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 2012 Foraging Experiences

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June 1, 2012

Canada Toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis)

I thought that this plant was Texas Toadflax (Nuttallanthus texanus) even though it is not supposed to grow here. The flowers and stem are so much bigger than the Canada Toadflax that is so common around here.

Fortunately, Research Botanist, Arthur Haines was kind enough to take some of these plants and examine them (the size and the seeds). I tried to examine the seeds myself, but I did not have great enough magnification to tell if the seeds were tuberculate (bearing swellings or projections). It turns out that this plant is simply Canada Toadflax with larger than typical flowers.

June 3, 2012

Dragonfly on sucking on Tower Mustard (Turritis glabra) seedpods.

Field Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense)

The seed pods on Field Pennycress are many times bigger than the similar-shaped pods on Field Pepperweed (Lepidium campestre) and Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum). After I keyed out this plant for identification, I was still left with several possible mustard genuses. I went through those possibilities to be sure that I had the correct ID. It would have been easier had I counted the number of seeds in the seed pods.

Wild Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum)

In order to separate the Wild Radish from the Cultivated Radish (Raphanus sativus), it would have been helpful to take pictures of the seedpod, measure the width and notice the long pointy seedpod beak. But I was too busy nibbling on radish root (which was a little bit woody at this point). The taproot of Wild Radish is slender (not pictured) while the taproot of Cultivated Radish and conspicuously thickened.

Tomentose Chickweed (Snow in Summer) (Cerastium tomentosum)

I think this was planted along with a bunch of other New England species. I decided that I have to accept some plants in addition to what happens to be in the wild. Otherwise, I may not have another opportunity to learn this species of Chickweed. Fortunately, this is the only Chickweed in New England that is tomentose (a covering of matted or tangled, soft, wooly hairs) so that the actual stems and leaves are almost completed covered in hair.

June 5, 2012

Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalis)

I recognized the pea flowers right away and went to the Fabaceae (Pea Family) key to find out the genus of this plant. Fortunately, I was able to skip over much of the Fabaceae key due to this plant having leaves with three leaflets that are toothed.

June 6, 2012

Perennial Pea (Everlasting Vetchling, Everlasting Pea) (Lathyrus latifolius)

I have been trying to figure out this plant since last year. I can recognize pea family flowers more easily, so I just had to figure out the genus and species:

Whorled Bedstraw (False Baby’s Breath, Wild Madder, White Bedstraw) (Galium mollugo)

I thought I found this plant last May, but there was no easy way at that time to differentiate Whorled Bedstraw (Galium mollugo) from White Bedstraw (Galium album). So, I am replacing those pictures with these which are definately Galium mollugo.

Big-Toothed Aspen (Big-Toothed Poplar, Large-Toothed Aspen) (Populus grandidentata)

I identified another tree! Fortunately, the leaf shape is very distinctive. The buds are supposed to be hairy, but I only found a few stray hairs on each of the buds.

The Populus genus consists of various species of Balsam Poplars, Cottonwoods and Aspens. The leaves are alternate. In most species, the leaves are twice as long as wide, tip pointed, single-toothed and veins branching irregularly near the margin. The flowers are catkins.

June 9, 2012

Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum)

I really love the taste of the tops of Virginia Pepperweed. Mustard-like, tangy taste. There were hundreds upon hundreds of plants. I could gather the flower tops, dry and grind them into a powder to spice up dishes! Hiked and snacked on Virginia Papperweed, Canada Lettuce, Hoary Allysum, Tower Mustard, and Indian Cucumber.

The most obvious difference between this plant and Field Pepperweed is that the leaves of Virginia Pepperweed do not clasp the stem. Key:

Annual Knawel (German Knotgrass) (Scleranthus annuus)

Big patches of this plant was growing in the dirt (near grass). It grew tangled and very low to the ground. I didn't get any pictures at that location, but picked some and took pictures while holding it on the final leg of my hike. I didn't realize, but there is an Annual Knawel (this plant) and a Perennial Knawel (Scleranthus perennis). The Perennial Knawel has sepals that are obtouse to rounded at the apex and the floral bracts are mostly shorter than the flowers. The Annual Knawel has acute-tipped sepals and bracts equaling or exceeding the flowers.

June 10, 2012

Northern Dewberry (Common Dewberry) (Rubus flagellaris)

This is my third Rubus species identification. There are a total of 28 species in New England. Key:

Striped Maple (Moosewood) (Acer pensylvanicum)

This is commonly seen as a very young tree in the forest. But this one was a bit older so I could be sure that it grows into a full-sized maple tree. It has very big leaves and each lobe comes to a sharp point. There are many small teeth in between each lobe.

Narrow-Leaved Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

Last year I found a Blue-Eyed Grass and when I went back out to identify the species, the rain had washed away all of the flowers. There are two important pieces of information to determining the species: 1) the long bract (spathe) below the flower will either be sessile or borne on a flower stem (peduncle). If it is borne on a flower stem, there will usually be 2-5 peduncles per stem; 2) The stems will either have obvious winged margins or barely-discernable wingled margins.


June 11, 2012

Happy fern day! I already identified Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) and Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis). The three very common ferns below means I know 5 out of 68 New England fern species. Before the ferns, below is a friendly encounter with a porcupine on the trail:

Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana)

I love ferns (and plants) that are easy to identify! Remember that Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) has a separate fertile frond (leaf) with cinnamon-colored spore-bearing leaflets completely covering the leaf blade. In the case of Interrupted fern, the fertile fronds have regular leaflets that are interrupted by several sets of dark brown spore-bearing leaflets. The slightly shorter sterile fronds have no spore-bearing leaflets. The first picture to the right shows a fertile frond with three sets of dark brown spore-bearing leaflets.

The fronds are large and grow in a circle. The leaf stalk (stipe) has tan wooly hairs. The fiddleheads are stout with white to light tan wooly hairs. The leaves are bipinnate. Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) is similar to Interrupted Fern except the spore-bearing leaflets are produced at the apex of the leaf blade.

Eastern Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula)

The smell from crushed Eastern Hay-Scented Fern is supposed to be like freshly cut hay, but I do not remember what that smell is like. This plant (when crushed) smells a little like Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina). Keys to identifying this fern:
Eastern Hay-Scented Fern can sometimes dominate large patches of the forest understory.

Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum)

This is supposed to be the only large fern (up to 3 ft. tall) in New England where the blade is divided into three segments. The two basal pinnae are relatively large. The blade is often held parallel to the ground. The stipe is smooth and grooved. Sori are silvery at first, turning brown later in the year. The sori are often covered or partially covered by the reflexed margins of the pinnules.


June 12, 2012

Northern Lady Fern (Narrow Lady Fern, Subarctic Lady Fern, Common Lady Fern) (Athyrium angustum) (Also known as: Athyrium filix-femina ssp. angustum)

This was my first difficult fern as far as the ID. The important thing to look for is the sori are long and almost straight, but often with a slight curve. The fronds grow in circular clusters and have a relaxed (hanging down) tip. The stipe is smooth with scattered brown scales. Base of stipe dark red-brown and swollen. Blade widest in the middle.

June 19, 2012

American Basswood (American Linden) (Tilia americana) (Also known as: Tilia americana var. americana)

After a couple of years of hoping to find this tree, I found it. Actually, someone else pointed it out to me. Hopefully, I can find many more and be ready for Springtime leaf snacks. A few things I want to remember include:

June 20, 2012

Shrubby Cinquefoil (Dasiphora floribunda) (Also known as: Pentaphylloides floribunda)

When I saw the flowers, I immediately thought of cinquefoil flowers. But the leaves looked so much different. So, I went through the key of the Rosaceae family to discover that it was the Dasiphora genus. Key:

June 21, 2012

White Avens (Geum canadense)

I saw this plant last year and thought it might be an Aster. But few Asters are in bloom now. Fortunately, the leaves with three toothed leaflets below and simple leaves above helped me identify this plant.

Infusion or decoction of the cut or powdered root is used to treat fevers, flu, chills, diarrhea, weakness and asthmatic symptoms.


June 22, 2012

Common Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis)

I’ve seen a lot of Blackberry bushes lately, but they don’t always have flowers or blackberries growing, so they have been difficult to identify. This one has both blackberries (still green) and flower remnants. Some of the important things to look for are straightish spines on the primocane, stipitate glands or gland-tipped hairs on the peduncle, raceme inflorescence longer than 8 mm. Key:

Round-Leaved Shinleaf (American Shinleaf, American Wintergreen) (Pyrola americana) (Also known as: Pyrola rotundifolia ssp. americana)

This was an unexpected encounter. After several years of walking along trails, I have only seen a Shinleaf one other time. It was right at the edge of the trail in a fairly dry location amongst American Beech trees. Key:

Maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina) (Also known as: Lyonia ligustrina var. ligustrina)

I wonder why this is named, “Maleberry.” Finding out sounds like a good Winter project. It is important to remember to take pictures of the brown five-parted seed capsules as it is a tell-tale sign of Maleberry (See the picture in the second row on the left.) A few things about this plant to notice:

Royal Fern (American Royal Fern) (Osmunda regalis) Also known as: Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis)

This fern is similar to Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) and Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana). Cinnamon Fern has a complete separate cinnamon-colored stalk of spores. Interrupted Fern has fertile frond leaflets (pinnae) and then spores in the middle followed by more leaflets. Royal fern has spores covering the tops of the fertile frond. Another difference is the Royal Fern has much longer and wider-space (alternating) pinnules (leafules). It is often found next to water.

June 23, 2012

Sweet William Pink (Dianthus barbatus)

This plant may have escaped from a garden somewhere. It is easy to see that the flowers look similar to Maiden Pink (Dianthus deltoides). Key:

Marginal Wood Fern (Marginal Shield Fern) (Dryopteris marginalis)

A few important tips for recognizing Marginal Wood Fern:

June 24, 2012

Biennial Bee-Blossom (Oenothera gaura) (Also known as: Gaura biennis)

What an amazing find! Actually, Arthur Haines found this before it flowered while he was teaching a class. When I was back in the area, I looked to see what it had turned into. At first I wasn’t sure that it was a Evening Primrose genus (Oenothera), so I went through the Onagraceae (Evening Primrose family) key:
Once I was this far along in the key, I had to decide between Biennial Bee-Blossom (Oenothera gaura) and Longflower Bee-Blossom (Oenothera filiformis, Gaura biennis var. pitcheri, Guara longiflora). This was a very difficult task relying on my pictures only (since it is a 2-1/2 drive to the flower). The stem and inflorescence of Biennial Bee-Blossom are densely villous (long, soft, bent hairs, not tangled). The backs of the leaves are short-villous along the margins. On the other hand, Longflower Bee-Blossom stems and inflorescence are densely strigulose (tiny straight, stiff, sharp and appressed hairs). Looking at the closeup pictures towards the bottom of the table below, I came to the conclusion that most of the hairs are villous and therefore the plant is Biennial Bee-Blossom. It is a very rare plant in Eastern New England.

June 26, 2012

Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum)

Out of the 16 white, pink or purple Trifolium flowers in New England, only White Clover and Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum) have flower pedicels longer than 0.5 mm (usually 2 mm or longer). To differentiate these two plants:

Hairy Galinsoga (Common Quickweed, Shaggy Soldier) (Galinsoga quadriradiata)

This is a common weed in the public gardens. It is extremely hairy and edible (cooked). The easiest way to differentiate it from Lesser Quickweed (Galinsoga parviflora) is that Lesser Quickweed is much less hairy. In addition, the pappus (modified calyx crowning the ovary) of the disk flowers for Hairy Galinsoga has an awn (narrow bristle) tip. The pappus of the ray flowers of Hairy Galinsoga is well-developed, but poorly-developed for Lesser Quickweed.

June 27, 2012

New Jersey Tea (New Jersey Redroot) (Ceanothus americanus)

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) is part of the Buckthorn (Rhamnaceae) family. What distinguishes the Ceanothus genus from other Buckthorn genuses is that the leaf blade has three prominent veins from near the base of the leaf and the inflorescense is a terminal umbrel with numerous flowers. Prairie Redroot (Ceanothus herbaceus) is similar, but New Jersey Tea has larger leaves and the veins emerge from 1-3 mm below the base of the leaf.

June 28, 2012

Small-Spike False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica)

This is a fairly common plant. But I had avoided trying to identify it for years because I never saw the flowers. There is only one species in the Boehmeria genus (in New England). But there is another genus in the same family with very similar, non-stinging plants: Pilea. The flowers of Small-Spike False Nettle are a spike, while the flowers of Pilea species are a panicle. In addition, the cystoliths (concentration of calcium carbonate appearing as minute segments on the leaf) are rounded in Small-Spike False Nettle but linear in Pilea species.

Fragrant Bedstraw (Galium triflorum)

At first I thought this was White Bedstraw (Galium album). I didn’t want to hang around for photos because the mosquitoes were swarming. Fortuntely, I noticed that the stem was very sticky (and rough) feeling. I'll need to go back and double-check, tough.

If the stem was not rough to the touch, I would have to decide between White Bedstraw (Galium album), Wood Bedstraw (Galium sylvaticum) and Whorled Bedstraw (Galium mollugo). All three of these have inflorescences
with 5-20 flowers. This plant seems to have inflorescences with 2-3 flowers. Key:

June 29, 2012

White Mulberry (Morus alba)

I had a hard time determining if this was White Mulberry (Morus alba) or Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) since it seems to have some characteristics of both. The front of the leaves were scabrous (rough to touch due to short, stiff, appressed hairs) as found in Red Mulberry, but it was only slightly scabrouns and slightly smooth. The front leaf surface was glossy as found in White Mulberry. The back of the leaf had tufts of hairs along the major veins as found in White Mulberry.

Some of the fruit was whitish as found in White Mulberry (although it will be interesting to see if those whitish fruits turn purple. White Mulberry can have some fruits that are pink, purple and even black. Finally, red Mulberry is found mostly in Western New England while White Mulberry throughout New England.

According to the Duke University Red Mulberry web page, White Mulberry and Red Mulberry can often hybridize, resulting in trees with intermediate characteristics. It is possible that this is a hybrid.

June 30, 2012

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

Out of the 16 white, pink or purple Trifolium flowers in New England, only White Clover and Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum) have flower pedicels longer than 0.5 mm (usually 2 mm or longer). To differentiate these two plants:

Ostrich Fern (Fiddlehead Fern) (Matteuccia struthiopteris)

Finally! It took me forever to find this fern! But I'll be enjoying fiddleheads next Spring. Here are a couple of key identifying features:

Evergreen Wood Fern (Intermediate Wood Fern, Fancy Wood Fern) (Dryopteris intermedia)

I found this fern in May 2011 in fiddlehead form, but I wasn't able to identify it. A research botanist told me at the time that it was Evergreen Wood Fern. The is my first real identification of the plant (at a new location). Here are a few things to remember about Evergreen Wood Fern:

Narrowleaf Bittercress (Cardamine impatiens)

The silique seed pods were a give-away that this was in the Mustard family. It has a very nice horseradish taste. Key: