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 2011 Foraging Experiences

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July 15, 2011

A very busy work schedule has fouled up my foraging schedule for the last month. I have been out maybe 10 times in the last 30 days taking pictures, but very little harvesting of plants. I did pick some Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina) on Tuesday of this week. And this weekend, I plan to get an early start on harvesting Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina). I could see ripe Staghorn Sumac fruit from the highway even though it's only mid-July. The Smooth Sumac (Rhus Glabra) isn’t even close to being ripe (still green).

The nice thing about foraging experience is that I can identify almost every weed in my garden. The most common two weeds by far are Wild Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) and Annual Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) followed by Hairy Galinsoga (Galinsoga quadriradiata), Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album), Cow Vetch (Vicia cracca), Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Spotted Ladysthumb (Polygonum persicaria), Hedge False Bindweed (Calystegia sepium), Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta). Surprisingly, I found a couple of Norweigian Cinqufoil (Potentilla norvegica) plants growing as weeds in the garden. There is also a type of grass in the garden, but I cannot identify that yet.

July 16, 2011

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

White clover flowers can vary from white to pink. Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum) flowers can turn pink with age. White Clover leaflets are somewhat round, while Alsike Clover leaflets are more of an elogated oval shape.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Staghorn Sumac harvesting begins. The fruit is almost ripe and it is only July 17th. I harvested some of the ripest ones I can find for drying. Once dry, the fruit will be ground into powder to use as a spice. Have to remember to go back in a few weeks to harvest the rest for spice and Sumac-aide.

July 22, 2011

Tall Hairy Agrimony (Common Agrimony) (Agrimonia gryposepala)

Matthew Wood has a whole chapter on the healing properties and magical properties of agrimony in The Book of Herbal Wisdom. I never thought I would find it within a few miles of my home! I will be getting out there to harvest for tea and tincture. It was in the damp woods, not far from a creek. There was quite a bit of Broadleaf Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) growing nearby.

At first I thought it was a Cinquefoil. Perhaps Tall Cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta), but Tall Cinquefoil has white flowers. Or Pennsylvania Cinquefoil (Potentilla pectinata), but the flowers of Pennsylvania Cinquefoil grow in a cyme rather than on a spike and the leaflets of Pennsylvania Cinquefoil are much more deeply dissected. Then I thought it might be Pacific Silverweed (Argentina egedii), but each flower of Pacific Silverweed grows on a separate stalk. Flipping through all of the yellow flower pictures in a field guide was what saved the day.

The leaves are alternate and pinnately-divided with 5-9 large, coarsely-toothed leaflets with tiny leaflets between. The flowers are deep yellow with five petals and look like cinquefoil flowers except that the flower petals are not notched at the tip as with some cinquefoils. The flowers grow on spikes and are not densely packed as they are with Roadside Agrimony (Agrimonia striata).

Broadleaf Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea canadensis)

The flower has two petals that are split to make it look like four petals. Leaves are opposite and gently, wavy-toothed. Broadleaf Enchanter’s Nightshade differs from Small Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea alpina):

July 26, 2011

Showy Ticktrefoil (Desmodium canadense)

Showy Ticktrefoil is a large plant -- 2 to 6 feet tall with alternate leaves. Each leaf has three large leaflets and sheath at the base of the petiole where it attaches to the stem. The end leaflet has a longer petiole (leaflet stem). The leaflets are entire (untoothed), 2 to 8 inches long, less than half as wide as long, ovate to lanceolate and short-pointed at the tip. However, some of the lower leaves have more oval leaflets as can be seen in one of the pictures below. The stem is very hairy, feels 4-sided and is streaked vertically with red lines.

The flowers are purple, pea flowers that grow on a raceme -- an unbranched inflorescence bearing flowers with short stalks. Older flowers appear towards the bottom of the inflorescence and new flowers are produced as the shoot grows. For Showy Ticktrefoil, the flowers can be bunched closely as seen in the images to the right and below or they can be spread out slightly more than shown in the pictures.

It can be differentiated from other plants in the genus by the hairy stem, large lanceolate leaves (less than half wide as long), and large and often densely-packed racemes of flowers. Panicledleaf Ticktrefoil (Desmodium panciulatum) has similar-looking leaves and leaflets, but the stem is not as hairy (sometimes no hairs), the leaflets are only 1 to 2 inches long, the stem does not have the vertical red lines and the flowers do not appear to be as densely-packed.

At first I thought this was Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), but alfalfa leaflets have teeth towards the tip. In addition, alfalfa only grows to 1 to 2 feet tall.

July 28, 2011

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)

Painted Trillium is the only Trillium species in New England that has leaf stems. All of the others have sessile leaves (without leaf stems).

Bluebead Lily (Yellow Clintonia, Corn Lily) (Clintonia borealis)

Not pictured are the yellow flowers that bloom in May and June.

July 29-31, 2011

I went to a Healing with Plants, Fungi and Lichen 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.

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

I was able to get a variety of botany questions answered to help me differentiate between species in the following genera: Hieracium, Lonicera and Circaea.