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.

July 2010 Foraging Experiences

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July 2, 2010

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Small Enchanter‘s Nightshade (Circaea alpina)

Blue Vervain (Swamp Verbena) (Verbena hastata)

Broadleaf Cattail (Typha latifolia)

Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

Fringed Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata)

July 4, 2010

Lobelia (Indian Tobacco) (Lobelia inflata)

The tiny violet Lobelia flower reminds me of the small Canada Toadflax (Linaria canadensis) flower, but the full large leaves make the plant look completely different. I did not realize that this is the herb, Lobelia, as my guidebooks mostly had it listed as Indian Tobacco.

The upper corolla (petal area of the flower) consists of two small lobes that point upwards. The lower corolla consists of three small lobes that point outwards. The flower is blue to violet. The leaves are light green and alternate on a hairy stem. The back of the leaves are somewhat shiny and grayish green. It can be found in disturbed fields.

The whole above-ground portion of Lobelia is used by herbalists in infusion, tincture, or oil/linament form. When taken internally, it is very powerful, so very small amounts are used. In very small amounts, it helps relax the body, but in even moderate amounts it can cause a person to throw up (and was sometimes used for this to clear the stomach). Internally, it helps heal the nervous system and clears obstructions in the body. Externally, it is used to treat inflammation. More detail on the safe and appropriate use of Lobelia can be found in the following books:

When I went back to the field with Lobelia two days after I took most of these pictures, most of the Lobelia flowers had fallen off, making it harder to identify the plant.

Prairie Fleabane (Rough Fleabane) (Erigeron strigosus)

I profiled Eastern Daisy Fleabane at the start of June and I wanted to profile Prairie Fleabane, but always had difficulty telling them apart. The flowers look very similar. One of the main differences is that Eastern Daisy Fleabane will often grow up to 5 feet tall while Prairie Fleabane tends to grow up to 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall. In addition, the leaves of Prairie Fleabane are sparse on the stem and they are much thinner -- usually less than 1 inch wide. The stems hairs for Prairie Fleabane are appressed and therefore much less noticable than the hairs for Eastern Daisy Fleabane. The lower (basal) leaves of the Prairie Fleabane are more spatula-shaped. The quickest way to tell the difference is the smaller height, thinner and sparser leaves and appressed stem hairs.

July 6, 2010

Common Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

July 7, 2010

Brown Knapweed (Centaurea jacea)

July 8, 2010

White Meadowsweet (Broadleaf Meadowsweet) (Spiraea latifolia) (Synonym: Spiraea alba var. latifolia)

July 10, 2010

I bought a decent camera -- a Panasonic Lumix ZS7. Finally, I won't have to take 20 pictures to get 4 usage pictures on my iPhone. I can get close to the flower and leaves without it becoming a blur. The camera also has a GPS so that is attached the location to the image so that I can locate the plant another time during the year.

Soapwort (Bouncingbet) (Saponaria officinalis)

Field Sowthistle (Perennial Sowthistle) (Sonchus arvensis)

July 12, 2010

Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica)

July 16-18, 2010

I went to a Summer Foraging class with
Arthur Haines of the Delta Institute. The course was on Friday (7pm-9pm), Saturday (8am-9pm) and Sunday (8am - Noon) with a lecture, extensive plant walks/harvesting that included very detailed plant identification and use information. In addition, we made a linament, tea, wild food soup and had a class on making basket/cooking pots from Eastern White Pine.

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

Physically, the class was more tiring than the Spring class. It was a combination of the heat, length of time outside, harvesting in the cattail marsh and especially the lack of sleep due to late night “adventures” by couples staying next door to me at the bed & breakfast.

July 21, 2010

I put up a spreadsheet of Food/Medicine Products that I have foraged for and created this year. This only includes tinctures, oils and wines but not foraged foods that I have prepared for meals:

I have make such a high quantity of tinctures that the liquor store clerks must think I‘m a “Vodka Alcoholic” -- going back time after time to buy bottles of Rain Organic Vodka. The Bariani Olive Oil company owners probably think that I am a Greek restaurant owner based on the quantity of oil I have ordered. I did go way overboard on and amount of Lobelia I picked and put into olive oil (14 cups of oil!).

I am way behind on putting descriptions next to some of the pictures of plants I have identified. It may have to wait until Winter as I‘d rather be outside when I‘m not working!

Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Spotted Tumpetweed) (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus) (Synonym: Eupatorium maculatum)

I‘ve been spotting a lot of Spotted Joe-Pye Weed lately. It grows near moist/wet areas. Spotted Joe-Pye Weed has redish-pink flowers that make the top of the plant look fuzzy when they open up. Each flowerhead has 10-16 flowers. The leaves grow in whorls of 4-5. The leaves are sharply toothed and the leaf veins are pinnately divided. The stem is purple or spotted purple with hairs above.

Other common Joe-Pye Weed species include: Sweet Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatoriadelphus purpureum / Eupatorium purpureum) which has dark purple on the stem only at the nodes, the leaves have a vanilla scent when crushed, there are fewer flowers per flowerhead (4-7), flowers are dull pale/pink (less dark in color), leaves are in whorls of 3-4, stem often covered with slight whitish bloom and the plant tends to grow in slightly drier locations; Hollow Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatoriadelphus fistulosus / Eupatorium fistulosum) which has a hollow stem, 4-7 leaves in whorls (often 6 leaves), narrow, lance-shapped, sharply toothed leaves, but finer teeth than other Joe-Pye Weeds; Coastal Plain Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatoriadelphus dubius / Eupatorium dubium) which has 3-veined leaves and the base of the leaf narrows abruptly. It grows up to 40 inches tall.

The leaves and flowers of the Joe-Pye Weeds can be used in tea or tincture to treat fevers (similar to the way Boneset is used). In addition, the roots can be used in a decoction to treat and dissolve kidney stones. Sweet Joe-Pye Weed is also known as Gravel Root and can be found in many herbal formula to treat kidney problems. The Joe-Pye weeds are used by people with arthritic conditions or joint and ligament problems. It can break up calcifications in the body and make the joints more supple.

Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra)

Allegheny Monkeyflower (Mimulus ringens)

Was monkeying around on the trail and found my first Monkeyflower (Mimulus) opposite from a Broadleaf Cattail and Pickerel Weed marsh. As can be seen, the Allegheny Monkeyflower is purple and yellow and some say looks like a money's face. The lower part of the flower has three lobes and the upper part has two lobes. The leaves are opposite and tend to clasp the square stem (no petioles -- sessile).

July 25, 2010

Pineapple Weed (Disc Mayweed) (Matricaria discoidea) (Synonym: Matricaria matricarioides)

I didn‘t think that I‘d ever find Pineapple Weed this Summer. I thought it was a much bigger plant, but it is a tiny weed that almost gets lost amongst the grass. You can just barely see the little green-yellow disks if you stop long enough to smell the Pineapple. It does have a Pineapple-like smell if you crush the flower heads between your fingers.

The dried or fresh flower heads can be used in tea (infusion) with a similar effect as that of Chamomile.

Pineapple Weed is a 2-18 inch tall plant with alternate leaves that are deeped dissected. The green leaves with a bit of a silver tinge remind me a bit of silver cinquefoil leaves. Each Pineapple Weed plant can have several to many disk/cone-shaped flower heads at the ends of the branches. The flower is green and eventually turns yellow as it matures. Crush the flower to get the pineapple odor.

Coastal Plain Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatoriadelphus dubius) (Synonym: Eupatorium dubium)

I found a Coastal Plain Joe-Pye Weed plant amongst other unidentified species of Joe-Pye Weed. The Coastal Plain Joe-Pye Weed has distinct, three-veined leaves and the base of the leaves narrow much more abruptly as compared to other Joe-Pye Weeds. I have the lattitude and longitude coordinates of these plants. Since it is such a large field of Joe-Pye Weed, it will be ideal to return to get some root for tea and identify the other species of Joe-Pye Weed at the site.

As mentioned four days ago for Spotted Joe-Pye Weed, the leaves and flowers of the Joe-Pye Weeds can be used in tea or tincture to treat fevers (similar to the way Boneset is used). In addition, the roots can be used in a decoction to treat and dissolve kidney stones. Sweet Joe-Pye Weed is also known as Gravel Root and can be found in many herbal formula to treat kidney problems. The Joe-Pye weeds are used by people with arthritic conditions or joint and ligament problems. It can break up calcifications in the body and make the joints more supple.

Meadow Horsetail (Equisetum pratense)

Oops! I am not supposed to ingest Horsetail in a tincture because it has thiaminase (an enzyme that destroys thiamin, Vitamin B1) and that enzyme can be destroyed by heat. I should have prepared it as a decoction.

Scouringrush Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale)

July 30, 2010

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) (Previously: Polygonum cuspidatum)

Made a Japanese Knotweed rhizome tincture today. By the way, a rhizome is a “creeping underground stem.” The rhizome is incredibly hard. So hard in fact that I had to go out and buy a hatchet to start to cut up the rhizome. After making the pieces a bit smaller with the hatchet, I put them in two canvas bags and took them out to a parking lot and tried to crush them with a hammer. Some of the pieces were crushed but some tore holes the bag. The pieces on top of the tincture bottles are only partially crushed There are significant crushed bits on the bottom of the bottles.

Solomon's Seal (Smooth Solomon's Seal) (Polygonatum biflorum)
Sessile Bellwort (Wild Oats) (Uvularia sessilifolia)

In some cases, it is hard to tell the difference between Sessile Bellwort and Solomon‘s Seal. In the Spring, as Sessile Bellwort flowers, the leaves droop and it looks nothing like Solomon‘s Seal. When the inedible berries grow hanging down below Solomon‘s Seal or when the singular triangular seed pod hangs down below Sessile Bellwort, it is easy to tell the two apart. Also, most of the Sessile Bellwort plans have a branching/split stem while Solomon‘s Seal has a single, arching stem. See images below.

Sessile Bellwort
(Leaves droop)
Solomon‘s Seal
(Berries below)
Sessile Bellwort
(Triangular seed pod)
Sessile Bellwort
(Branching stem)

But there are many cases in the Summer and Fall where a neither the Sessile Bellwort nor the Solomon‘s Seal have berries or pod hanging below them and the Sessile Bellwort has a singular arching stem making it look quite a bit like Solomon‘s Seal. In order to learn how to tell the difference by looking at the stem and leaves, I took numerous picture of both plants:

Solomon‘s Seal images

Sessile Bellwort images

The following table represents the differences I see when I look at the two plants:

Plant Feature Solomon‘s Seal Sessile Bellwort
Root Thicker. Many outgrowths from root. Bumps on root showing yearly growth. Thinner, Few outgrowth from root. Root smooth with little or no bumps.
Stem Mostly straight. Little if any zig-zag. Pronounce zig-zag pattern to stem.
Leaf spacing Alternate leaves wide enough that they are touching or nearly touching the leaves on the same side of the stem. A fairly wide space between the leaves on the same side of the stem partly due to the zig-zag of the stem.
Leaf Tip Looking at the back of the leaf, the leaf comes to a somewhat rounded point. Looking at the back of the leaf, the leaf has what looks like a tiny needle point on the end.
Leaf Veins Thicker and more pronounced veins when looking under magnification. Thinner and less pronounced veins when looking under magnification.
Fruit Remnants If the berries are gone, you can sometimes see tiny berry stems hanging below the plant. Rarely see the seed pod stem hanging below the plant.