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.

August 2010 Foraging Experiences

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August 3, 2010

Sensitive Partridge Pea (Wild Sensitive Plant, Sensitive Pea) (Chamaecrista nictitans)

The Sensitive Partridge Pea grows in a rosette. Each stem, whether it is a main stem or branching stem, contains alternate leaves and each leaf contains 6-15 pairs of pinnately-compound leaflets. The yellow flowers hang from short axillary pedicels (stem that attaches single flowers to a main stem). The leaflets of the leaves tend to be “sensitive” in that they fold together when touched.

A tea made from the root of Sensitive Partridge Pea in combination with other plants was used by the Cherokee to keep people from tiring during vigorous activity.




August 5, 2010

Purple Milkwort (Blood Milkwort, Field Milkwort) (Polygala sanguinea)




Bristly Sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida)






August 6, 2010

Fall Dandelion (Hawk‘s-bit, Autumn Dandelion) (Leontodon autumnalis)





Glaucous Hawkweed (Glaucous King-Devil, Tall Hawkweed) (Hieracium piloselloides)





Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias)




Pictures from July 8, 2010 when Cypress Spurge was flowering:




August 7, 2010

Bottle Gentian (Blind Gentian, Meadow Gentian) (Gentiana clausa)





Hedge False Bindweed (Hedge Bindweed) (Calystegia sepium)






August 8, 2010

Orpine (Witch's Moneybags, Livelong, Frog's-stomach, Live-forever) (Hylotelephium telephium) (Previously: Sedum telephium)

Orpine pickles! Picked a large amount of Orpine leaves. Chopped up the leaves, put them in a ceramic crock with sea salt and added some sauerkraut juice to get the pickling process started. Put on some weighing stone. There are a couple of potential problems: 1) Since I chopped up the Orpine, much of the Orpine bits are floating in the brine and not under the weighing stones; and 2) I had to add a significant amount of spring water with sea salt to create enough brine. Orpine does not release nearly as much water as cabbage. The pickles should be ready in about four weeks.




August 9, 2010

American Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis)





Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)






August 10, 2010

Tall Blue Lettuce (Lactuca biennis)

I was unable to find and identify Tall Blue Lettuce during the Spring and early Summer due to frustrating variations in lettuce leaves and leaves of Sow Thistles which look similar. But now that the lettuce is in flower, it is easy to see the bluish flowers -- even though those flowers are closed at this time.

Tall Blue Lettuce is a biennial with clusters of bluish white flowers near the top when it goes to flower in August. The leaves are toothed or pinnately divided and the margins of the leaf are sparsely prickled. The leaves often terminate in an arrowhead shape unlike Canada Lettuce (Lactuca canadensis). Tall Blue Lettuce has scattered hairs on the underside of the leaf, especially the leaf center vein, but not like the stiff spiney hairs found on the center vein of the underside of Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola) leaves.

Fortunately, all of the commonly-found sow thistles, Field sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis), Common (Annual) Sowthistle (Sonchus oleraceus) and Spiney Sowthistle (Sonchus asper) have yellow flowers, so I could be sure that this was not a sow thistle. Canada Lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) and Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola) also have yellow flowers. By eliminating all other possibilities, I was able to confirm that this plant is Tall Blue Lettuce.

Tall Blue Lettuce leaves tend to be too bitter to eat raw. Look to harvest young leaves in the late Spring and early Summer and then cook them in two changes of water to reduce bitterness.



Bull Thistle (Spear Thistle, Roadside Thistle, Plumed Thistle) (Cirsium vulgare)

I profiled Bull Thistle on June 17, 2010. At that time, it was a much smaller plant growing low to the ground. But it still had the same dangerously sharp spike. Since then, I wanted to make sure that I got some pictures of the Bull Thistle in flower. This plant was at least 6 feet tall and several feet wide with numerous flowers and huge spikes.

I was able to capture the Bull Thistle at the same time that a Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) was munching on the bright purple flower. I didn't have to use a zoom lens. The butterfly was fine with me putting the camera within inches of his face.



Virgin‘s Bower (Devil‘s Darning Needles) (Clematis virginiana)





Wild Mint (Field Mint) (Mentha arvensis)




Bell’s Honeysuckle (Showy Fly Honeysuckle) (Lonicera x bella)





Canadian Horseweed (Canadian Fleabane) (Conyza canadensis) (formerly Erigeron canadensis)





August 13, 2010

Cutleaf Coneflower - Golden Glow variety (Green-Headed Coneflower) (Rudbeckia laciniata var. hortensis)





Wild Cucumber (Balsam-Apple) (Echinocystis lobata)






Moneywort (Creeping Yellow Loosestrife, Creeping Jenny, Creeping Charlie) (Lysimachia nummularia)





August 15, 2010

Hoary Alyssum (Hoary False Madwort) (Berteroa incana)




American Pokeweed (Poisonous) ☠ (Phytolacca americana)





Roundhead Bush Clover (Lespedeza capitata)






August 21, 2010

I went out for a family visit in Washington State (Southeastern). Got a chance to do one plant walk. Most of the landscape is Southeastern Washington State is made up of Sagebrush, Russian Thistle and before the economic boom in the last 20 years, one could see an endless supply of tumbleweed blowing across the desert. Agriculture is primarily orchards: apples, plums, peaches, pears. This plant walk was along a long paved trail. On each side of the trail there were parts that were slightly wet and even swampy in some areas.

While there were many plants that I did not recognize at all and have not taken the time to identify, there were quite a number of plants similar to what we find in New England. Those similar plants can be found in the images below:


Field Bindweed
Convolvulus arvensis

Field Bindweed
Convolvulus arvensis

Field Sowthistle
Sonchus arvensis

Field Sowthistle
Sonchus arvensis

Wood Sorrel
Oxalis [unknown species]

Horseweed
Conyza canadensis

Horseweed
Conyza canadensis

Bittersweet Nightshade
Solanum dulcamara

Prickly Lettuce
Lactuca serriola

Prickly Lettuce
Lactuca serriola

Prickly Lettuce
Lactuca serriola

Prickly Lettuce
Lactuca serriola

Lambsquarters
Chenopodium album

Showy Milkweed
Asclepias speciosa

Showy Milkweed
Asclepias speciosa



Purple Loosestrife (Spiked Loosestrife) (Lythrum salicaria)