menstrual problems, to promote circulation and as a sedative. Mugwort root is used as a general tonic for people who have diminished strength and energy. In Ayurvedia Medicine, Mugwort is used to treat cardiac complaints and a general feeling of poor wellbeing. In Chinese Medicine, in additional to herbal ingestion, Mugwort leaves are dried and then the leaves rolled and burned next to acupuncture points (called “moxibustion”) to stimulate these points. Dried Mugwort leaves are sometimes burned with other herbs or along as part of a “smudging” or spiritual purification practice.

In Asia, Mugwort is used as a seasoning in several food dishes (soups, rice cakes, mochi dishes, etc.). I made a Mugwort leaf tea by infusing the dried Mugwort leaves in very hot water for 15 minutes. It was very pleasant-tasting and makes me want to gather leaves to dry and use through the Fall and Winter.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

I was not even looking for Sumac trees. Wandering into a hidden section of a public park I came upon 4-5 Staghorn Sumac trees all in a row. They are low-growing enough that I will easily be able to reach the fruit when it ready for harvesting as dark red berries in late July or early August. Last year, I used Sumac fruit given to me by my friend Judy to make a Sumac lemonaide. I crushed up the berries in cold water, let it sit for a while, strained it and then added sweetener. Yummy!

Staghorn Sumac is a small tree or bush that usually grows from 8 to 20 feet tall. The leaves are alternate and pinnately compound with 9 to 31 toothed leaflets. The red hairy fruit grows on the terminal ends of the branches. You can see from the pictures the red fruit from last year. Sometimes, the previous years‘ fruit can be picked as late as April, but it is better to pick it around August of the year it ripens. Staghnorn Sumac has extremely hairy branches that feel like velvet.

There are other Sumacs that have some similarities. Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) (Edible fruit) is similar to Staghorn Sumac, but has smooth (hairless) stems and leaf stalks (petioles). Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum) (Edible fruit) grows 4-10 feet tall, has raised dots on the stem and the 11-23 glossy leaflets have untoothed margins. Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) (Inedible fruit) has white, hairless fruit hairless stems and untoothed leaf margins. It tends to grow in swampy areas.

Curly Dock (Yellow Dock) (Rumex crispus)

Eastern Daisy Fleabane (Annual Fleabane) (Erigeron annuus)

The Eastern Daisy Fleabane is the most common fleabane in Southeastern, New Hampshire. It grows in waste areas, by roadsides and in overgrown fields. It has a white (and sometimes pink-tinged) flower rays (80-125 rays) surrounding a yellow disk made up of 100‘s of florets. The stem has noticeable hairs. The leaves are alternate up the stem. They are hairy, lanceolate in shape and have some teeth (but not many). The basal leaves are elliptic or round.

A very similar species is Prarie Fleabane (Rough Fleabane) (Erigeron strigosus). Prarie Flebane tends to have fewer leaves on the stem. The stem hairs are less noticeable since they are shorter and appressed against the stem. The leaves of Prarie Fleabane are mostly hairless. In addition, the stem leaves of Prarie Fleabane tend grow up to 1 inch wide, while Eastern Daisy Fleabane leaves grow to 2 inches in width. Hmmm. I am going to keep a close watch on these fleabanes to make sure I can differentiate between the Eastern Daisy Fleabane and the Prarie Fleabane.

Desert False Indigo (Indigobush) (Amorpha fruticosa)

This is a unique-looking plant! I have read in various places online that the seeds can be used to make a condiment. However, the Plants For A Future database for Amorpha fruticosa suggests that there might be a hazard with alkaloids in this plant. I have not seen any record of traditional uses as a condiment. The Plants For A Future web page does have three references that say that it can used in this way.

Desert False Indigo is a 4 to 18 foot shrub with alternate leaves that are about 6 to 18 inches long and odd-pinnate with 11-35 leaflets. The leaves have relatively short petioles up to 2 inches long. The leaflets are not quite opposite each other. (See picture below and on the left.) The leaflets are oblong and untoothed (entire). As you can see from the pictures, the flower which appears in late May to June is dark purple or blue with bright yellow or orange anthers (the male part of the stamen). After flowering for 2 to 3 weeks, the flowers are replaced by 1/4 inch seedpods that contain 1-2 seeds. The lower stems of the Desert False Indigo are woody with lenticels (pores). The upper stems are dull light green.

Crown Vetch (Securigera varia) (Synonym: Coronilla varia)

In the process of learning foraging plants, I am trying to identify most of the flowering plants that I see. Crown Vetch is a vine with alternate pinnately-compound leaves with 15 - 25 leaflets that are 1/2 - 3/4 inches long. There are obvious hairs on the back of the stem. It flowers in June as a cluster of pink winged flowers forming a crown. The stems of the flower (inner part of the cluster) are green with red streaks. Another common vetch is profiled below, Cow Vetch. Notice that the Crown Vetch has wider leaflets with a much less prominent leaflet mid-vein as compared to the Cow Vetch. Also, the Cow Vetch has a hairless stem.

June 3, 2010

I was not expecting to go foraging today. I was driving to my garden and my muffler fell out of my car, again! So, drove to the mechanic with the muffler dragging on the ground. On my walk back, I walked onto a trail off of a little-travelled road and into a tiny pine tree forest. There I found a “fern” that I had been trying to identify since last year. I had gone page-by-page several times through Peterson Field Guide to Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America and Weeds of the Northeast but still could not find it. A couple of days ago, I read about its many uses and properties by perusing Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes. It turns out that it is not a fern after all, but a member of the Bayberry plant family.

Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina)

Sweet Fern is a 1-4 foot shrub with many branches and a reddish-brown stem covered with white hairs. The leaves are alternate up the stems and have scalloped edges that make them look like fern leaves. Crushing the leaves give off a pleasant aromatic fragerance. It grows in sandy or rocky soils near pine forest, clearings and in woodlots.

Historically, a tea made from the leaves has been used as a weight-loss drink, to bleeding from the lungs, recovery from fever, diarrhea, ringworm and female problems. The tea has been used topically to treat rheumatism, poison ivy, bruises and sprains, itching, sores and toothache.

It can be used topically as a body deodorant and an insect repellent. A chemical in Sweet Fern, Betulin has been found to kill cancer cells for some types of cancer without harming healthy cells around the cancer. A tea from the flowering tops has been used to treat headache, fever, rheumatism and other conditions. Dried leaves thrown on a camp fire are said to keep mosquitoes away. Native Americans used to line their baskets with Sweet Fern leaves to help preserve fruit that they were picking.

I made an infusion of tea by steeping Sweet Fern leaves in very hot spring water for about 15 minutes. While the Sweet Fern leaves smell great, I can say that the taste is not pleasant (to me). It is very strong. It reminds me a bit of the Eastern Hemlock tree tea that I drank last year -- only stronger. Adding a little bit of honey might make it much more palatable. I will try that next time.

Annual Ragweed (Common Ragweed) (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

I took some pictures of a small ragweed plant. This is a useful comparison against the leaves of the Mugwort plant I picked on June 1, 2010. See the Mugwort foraging section above.

June 5, 2010

Autumn Olive (Japanese Silverberry) (Elaeagnus umbellata)

I picked Autumn Olive fruit last year with my friends, Mike and Judy. But I never knew how to identify this bush. Now that I can identify it, I see it almost everywhere! The Autumn Olive and its relative, the Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) are deciduous shrubs/small trees with smooth gray bark. They have distinctive silvery scales/dots on the young stems, leaves, flowers and fruits. The backs of the leaves are an especially distinctive, somewhat translucent silver color. (See picture to the right.) The leaves are alternate and slightly oval to lanceolate. They have untoothed (entire) margins.

The front of the Autumn Olive leaves are a dull green color, but are reported to become brighter green towards the Fall as some of the coloration rubs off. On the other hand, the front of the Russian Olive leaves are a gray-green color and stay like that all season. The Russian Olive leaves tend to be much thinner (more willow-like according to Samuel Thayer) and have a silvery sheen on both sides of the leaf. The flowers (not shown) are light yellow and appear in May. The fruit of Autumn Olive is a pink to red color with silver dots while the fruit of Russian Olive is yellow or orange with silver dots. It is available for harvest in late August through October. It is high in lycopene. I find the fruit of the Russian Olive sweeter than that of the Autumn Olive, but the Russian Olive is much more rare in Southeastern, New Hampshire.

June 6, 2010

Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina) and Mugwort (Common Wormwood) (Artemisia vulgaris)

I made Sweet Fern and Mugwort tinctures from the harvest of the foraging trip in Manchester with my friend, Judy. There was an endless swath of Sweet Fern. I didn‘t pick nearly enough Mugwort, so I picked more today to add to the tincture and for some tea. Two pints of Sweet Fern tincture and one cup of Mugwort tincture.

Cow Vetch (Blue Vetch, Tufted Vetch, Bird Vetch) (Vicia cracca)

Two vetches seem to be very common in Southeastern, New Hampshire. The Crown Vetch (Securigera varia) which I profiled earlier and even more common is the Cow Vetch (which is known by many other names). It's official USDA Plant Database name is Bird Vetch. Cow Vetch is a vine that has pinnately compound leaves with 14-31 small leaflets. It has blue (or purple) flowers hanging down that grow on one side of the stem only. The stems are hairless. Similar Vetches: Crown Vetch (Securigera varia) has a pink flower growing in a clump and obvious hairs on the back of the leaf stalk. Crown Vetch has wider leaflets with a much less prominent leaflet mid-vein as compared to the Cow Vetch. Hairy Vetch (Vicia villosa) has similar flowers to Cow Vetch except that parts of the flowers are both blue and whitish. Also, the stalks of Hairy Vetch have hairs.

June 7, 2010

Autumn Olive (Japanese Silverberry) (Elaeagnus umbellata)

Below are pictures of an Autumn Olive bush that I found in a local park. See the June 5 Autumn Olive foraging entry for more details about this excellent foraging find!

June 8, 2010

Went for a lunchtime walk today and saw at least six new flowering plants. This is a good opportunity to identify more plants. Below are five new flowering plants.

Maiden Pink (Dianthus deltoides)

A 5-petal pink flower on a thin, grass-like stalk. The flower petals are toothed at the tip. There are white and dark red dots at the center of the flower. Leaves are opposite and lanceolate in shape. They clasp the stem. The stem is hairless. Maiden Pink is similar to Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) except that Deptford Pink has flowers in clusters atop a stiff erect stem rather than the solitary flower for Maiden Pink.

Whorled Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

This is a plant I would like to be able to identify next year before the flowers appear. Whorled Yellow Loosestrife is an erect, 1 to 3 foot plant with whorls of 3 to 6 leaves going up the stem. The leaves lanceolate in shape and are 2 to 4 inches long. As can be seen in the pictures, the stem is hairy. Also notice that the upper leaves sometimes turn a purplish color. Each plant has numerous 5-petal yellow flowers marked with red dots at the center. Whorled Yellow Loosestrife is similar to Garden Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) except that Garden Yellow Loosestrife has many more flowers that are less delicate. The Garden Yellow Loosestrife flower petals are much wider and overlap.

Lanceleaf Tickseed (Lance-Leaved Coreopsis) (Coreopsis lanceolata)

A large yellow dasiy-like flower that is divided into 8 separate rays. Each flower ray contains 3 to 5 distinct lobes. The plant is erect and grows 1 to 2 feet tall. It has a hairy stem. The leaves are long (3-6 inches at the base), untoothed and lanceolate in shape. Lanceleaf Tickseed is part of the Aster family.

A friend of mine wants to make Lanceleaf Tickseed into a flower essence medicinal remedy. Here is a useful web page on the benefits of Lanceleaf Tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata) Flower Essence. Benefits include appetite suppresent, halting cravings for food/smoking/drugs, help with insomnia due to inability of shut off thinking at night.

Longbranch Frostweed (Helianthemum canadense) (Also known as: Crocanthemum canadense)

Longbranch Frostweed is an erect plant with a 5-petal yellow flower. The flower petals overlap sometimes making the flower look like a little yellow satellite dish. The very center part of the flower is white surrounded by orange-tipped stamen. Stems have 1 to 2 flowers that bloom in May-June. Leaves are alternate, narrowly-oblong and taper at both the base and the tip. Stems are scattered and branching and the branches become longer than the main stem. This differentiates it from the very similar species, Hoary Frostweed (Helianthemum bicknellii) where the branches do not become longer than the main stem. In addition, Hoary Frostweed tends to have more flowers (2-10) and blooms later in the year (June-July).

Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) is one of the dogbanes that can look a little bit like the edible Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). However, since it is a spreading, bushy plant it looks less like Milkweed than other more erect dogbanes such as Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum).

Spreading Dogbane is a 1 to 4 foot bushy plant with opposite leaves that are slightly drooping, smooth, ovate, untoothed (entire) and are 2 to 4 inches long. The stems are thin, round and pink to red. (The Common Milkweed stems are mostly green, squarish, and thick.) The flowers hang downwards and either cluster at the top and/or arise from the leaf axil. The little 3/8-inch wide flowers are mostly white with significant streaks of pink and have an inconspicuous dark yellow center. It flowers from June to August. Spreading Dogbane can be found along roadsides, fields and woodland borders.

A closely-related dogbane species is Indian Hemp ((Apocynum cannabinum). However, Indian Hemp has white to greenish-white flowers that cluster at the end of the main stem or main branches. Spreading Dogbane has pink and white flowers that cluster at the leaf axils or the end of the main stem or main branches. The flowers of Spreading Dogbane are larger than that of Indian Hemp. The leaves droop downwards slighly on the Spreading Dogbane, but do not droop on Indian Hemp. Indian Hemp is a more erect plant.

The dogbane and milkweed stalks can be collected in the late Fall after the stalks have dried to use for fibers to weave cord. The Wildwood Survival School has a summary on harvesting dogbane for cordage.

June 10, 2010

Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex)

Another cinquefoil for my Cinquefoil Identification web page. This is the most common of the cinquefoils -- Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex). Flowers on solitary stem arising out of a leaf axil. The first flower arises from the 2nd leaf axil from the bottom (This differentiates Common Cinquefoil from Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis) which has the flower arise from the 1st leaf axil from the bottom). While this plant can be tall, often times the stem droops or folds down over other plants.

Leaves are on separate stem from the flower. Leaves are alternate up the stem. They are palmately divided (all leaflets emerge from same point). For the Common Cinquefoil, the leaf stem is redish. The stem and leaf petioles are slightly hairy (appressed hairs). The leaflets have teeth for 3/4ths of their length. (Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil leaflets have teeth for only 1/2 of their length.) Some Common Cinquefoil leaflets have teeth for only 1/2 of their length, but measuring the upper leaflets seems to more consistently show that the teeth run for nearly 3/4ths of their length. The stipules (leaf-like appendage at the base of the petiole/leaf stalk) are linear-lanceolate and rolled. Plant height: 6 - 20 inches.

Riverbank Grape (Riverside Grape) (Vitis riparia)

June 11, 2010

Tall Meadow Rue (King of the Meadow) (Thalictrum pubescens)

Tall Meadow Rue is common in New Hampshire. It is easily recognized by the slightly lobed (3-lobed) leaflets and the ball of white spikes the comprise the flower. The leaf blade is ternately and pinnately decompound. That means that the leaf blade is divided and sometimes further subdivided into three (ternately) parts or two (pinnately) parts. Not all of the leaflets have three lobes. The leaflets are not toothed.

June 13, 2010

Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) (Previously: Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Oxeye Daisy and Red Clover blossom wine was started today!!! Went out and picked 1-1/2 gallons of Oxeye Daisy blossoms and 1-1/2 gallons of Red Clover blossoms. That was a lot of looking and picking, picking and looking! Thank you to Kevin for helping and to Jennifer for finding my more Ground Ivy! The good news is that I know some fantastic sites for large amounts of Oxeye Daisy and Red Clover. The extra Oxeye Daisy leaves will be used to spice up a salad. The extra Red Clover blossoms will be used for tincture and to dry for tea. Red Clover is a fantastic blood cleanser and is said to be a very important herb in the treatment of cancer.

I am using the Blossom Wine recipe I found on the Grow the Changes Blog. I doubled the ingredients so that I could make 1-1/2 gallons (~6 Liters) of wine or use some of that to make a “Blossom Cider Vinegar” as detailed on the above-mentioned web page. The ingredients include:
I put the instructions and another link to the source of the recipe (Grow the Change Blog) below the rest of the pictures. I hope everything turns out okay with this wine. It's an adventure!


Norwegian Cinquefoil (Rough Cinquefoil) (Potentilla norvegica)

The 4th in the line of cinquefoils for the Cinquefoil Identification web page. Fortunately, all of the four cinquefoils I have found so far are very different.

Norwegian Cinquefoil is the only cinquefoil in New Hampshire with 3 leaflets per leaf. The leaflets are heavily-toothed and, at up to 3 inches, almost as long as Sulphur Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) leaflets. The plant tends to have significant branching and a fairly dense pack of leaves compared to the other cinquefoils.

The 5-petal yellow flower has big spaces between the petals and the green sepals behind the flower petals are as long or longer than the flower petals. It is found in clearings, roadsides and weedy places. I found it in a field with Oxeye Daisy, White Campion, Red Clover and Flat-topped Aster.

Common St. John‘s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

White Campion (Bladder Campion) (Silene latifolia)

June 14, 2010

Canada Toadflax (Blue Toadflax) (Nuttallanthus canadensis) (Synonym: Linaria canadensis)

June 15, 2010

Water Hemlock (Spotted Water Hemlock) (Extremely Poisonous) ☠ (Cicuta maculata)

It is always useful to know your local poisonous plants so you can avoid them. Water Hemlock is extremely poisonous and one to avoid. Keep in mind that there is another poisonous Water Hemlock plant in New Hampshire called Bulbet-Bearing Water Hemlock (Cicuta bulbifer) which looks somewhat different but is also extremely poisonous. (See This description applies to the Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata). A few of the noticeable aspects of Spotted Water Hemlock are:
Now let us look at pictures and go over each item in the above list:

June 17, 2010

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

Bull Thistle (Spear Thistle, Roadside Thistle, Plumed Thistle) (Cirsium vulgare) (Synonym: Cirsium lanceolatum)

Sheep Laurel (Poisonous) ☠ (Kalmia angustifolia)

June 18, 2010

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

June 19, 2010

Meadow Salsify (Lesser Goat's Beard, Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, Showy Goat's Beard, Yellow Goat's Beard) (Tragopogon pratensis) (Synonym: Tragopogon lamottei)

Northern Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)

Self-Heal (Heal-All) (Prunella vulgaris)

Hop Clover (Golden Clover) (Trifolium aureum)

June 20, 2010

Rabbit Foot Clover (Trifolium arvense)

June 21, 2010

Common Arrowhead (Broadleaf Arrowhead, Duck Potato, Wapato) (Sagittaria latifolia)

Arrowhead is one of the more important foraging plants. The main crop from Arrowhead are the potato like roots that can be harvested in the Fall. Arrowhead grows near the shores of marshes, ponds and rivers, so it will require getting a bit wet to harvest. Harvesting the root requires feeling in the mud/muck with your hands to grab and pull off the root or by stomping and moving around in the mud to loosen the tubers until they float to the surface. Arrowhead root can be prepared by cleaning and peeling the tubers and then using them like potatoes. They can be cooked for 30 minutes and then the water drained. They can then be mashed for mashed potatoes. You can dry and then coarsly grind the mashed potatoes to store as an instant cereal. Undamaged potatoes can be stored in a root cellar if kept slightly moist and not piled too deeply.

Unopened (curled up) Arrowhead leaves can cooked as a green. The unopened leaves are available in the Spring to mid-Summer, but as of now I have yet to see any unopened leaves. The tips of the rhizomes (laterals) can be harvested in the last Summer and used raw or cooked as a root vegetable. For details on identifying, harvesting and preparing Arrowhead, please see:

The Forager‘s Harvest by Samuel Thayer
Wild Food Adventurer, Volume 1, Number 4 by John Kallas (only newsletter boxed sets are still available)

Common Arrowhead has very distinctive arrowhead leaves with long, somewhat pointed tips. One thing that distinguishes Arrowhead from similar looking plants such as Arrow Arum (Peltandra virginica) is that the veins of the leaves all originate at the same point -- near the top of the stem. Also, the top backward pointing lobes of the Common Arrowhead are far larger than other similar looking leaves. Those lobes cover half or more than half the surface area as the main portion of the leaf.

The second row of pictures below are pictures of the white flowers with a yellow center. These pictures were taken when the flower started to bloom on July 2, 2010.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Shepherd‘s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

June 22, 2010

Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria)

June 24, 2010

Common Toadflax (Butter and Eggs) (Linaria vulgaris)

I have not seen Common Toadflax very often -- one plant last year and this year I saw a few plants just outside a small path leading to a park. Common Toadflax was traditionally used as a digestive bitter. It stimulates liver and gallbladder secretion and helps to decongest and repair liver stress from a poor diet or malabsorption. The whole above-ground portion is used in decoction, infusion or tincture.

A yellow, 2-lipped flower with bright orange ridges. The leaves are long, very thin (grass-like) and alternate up the stem. Lower leaves are opposite or whorled. Grows in dry fields, roadsides and waste places.

Common Dogbane (Indian Hemp) (Apocynum cannabinum)

When Dogbane is young it looks somewhat similar to young Milkweed. Milkweed is edible and Dogbane is inedible. But dried Dogbane stalks can be used to make cord.

Mature Dogbane has a top cluster of 5-petal small white flowers. The flowers are bell-shaped with a green and yellow center. The stem is red and has a round cross section. The leaves are big, ovate and opposite.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) has a stem that is squarish in cross section, leaf size decreases going up the stalk and overlaps significantly (if folded upward), leaf bottom and stem is hairy, shoot is shorter and thicker. Common Dogbane has a stem that is round in cross section, leaf size increases going up the stalk and overlaps only slightly if any, leaf bottom and stem is smooth and hairless, shoot is taller and thinner. Young Milkweed stems tend to be green, while young Dogbane stems have a faint redish bloom or spots.

June 26, 2010

White Oak (Quercus alba)

There are a couple of very important reasons to locate a good source of White Oak trees. The acorns are a very important food source. While any type of oak tree acorns can be used, the White Oak acorns tends to contain fewer tannis and therefore needs much less leaching. Inner White Oak bark is a very power medicine. It is especially useful for persons who tend towards poor digestion, loose teeth or teeth with lots of cavities, poorly-toned intestines, swollen spleen and poor nutrient assimilation. It can be combined with dandelion root in a decoction to help remineralize the bones and teeth.

White Oak leaves have rounded lobes. The bark is grayish-silver and looks like it is stretched thin. The inner bark is white. A recently downed tree or the branches can be used to harvest the inner bark. White Oak acorns can be harvested in the Fall.

June 29, 2010

Sessile Bellwort (Wild Oats) (Uvularia sessilifolia)

This was a confusing and frustrating plant to identify! It looked so much like Solomon‘s Seal with the exception that the stem forked into two Solomon‘s Seal-like arching stems and instead of inedible fruit beneath the leaves, there is a green, 3-parted, triangular pod. With a lot of research and the help of Judy, we identified this plant. One of the biggest helpful web pages was this Minnesota web page on Solomon‘s Seal identification and look-alikes:'s_Seal_ID.htm

I could tell that it was not Feathery False Solomon‘s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) because the leaves do not grow off of little black buds and there were not flowers or fruit at the end of the stalks. It looked similar to Rose-Twisted Stalk (Streptopus lanceolatus) (from the above-mentioned web page), but instead of fruit beneath the leaves it had that green pod. It was not the Large-Flowered Bellwort from the above-mentioned web page, but I checked and realized that Sessile Bellwort (Wild Oats) grows in New Hampshire. It has the exact green pod that grows below this plant! One of the confusing aspects is that the younger Sessile Bellwort (Wild Oats) does not look like the pictures to the right or below because the leaves droop significantly until after the plant flowers and then the leaves stiffen up to look more like Solomon‘s Seal.

The leaves are usually 1-1/2 to 3 inches long growing on a stem that is not straight. The leaves are light green above and slightly whitish below. The leaf veins are parallel. As mentioned above, the stem forks into two Solomon‘s Seal-like arching stems. Flowers (not shown) are narrow, bell-shaped and hang beneath the leaves. After flowering a green, somewhat round, somewhat triangular pod hangs beneath the leaves. Inside the pod are tiny round white seeds.

Young Sessile Bellwort (Wild Oats) shoots can be stripped of their leaves and eaten raw in salads or cooked for 10 minutes.

June 30, 2010

Canada Lily (Wild Yellow Lily, Meadow Lily) (Lilium canadense)

This plant shows quite a bit of variation. The first plant I saw had 6 big flowers at the top and whorls of 8-10 leaves going up the stem. But most of the Canada Lilies along the trail had whorls of 4 leaves and only 1 flower at the top (see 2nd row of pictures in the table below). I thought it might be two different plants, but according to the guidebooks, it just shows quite a bit of variation.

The leaves are lanceolate and appear in whorls of 4-10 leaves on the stem. The veins beneath the leaves have minute prickles. The large yellow flowers have 3 petals and 3 petal-like sepals (making it seem like it has 6 petals). There are dark redish-brown spots on the flower petals. There are six stamen with brown anthers. Up to 20 flowers may be borne on the same plant.

Unopened lily bulbs can be roasted or boiled for 20 minutes as a vegetable. The bulb can be dried and ground into flour.