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.

September 2011 Foraging Experiences

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September 2, 2011

Harger’s Goldenrod (Canada Goldenrod) (Solidago canadensis var. hargeri)

In New England, there are only three triple-nerved goldenrods (3 main leaf veins) where the leaf size and shape are nearly the same all of the way up and down the stem.
The medicinal tea is anti-inflammatory, anti-yeast and anti-catarrh (makes mucous more liquid). The saponins in the goldenrod are a urinary tract antiseptic. Make tea from dried leaves and flowers. Tall, straight stalks can be used as a hand-drill for making fire.

Giant Goldenrod has a smooth, hairless, glaucous (whitish, waxy coating) stem. Leaves are hairless except for the three main veins on the underside of the leaf. Tall Goldenrod is classified as one of the variations of Canada Goldenrod. Var. canadensis and Var. salebrosa are sparsely hairly on the upper half of the stem and the lower half is mostly hairless. Var. gilvocanescens has leaves that are spreading hairly on the upper and lower surfaces and the leaves are 3.5 to 7 cm long. Var. scabra and Var. hargeri have leaves over 7 cm long, stems are very hairy throughout and upper surface of leaves merely rough to the touch, but not very hairy. Var. scabra has larger and fewer disk flowers than Var. hargeri. Flower rays average 13, leaves are firm and shallowly-toothed or entire (untoothed). Var. hageri has thin leaves that are sharply toothed and sometimes entire.



Rabbit Tobacco (Sweet Everlasting) (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) (Synonym: Gnaphalium obtusifolium)

There are only a handful of plants I can find listed as growing in New Hampshire that look anything like this one:



Devil’s Beggarticks (Bidens frondosa)

In New Hampshire, there are only a few plants of the Bidens genus with odd pinnately-compound leaves. That means that along each leaf is one or more sets of opposite leaflets and the leaf ends in a terminal leaflet (making an odd number of leaflets):



September 5, 2011

Gall of the Earth (Tall Rattlesnake Root) (Prenanthes trifoliolata)





Meadow Evening Primrose (Prairie Sundrops) (Oenothera pilosella)





September 6, 2011

Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

The plants I encountered were 5 to 7 feet tall. In New Hampshire, there are only a few species of Evening Primrose that are very tall (over 4 feet tall).
In order to limit the list of Evening Primrose to the above five possibilities, rather than using the plant height, I used the Key provided in the book, Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. This plant has roundly 4-angled fruit (not sharply 4-angled fruit), yellow flowers and the fruit is thickest at the base and tapers (not linear).

I took quite a few pictures and measurements of this plant. You can see that the leaves are around 12 cm long and 3.8 cm wide. The seeds are approximately 1.2 mm long. The flower petals are 1.8 cm high and approximately the same width. The sepals + sepal appendages are nearly 3 cm long. The sepal appendages are 5 mm long. This plant was 7-1/2 feet tall!



September 10, 2011

My Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 camera broke again! The closeup pictures that it takes are excellent and often very crisp. But the lens motor breaks regularly even with keeping the camera in a cushioned case. The pictures below are taken with a Canon Powershot SX130 which is built like a tank, but the pictures are not as crisp. Crisp closeup pictures are crucial for seeing hairs on plant parts and other details.

American Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis)

I made 2-1/2 pints of Elderberry syrup following the Mountain Rose Herbs video instructions. I used 1/2 cup of honey on the second batch because it is too sweet with 1 cup of honey per 1 cup of fresh elderberries.



Nodding Beggarticks (Bidens cernua)





Big Devil’s Beggarticks (Bidens vulgata)

In New Hampshire, there are only a few plants of the Bidens genus with odd pinnately-compound leaves. That means that along each leaf is one or more sets of opposite leaflets and the leaf ends in a terminal leaflet (making an odd number of leaflets):



Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)





Arrowleaf Tearthumb (Polygonum sagittatum)

The stem of this plant has an amazingly sticky feel due to the rows of tiny hooked barbs. See the first image on the 2nd row below.




September 11, 2011

Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis)





Kalm’s Hawkweed (Hieracium kalmii var. kalmii)





September 13, 2011

Flax-Leaved Aster (Stiff Aster) (Ionactis linariifolius) (Synonym: Aster linariifolius)





Northern Evening Primrose (Small-Flowered Evening Primrose) (Oenothera parviflora)

This evening primrose had fruit that is round-angled (not squarish, sharply-angled like Meadow Evening Primrose (Oenothera pilosella). The fruit is thickest near the base and tapers. The flowers are yellow. This means that the plant was either Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) (or one of its variations) or Northern Evening Primrose (Oenothera pariflora) (or one of its variations). The main differences appear to be the size of the seeds and how the two sepal appendages connect to the sepal.

Looking at the picture on the left hand side of the 2nd row, it appears that the two sepal appendances connect below the apex of the sepal. The apex of the sepal is the point furthest away from where the sepal attaches to the flower. There is a significant-sized ridge at the apex of the sepal and the appendances are attached beneath that ridge.

In addition, the seeds of Common Evening Primrose are 1.2 to 1.8 mm long and the seeds of Northern Evening Primrose are 1.8 to 2.2 mm long. As you can see from the picture on the right of the second row, it appears that the seeds are approximately 1.8 to 1.9 mm long when measuring from the center of each black hash mark that represents 1 mm.

Finally, a variation of Northern Evening Primrose is Oakes Evening Primrose (Oenothera oakesiana). Oakes Evening Primrose, which is found primarily from Massachusetts and south to Virginia, is covered with minute, stiff and appressed gray or white hairs. But this plant has an intermingling of short and long hairs which is commonly seen in the Northern parviflora variation.



September 15, 2011

Purplestem Aster (Swamp Aster, Bristly Aster) (Symphyotrichum puniceum) (Synonyms: Aster puniceus, Aster puniceum)

I tried to use the book, Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada to “weed” through 66 different asters to find the one that matches these pictures. It is a lot more difficult than it might seem. The way the book uses the terms, cordate-clasping and auriculate-clasping adds to the confusion (since they claim this plant is strong auriculate-clasping, but my pictures and other “official” pictures of this plant do not seem to meet the exact definition of those terms).

I narrowed my search down to three plants:
I eliminated New York Aster because its stem is either hairless or has short, fine hairs. This plant has medium-long, spreading hairs on the stem.

The White Panicle Aster can have white, blue or lavender flowers and the simplex variation that does grow in New Hampshire has leaves up to 3.5 cm wide. If the leaves would be considered not auriculate-clasping, this plant would be a possible match. However, White Panicle Aster flower bracts range from 3 to 6 mm, but this plant has flower bracts that are 7 mm. On the White Stem Panicle, the bracts are imbricate (they overlap like shingles), but in this plant, very few of the bracts overlap.

The rays of the on the White Stem Panicle flower grow 4.5 to 12 mm, but this plant has rays that grow over 13 mm. The stem on White Panicle Aster grows up to 1.5 meters (although some books say that the stem can be up to 8 feet long), but the stem on this plant is 1.7 meters. The stem on White Panicle Aster is “pubescent in lines above” (whatever the @*#%! that means! -- I will guess that it means that there are single lines of hairs on the upper part of the stem only and then the rest of the stem ... it’s anyone’s guess).

Purplestem Aster seemed the better match other than two issues:
  1. The leaves do not appear to me to be auriculate-clasping (earlike lobes at the base of the leaf encircling the stem). The leaves appear to be slightly decurrent (extending downward along the stem) and only slightly clasping. Because the leaf extends downward along the stem, it makes it appear to more strongly clasp the stem. Here is a picture from the USDA Site of Purplestem Aster. If you look at a picture of the leaf not on the stem from the University of Wisconsin Herbarium, you can see that the leaf does not have significant lobes to strongly clasp the stem.
  2. The other issue is that Purplestem Aster is supposed to has 30 to 60 flower rays per flower. Many of the flowers I saw had in the mid 20’s for the number of rays. I think some may be falling off, though. I'll go back and look at more flowers tomorrow before I can be sure if these flowers usually have 30 to 60 flower rays.


September 16, 2011

Bitter Dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

Bitter Dock is easy to recognize in flower. Notice that the copper-colored inflorescence is not nearly as dark as the dark brown Curly Dock (Rumex crispus) inflorescence. Bitter Dock is one of the few Docks in the Northeastern United States that has valves margins (edges) with slender spines or teeth and with a single prominent grain inside the valve. See the closeup of the values in the third row of pictures.




White Wood Aster (Common White Heart-Leaved Aster) (Eurybia divaricata) (Synonym: Aster divaricatus)

There are approximately 66 different Asters in the Northeastern United States. Fortunately, there are only four (4) Asters that meet the following two criteria:
  1. Have leaves with petioles (leaf stems)
  2. Inflorescence (cluster of flowers) is commonly flat- or round-topped with few firm and wide leafy bracts (reduced leaf structure at base of flower).

The following Asters meet this criteria:



September 18, 2011

Schreber’s Aster (Eurybia schreberi) (Synonym: Aster schreberi)

There are approximately 66 different Asters in the Northeastern United States. Fortunately, there are only four (4) Asters that meet the following two criteria:
  1. Have leaves with petioles (leaf stems)
  2. Inflorescence (cluster of flowers) is commonly flat- or round-topped with few firm and wide leafy bracts (reduced leaf structure at base of flower).

The following Asters meet this criteria:
This plant had some flowers that had as many as 16 rays. The bracts seems to be fairly wide. Based on these two facts, Big-Leaved Aster would be a good fit. However, Big-Leaved Aster flowers tend to be tinted purple or lilac. These flowers are white. In addition, the involucre is 6 to 7 mm long and Big-Leaved Aster involucres are at least 7 mm long. The sinus of the basal leaves was often rectangular as seen for Schreber’s Aster. This plant is puberulent (fine, short hairs) on the peduncle (flower stalk) and not does not appear to have glands on the peduncle. Big-Leaved Aster is glandular and Schreber’s Aster is not glandular. Scheber’s Aster may be a hybrid of Big-Leaved Aster and White Wood Aster, so some similarities of each are expected.



Yellow Salsify (Western Salsify, Western Goat’s Beard) (Tragopogon dubius)

I would not have expected to find Yellow Salsify still in bloom this late in the year. Notice how the green bracts extend a long ways beyond the flower rays. Also, notice on the closed flowerhead that the transition from the flowerhead to the flower stalk is a gradual taper. Finally, notice that the thin, grass-like leaves do not curl backwards. These three items differentiate Yellow Salsify from Meadow Salsify (Tragopogon pratensis) (Synonym: Tragopogon lamottei).



September 19, 2011

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

Chokecherry harvest. They are very tasty as long as given plenty of time to ripen (or even over-ripen). I did not find enough to make jam.



September 22, 2011

Common Blue Wood Aster (Blue Heart-Leaved Aster) (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) (Synonym: Aster cordifolius)