Yellow Water Lily – Nymphaeaceae

The phrase "water lily" is used to describe aquatic plants

Yellow Water Lily – Nymphaeaceae

Yellow Water Lily

Common Names:The phrase "water lily" is used to describe aquatic plants

Water Lily, Brandy-bottle, pond lily, bullhead lily, spatterdock, yellow cowlily, water lily

My son built a small pond in the backyard several years ago. Along with the necessary koi we bought the flora we added included a plant native to the entire USA – a yellow pond lily. In researching this plant I found out its history and the many ways this wild food is used and useful.

Description:

As its name implies, the yellow pond lily is an aquatic plant. It is a long lived plant, a perennial, which grows from spongy rhizomes anchored into the bottom of a body of water. The floating leaves are thick, somewhat heart-shaped and have up to an 18” spread. The stalks connecting leaves and flowers to rhizomes can grow six feet long.

Flowers of the water lily emerge on separate stem stalks. They are cup-shaped, yellow-green, with small scale-like petals. Flowers bloom from May to October. Spent flowers give way to seed heads that burst upon ripening, broadcasting their seeds over the water surface.

Habitat:

Yellow pond-lily occurs in slow-moving streams, ponds, and lakes. The plant pictured here was in Pine Lake, NY, a shallow Adirondack lake. The plant grows in wet, poor sandy soils and grows best in 1’ to 5’ of water in full sun to part shade. It is however tolerant of shade and deep water. There is a boggy area fed by the Normans Kill in Albany, NY that gets choked up with these wild plants by mid-summer every year. This is where the lilies I have come from.

Location:

The yellow pond lily can basically be found from Alaska south to California East to Labrador and south to Florida.

Edible:

The roots (rhizomes) are rich in starch and can be harvested any time of the year and either roasted or boiled. I understand that the root can be dried and ground into a flour substitute. The seeds can also be gathered in late summer into the fall and roasted and shelled. They can be eaten as is, boiled like you would rice or ground into a flour/meal.

Yellow Pond Lilies provides great cover for wildlife, especially fish, aquatic insects, snakes, turtles, frogs, crayfish, salamanders, and other water creatures.Notes of Interest:

Yellow Pond Lilies provides great cover for wildlife, including all types of fish, insects (aquatic, terrestrial and flying), amphibians and reptiles. It is also a food source for beaver, muskrats and waterfowl.

The plant’s use dates back to pre-colonial times. Native Americans used the starchy rootstocks as a boiled or roasted vegetable. Additionally, they harvested the seed for grinding into flour.

Although water lily seeds are produced and deposited on the water surface, the yellow pond-lily reproduces more readily by spreading rhizomes – I can attest to this. The lily in the koi pond has a root system around 4’ long with several spots that stems and flowers grow from. This native aquatic plant can readily take over a body of water – please do not help it spread. It is very difficult to eradicate

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Red Mulberry – Morus Rubra

Red mulberry is fire intolerant. However, it colonizes post - fire sites when sufficient moisture is available.

Red Mulberry

Red Mulberry – Morus Rubra

Growing up in the Northeast I had a friend with a fruit tree in his backyard. I was amazed at this one tree that was able to produce so many “black berries”. No one in the neighborhood knew what the tree was but they were happy to eat the fruit. His mother even baked pies with its fruit. It turned out to be a red mulberry (morus rubra) a native plant of the Americas which is a close relative to the white mulberry which is an invasive plant from China. Trying to find out exactly what the tree was led me to a life-long passion to be able to identify wild plants.

Description:Red mulberry is fire intolerant. However, it colonizes post - fire sites when sufficient moisture is available.

The red mulberry is a deciduous tree, growing to 30 – 60 feet tall with a trunk that is 18” -24” in diameter. Its Leaves form in three general shapes: normal leaf shape, mitten shaped (single lobed) and three-lobed. The leaves are simple, alternate, and up to 7″ – 8″ long. The leaves are broad, egg shaped, and lobed. The base of the leaf is square, as if it has been cut off abruptly. The tip of the leaf is pointed. The leaves have sharply serrated margins. The upper leaf surface is rough to the touch. The lower surface is soft and covered with short hairs. The petioles are 1″ to 1 1/2″ long and produce a milky fluid when broken. The catkins that bear stamens are 1″ – to 3″ long. The catkins that bear pistils are 1″ to 1 1/2″ long. Red mulberry has aggregate fruits that are 1″ to 1 1/2″ long. The fruits are juicy and have a dark purple color. The bark of the red mulberry is grayish with flattened, either scaly ridges or smooth. The flowers are relatively inconspicuous: small, yellowish green or reddish-green. Male and female flowers are usually on separate trees although they may occur on the same tree.

Location:

Native red mulberry is rarely found away from the shade of mature, moist woods. where it prefers moist, wooded slopes, wood’s edges, and shady roadways. It is very tolerant of shade and is usually found as a small, understory tree. Many times you may find this native tree alongside streams where the soil is moist. Interestingly, because birds absolutely love the small blackberry sized fruit, they eat then scatter the seeds near and far so you may find red mulberry trees anywhere the soil is moist enough for the plant.

Grown in its native habitat and using local seed stock, red mulberry should not be prone to debilitating pests.Range:

Red Mulberry, is native to eastern North America, from Ontario and Vermont south to southern Florida and west to southeast South Dakota and central Texas.

Edible:

The fruit of the mulberry and young shoots are the edible parts of this plant. The fruit, called drupes, look just like blackberries. They are typically about 1″ long. They ripen between late June through July. The fruit of the red mulberry can be eaten raw, juiced (very tasty) or cooked into pies, breads etc. The one problem there is in picking the fruit is that mulberry fruit in general, (red mulberry, white mulberry, etc) are favorites of just about all birds as well as small mammals. Often times they will get the fruit just before it ripens. The young shoots can be boiled until tender (1 water change in the process) and served with butter.

Notes of Interest:Red mulberry was used by several Native American tribes to treat a variety of ailments.

The red mulberry tree is a native tree of the Americas. The white mulberry tree which is, what I consider an invasive species, readily hybridizes with it. So, many times what you will come across is a hybrid tree – still all good to eat but once again the hand of man screws up nature.

I have read that the unripe fruit should not be eaten because they contain hallucinogens 1

The wood of red mulberry is strong and has been used in furniture and fence posts 2

1. Edible Wild Plants, Sterling Publishing page 200
2. Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants – 2nd edition, Stackpole Books, page144

http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_moru2.pdf

Sunflower Facts & Identification

Sunflowers are annuals with showy, daisylike flowerheads that are usually 2-4 inches across and bright yellow

Sunflower

Sunflower – Helianthus annuus

Common names:Sunflowers are annuals with showy, daisylike flowerheads that are usually 2-4 inches across and bright yellow

common sunflower, Kansas sunflower

Years ago when I would go hiking and find a few sunflowers growing in a field I assumed they were “escapees” from someone’s garden or seeds dropped by a bird. How wrong I was. They are native plants of the Americas. As its name indicates, the sunflower is named for its huge, flower heads, whose shape and image are often used to depict the sun. Additionally, they have long been used by Native Americans as a food source and medicinal aid.

Description:

Frankly, sunflowers are iconic. Once you have seen one you will never make a mistake in identification. But for those that want a description of a sunflower, here goes – Sunflowers are large annual plants that commonly grow to heights between 5’ – 12’. As can be seen in the pictures, they have rough, hairy stems, broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves and circular heads of flowers. The leaves are mostly alternate, egg-shaped to triangular, and entire or toothed. The heads consist of many individual flowers which mature into seeds, often in the hundreds, on a receptacle base

Leaves of the sunflower can be used as cattle feed, while the stems contain a fibre which may be used in paper production.Habitat:

Many times you will find sunflowers growing along a roadside in a sunny spot. They need full sun for optimum growth. They grow best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil with heavy mulch. However, I have found as long as a seed can germinate in decent soil and have enough sun, it will grow.

Location:

The sunflower is common and widespread. It can be found in all of the contiguous 48 states, all of Canada and Alaska.

Edible:

Sunflower seeds can be eaten raw, roasted, cooked, dried, ground into flour and used as a source of oil.

Native Americans made a meal with parched seeds that were pounded in a mortar and mixed with beans, dried squash and pounded parched corn.

Sunflower seeds can be processed into a peanut butter alternative, sunflower butter.

Roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute much like chicory.

Notes of Interest:The stem of a sunflower grows from the plume found inside the seed.

Traditionally, several Native American groups planted sunflowers on the north edges of their gardens as a “fourth sister” to the better known three sisters combination of corn, beans, and squash.

Their seeds are commonly used as a wild bird food.

Purple, yellow and black dyes can be extracted from wild sunflowers.

As is all too often, sunflowers have been exported around the world. Frankly, even though they are beneficial plants, I would consider them invasive in areas they have been introduced.

http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=HELIA3

Strawberry Plant Facts and Identification

Strawberries are in full fruit production in their second year.

Strawberry

Strawberry – Fragaria Virginiana

Common Names:Strawberry - Strawberries are in full fruit production in their second year.

Woodland strawberry; California strawberry, Virginia Strawberry

General

The first time I came across strawberries in the wild, and knew it, I was 18 years old hiking with a friend in the coastal mountains of Oregon. He was the one that identified them. It was one of those times when it was all about camping, fishing for cutthroat trout and eating wild foods – with a lot of it being strawberries along with a smattering of blackberries, thimbleberries and a bit of wild greens. I found it strangely fulfilling camping in a tent for a week really living off the land.

The good news about strawberries is that they are easy to identify and widely distributed. The bad news is that the strawberry fruit can have a limited growing season. This is a perennial plant that spreads by seed, short rhizomes (a thick underground horizontal stem that produces roots and has shoots that develop into new plants) and leafless stolon (a long stem or shoot that arises from the central rosette of a plant and droops to the ground).

Strawberry - Growing strawberries is fun and easy because they'll thrive in many regions.Identification:

If you have ever seen a strawberry plant in Home Depot, Lowes or your local garden center then you know what a wild strawberry plant looks like – only the wild strawberry is smaller. The toothed leaves are thin and basal compound in groups of 3 with a petiole generally 1” – 4”. They are sparsely hairy below. Leaf color is generally a bluish-green. The strawberry flower has 5 white petals with numerous pistils and 20-35 stamens. The flower is typically .25” – .5” wide. The fruit is white then turns red when ripe with the seeds on the outside. The plant is generally 2” – 6” tall.

Location:

Strawberries grow where there’s lots of sun: in meadows, fields, on moist ground, along the edge of woods, and on hillsides. You can find them across the U.S. and Canada except in desert/arid areas.

Edible:

The fruit ripens sometime between June and August. I have even come across strawberry fruit in the wild in late September. Obviously the fruit is edible and if you can pick enough, it can be canned, frozen or dried. The fruit of strawberries are nutritious and are full of essential vitamins and minerals.

The leaves and stems are edible and actually taste good when fresh and young. They are loaded with vitamin C – an important vitamin used to prevent scurvy. One way to enjoy the benefits of the leaves is make a tea with a handful of freshly picked leaves. For winter use you can dry out the leaves and store in a jar.

Notes of interest:The Strawberry has a very high vitamin C content and is versatile as a dessert food.

Native Americans used strawberries as a food source. The strawberry is an important food source for many wild animals from insects to deer and birds.

Growing your own strawberry patch: Strawberry plants are easy to grow if you want free fresh fruit. I like to plant my strawberries in long rows.

They should be planted in full sun in a light, loose soil, about 10” apart in rows 2’ apart. You should plant in an area that has plenty of room for your patch to spread out. Lightly fertilize the plants during the growing season. After 2 – 3 years your plants will spread – mostly from “runners”. Once a runner plant has established its own roots and is healthy I like to move it to avoid overcrowding. Keep the runners pruned back until after you pick the strawberry fruit. This allows the plant to focus on fruit production thus increasing yield. As they age plants will lose “vigor” so you should pull plants over three years old to maintain your patch’s fruit production. Younger plants are more vigorous and produce more berries.

The biggest problems I have in the Northeast are rabbits (they will eat the plant right down to the ground) and gray squirrels (they will sneak in like the rats they are and eat the fruit just as it is ripening). I find the best way to protect plants and fruit is to cover the row with deer netting. It will let in the bees for pollination but keep out rabbits and squirrels.

Staghorn Sumac – Rhus Typhina

staghorn sumac

Staghorn Sumac

staghorn sumac

Driving around during September in New York you will eventually come across a group of small trees growing in dense stands. The leaves will be a deep red and large conical red hairy fruits called drupes may be at the end of branches. This is the common Staghorn Sumac which is a deciduous shrub to small tree. It grows quite aggressively. Because staghorn sumac can grow by its roots (rhizomes), and once established it can be a pain to remove.

Description:

Staghorn Sumac grows 10’ – 35’ tall. As can be seen in the picture, the leaves are alternate & compound growing approximately 24” long with 10 – 32 serrate leaflets. Each leaf grows to 12” long. The leaf stalks and the stems are densely covered in rust-colored hairs. Mature trunks are smooth and hairless. Interestingly, only female plants produce flowers and berries. The red berries grow at the end of branches. The plant flowers from May to July and fruit, the drupes, ripen from June to September. As can be seen in the pictures, they grow in upright bunches. Each cluster of drupes may contain 100 to 700 seeds

Habitat:

Staghorn sumac grows in gardens, lawns, the edges of forests, and wasteland. It can grow under a wide array of conditions, but is most often found in open areas which are not already established by other trees.

staghorn sumac branches can have tiny hairsLocation:

Staghorn sumac is found throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada from western Ontario, south to Oklahoma into the Gulf Coast States and eastward to all the Atlantic States and eastern Canada.

Edible:

The fruit of sumacs can be collected, soaked and washed in cold water, strained, sweetened and made into a lemonade-like drink.

Notes of Interest:

Staghorn sumac spreads by seeds, and by its roots, rhizomes, to form “stands”.

The staghorn sumac derives its name from the countless tiny hairs covering its branches and resembling the tines of a deer’s antler when in velvet.

All parts of the staghorn sumac, except the roots, can be used as a natural dye.

Native Americans used the berries from staghorn sumac to make a drink.

The berries and bark are an important source of food for birds (upland games birds as well as song birds) and small mammals.

Staghorn sumac can form with either male or female plants.

 

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