Category Archives: Survival Guide

pokeberry poison plant

Pokeberry is a highly versatile plant with a wide range of uses. Although it is often considered a weed due to its rapid growth and invasive tendencies, it has also been used in traditional medicine for centuries. In addition to its medicinal properties, pokeberry is also used for food and dye. Due to its poison, I am not one to use this plant. I do not support medicinal use or culinary use, there are so many other wild plants I see no reason to mess with the pokeberry poison plant.

Common Names:

Pokeberry is known by several different common names, including poke, poke salad, inkberry, pigeonberry, and pokeberry weed.


Poke weed is an herbaceous perennial plant that can grow up to 10 feet tall under ideal conditions. The plant typically grows in disturbed areas such as fields, roadsides, and forest edges.

Pokeberry has simple leaves on green to red or purplish stems and a large white taproot. The flowers are green to white

The leaves of poke weed are simple and alternate, with a length of 6 to 12 inches and a width of 2 to 6 inches. They are smooth and ovate, with a pointed tip and a smooth margin. The leaves are typically green but may take on a reddish or purplish tint as they mature.

The flowers of poke weed are small, white to greenish white in color, and are arranged in long, drooping clusters called racemes. The fruit of poke weed is a dark purple to black, juicy berry that is about the size of a pea. The berries contain a dark red juice that can stain skin and clothing.


Pokeberry is native to North America and can be found throughout the eastern and central regions of the United States.


It prefers moist, fertile soil and is commonly found in fields, pastures, and along roadsides.

Poison Part:

While the berries of pokeberry are edible when cooked properly, the plant is highly toxic and can be deadly if consumed in large quantities. The root, stem, leaves, and unripe berries contain high levels of toxins, including saponins and lectins. Pokeberry poison plant .

pokeweed does die back to ground level every winter, it is a difficult weed to get rid of. Winter kills off only the above-ground growth. pokeberry poison plant
Symptoms of Poison:

Ingesting pokeberry can cause a wide range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and dehydration. In severe cases, it can lead to respiratory failure and death.

Conservation Status:

Pokeberry is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is a highly adaptable plant that can

thrive in a wide range of environments and is not currently threatened by extinction.

Notes of Interest:

In addition to its medicinal and culinary uses, pokeberry has also been used as a natural dye for textiles. The deep purple color of the berries can be extracted and used to dye fabric, yarn, and other materials.

Pokeberries should be handled with care due to the toxicity. It is important to properly cook any berries before consuming them and to avoid ingesting any other part of the plant. It’s important to note that while poke weed can be used for medicinal purposes, it is also toxic and can cause severe gastrointestinal distress if ingested in large amounts. With its versatility and unique properties, pokeberry remains an important plant in North American ecology and culture.

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Red baneberry (Actaea rubra)

Red baneberry (Actaea rubra), a highly toxic plant, can be found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Despite its toxic properties, it is a popular ornamental plant due to its striking red berries and delicate white flowers. With that said, this is a plant that should be avoided if you have children or pets.

General Comments:

Red baneberry is a highly poisonous plant that can be fatal to humans and animals. It contains a toxin called protoanemonin, which can cause a wide range of symptoms when ingested, including vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, seizures, and in severe cases, cardiac arrest. It is important to exercise caution when handling or consuming any part of this plant.

Common Names:

Red baneberry is also known by a variety of other common names, including red cohosh, doll’s eyes, snakeberry, and White Baneberry


Red baneberry is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 1 foot – 3 feet tall. It has delicate white flowers that bloom in late spring or early summer, which are followed by clusters of bright red berries. As the picture shows, leaves are alternate, 2 to 3 times compound, sharply toothed and lobed. The berries are about 1/8 inch in diameter and have a distinctive black “pupil” on each one, which gives them the appearance of doll’s eyes.

Red baneberry leaves are alternate, 2 to 3 times compound, sharply toothed and lobed.


Red baneberry is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. In North America, it can be found from Alaska to Newfoundland in the north, and from California to Georgia in the south. It is also found in parts of Europe and Asia, including Russia, China, and Japan.


The plant typically grows in moist, shady areas such as forests, meadows, and along stream banks. It prefers rich, loamy soil and is often found growing alongside other shade-loving plants such as ferns, wildflowers, and mosses.


All parts of the plant are toxic, but the berries are the most poisonous. The leaves, stems, and roots also contain the toxin protoanemonin, but in smaller amounts.

Symptoms of Poison:

Ingesting any part of the red baneberry plant can cause a wide range of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, seizures, and in severe cases, cardiac arrest. Symptoms typically appear within 30 minutes to 2 hours of ingestion and can last for several hours. If you suspect that you or someone else has ingested red baneberry, seek medical attention immediately.

Conservation Status:

Red baneberry is not currently listed as endangered, but it is considered a species of concern in some parts of its range. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the primary threats to this plant, as it requires specific environmental conditions to thrive. Additionally, overharvesting of the plant for its ornamental value has contributed to its decline in some areas.

Notes of Interest:

Despite its toxicity, red baneberry has been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, fever, and snake bites. However, these uses are not supported by scientific evidence and should be avoided due to the plant’s poisonous properties.

Red baneberry is a highly toxic plant that should be handled with caution. Despite its toxic properties, it remains a popular ornamental plant due to its striking red berries and delicate white flowers. If you encounter this plant in the wild, admire it from a safe distance and do not attempt to handle or consume any part of it.


•             USDA Plants Database: Actaea rubra. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2023, from

Foraging for Nettle

Foraging for Nettle: A Nutritious and Sustainable Food Source

General Comments:

Among the many plants that can be foraged, nettle (Urtica dioica) is one that stands out for its versatility and abundance. Although often considered a weed, nettle has been used for centuries for food, medicine, and fiber. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of foraging for nettle, its description, territory, habitat, edible parts, how and when to harvest, conservation status, notes of interest and a nutrition chart based on studies from the USDA.

Common Names

Nettle is known by many names depending on the region and language. Some of its common names include stinging nettle, common nettle, giant nettle, devil’s leaf, and burn weed. The scientific name, Urtica dioica, derives from the Latin word “uro,” which means “to burn,” referring to the plant’s stinging hairs.


Nettle is a perennial plant that can grow up to six feet tall. As can be seen in the picture, it has serrated, heart-shaped leaves that are covered with tiny, hollow stinging hairs that release histamine and other chemicals when touched, causing a painful (as some may say) rash. The stems are also covered with stinging hairs. The plant produces small, greenish flowers that are wind pollinated. Nettle is one of a very few plants that can be identified in total darkness – just walk thru a patch!!

stinging nettle plant contains ingredients that might decrease swelling and increase urination.


Nettle is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but has been naturalized in many parts of the world, including North America, Australia, and New Zealand. It grows in temperate and tropical climates and can thrive in a variety of soil types.


Nettle grows in a variety of habitats, including fields, forests, meadows, and disturbed areas such as roadsides and abandoned lots. It prefers moist, nitrogen-rich soil and can often be found near water sources. I have often found it near staghorn sumac and elderberry.

Edible Parts

Despite its reputation for causing painful rashes, nettle is a nutritious and versatile food source. The young leaves and shoots are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. They are rich in vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and protein. The leaves can be used in soups, stews, pesto, teas, and as a substitute for spinach in recipes. The roots can also be eaten and are said to have a nutty flavor.

How to Harvest

When harvesting nettle, it is important to wear gloves and long sleeves to avoid getting stung. The best time to harvest is in the spring when the young shoots and leaves are tender and before the plant flowers. Cut the leaves and stems with scissors or pruning shears and place them in a bag or basket. Be sure to only take what you need and leave enough for the plant to regenerate.

Conservation Status

Nettle is not currently listed as endangered or threatened, but its populations can be affected by habitat destruction, over-harvesting, and competition from invasive species. When foraging for nettle, it is important to do so sustainably and responsibly to ensure its continued availability.

Nettle grows near streams, along trails, and are especially common around old farm sites.

Notes of Interest

Nettle has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties, including treating arthritis, allergies, and urinary tract infections. It is also a popular ingredient in traditional herbal remedies and teas. Nettle has been used as a fiber source for clothing and textiles since ancient times and was even used to make fishing nets in medieval Europe.

Foraging for nettle can be a rewarding and sustainable way to obtain fresh, nutritious food. Despite its stinging hairs, nettle is a versatile plant that can be used in a variety of dishes and has many medicinal and cultural uses. When foraging for nettle, it is important to do so responsibly and sustainably to ensure its continued availability for others.

Purple Flowering Raspberry

Purple Flowering Raspberry – Rubus odoratus

General Information:

Rubus odoratus, commonly known as Purple Flowering Raspberry or Virginia Raspberry, is a deciduous shrub native to the eastern regions of North America. It belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae) and is closely related to other brambles like blackberries and raspberries.

Common Names:

Purple Flowering Raspberry is known by several common names, including Virginia Raspberry, Flowering Raspberry, and Thimbleberry.


The plant can grow up to 6 feet tall and has large, dark green leaves with three to five lobes. The stem is prickly and covered with fine hairs. The flowers are pink to purple and have five petals, which give them a rose-like appearance. The fruit is a small, red raspberry that is edible and sweet but not as flavorful as other raspberry varieties.

Purple Flowering Raspberry is native to the eastern regions of North America

Found in Rotterdam NY along the Mohawk River

The plant can be confused with other raspberry or blackberry plants, especially when not in bloom. However, the plant’s distinctive pink to purple flowers make it easy to identify when in bloom.


This raspberry is native to the eastern regions of North America, from Quebec and Ontario south to Georgia and Alabama. It is found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, meadows, and along roadsides and stream banks.

Preferred Habitat:

Purple Flowering Raspberry prefers well-drained soil and partial to full shade. It can tolerate a range of soil types, including sandy and rocky soils.

Edible Parts:

The fruit is edible and sweet but not as flavorful as other raspberry or blackberry varieties. The fruit can be eaten fresh, cooked, or used to make jams and jellies.


The fruit of ripens in late summer or early fall. It can be harvested by hand, but the prickly stems make it difficult to pick. It is recommended to wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting.

Interesting Facts:

Purple Flowering Raspberry is a popular ornamental plant in gardens and landscaping due to its beautiful flowers.

The plant has historically been used for medicinal purposes by indigenous people in North America.

The leaves and roots were used to treat various ailments, including sore throats, coughs, and fevers.

This raspberry is an important food source for wildlife, including birds and small mammals.

In conclusion, this raspberry is a beautiful and useful native plant that deserves a place in any garden or landscape. Its striking pink to purple flowers, edible fruit, and wildlife value make it a great addition to any ecosystem.


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2023). Rubus odoratus. Retrieved from 
Missouri Botanical Garden. (2023). Rubus odoratus. Retrieved from
United States Department of Agriculture. (2021). Plant Guide: Purple-flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus). Retrieved from

Becoming a Forager

Becoming a Forager

Becoming a Forager, it’s the words that bring out the five-year-old in me… A hazy faraway scene, maybe out in the plains, majestic snow-capped mountains – their peaks hidden by clouds frame the horizon, on nearby foothills, mammoths in the mist stalked by dire wolves. In the fore ground women and children, our ancestors, dig sunchoke roots and pick berries.  Nearby men with spears in hand stand ever vigilant. Returning hunters, animal skin quivers slung across their backs approach. They carry turkey and boar. In a nearby river clearing, smoldering fires, flames dancing in the breeze tended by elders await the feast to come.

Ok, back to adulthood.

Foraging, as defined by Cambridge dictionary, is “To go from place to place searching for things you can eat or use”.

Based on that definition, everyone engages in foraging. Think of the things found while out and about: an empty flowerpot on the side of the road, “free” pallets put out by a business, ripe blackberries alongside your favorite hiking trail or maybe freshly fallen walnuts you gather every autumn while on a walk. It is not complicated; foraging can be a simple afternoon stroll, or a deliberate endeavor designed to secure food or supplies for an extended period.

Foraging for Edibles

Let’s talk wild edibles. All geographic regions have possibilities. Abundance is all around if you know what to look for. Before beginning, reach out to your state’s Department of Natural Resources to first, understand if foraging is legal and second, what can be legally foraged. If the answer to the first is yes, then take stock of plants you already know and can identify that are legal. Do not skip the easy finds or the no-brainers. Where I live there are abandoned orchards of apple trees, butternut, elderberry, mulberry, besides wild dandelion and broadleaf plantain – the list goes on. Make sure all plants you can think of are listed. Don’t overlook outliers like oaks and maples. Their seeds can be eaten or turned into flour with a bit of effort. Walk about, find them, take pictures in various growth stages – sprouting, early growth, blooming, etc. Become familiar with the multitude of characteristics of each plant, from leaves to bark, stems, flowers and fruit.

Learning to Forage Edibles

Next, build your knowledge base. Commit to learning at least five new plants each month (60 plants per year). Don’t shy away from learning about poisonous plants, it is good to know and be able to identify what not to eat. Start a forager library – buy a field guide or two. Make sure the guide covers your region and has clear concise pictures. A good guide will include “look-alike” plants that are either not edible or downright poisonous and a good guide will describe the difference between “the good, the bad and the ugly”.

Thimbleberry, a new find when I started becoming a forager

Interact with like-minded people, go to a local garden club. Ask if anyone is versed in wild edibles and if so, are they willing to teach what they know. Look into social media, there are many foraging groups out there. Find one or two that have daily activity and join – avoid any groups that “harbor” bullies. Log on daily and read the activity and scroll through the pictures the group members share. Don’t shy away from asking questions, many members are more than happy to be “guides and mentors”. Look online for foraging classes you can sign-up for. They can be costly but a good class may prove invaluable. As you are learning and meeting people, build your own group with the new people you meet.

Get out and scout, take walks (they are healthy). Use what you know and have learned, go “afield”. When you find some edibles, takes pictures, jot down where you found them and then, harvest and take them home. Try them out raw and cooked. Do you like how they taste? If so great – you have found a “new” food source.

Don’t shy away from plants you don’t not know or are unsure of. Instead, take pictures, jot down their location, what the habitat is they are growing in, their size and any other attributes (leaves, stems, bark and fruits) that stand out. Show the pictures and notes to people in your foraging circle. What do they think? Can they hazard a guess or definite identification? APP’s like iNaturalist are fantastic (don’t forget about your social media groups), just upload pictures and any identifying facts you noticed. There are thousands of people that can help identify most any plant – edible or poisonous. Once identified, add your pictures and notes to your database so the next time you are afield you know you have an edible to harvest or a plant to avoid.

If you end up enjoying the forager lifestyle, you are following in the steps of your ancestors!! While becoming a forager just think, by adding natures bounty to your pantry your food bill will shrink, the food will be natural without being “highly processed” and filled with chemicals and preservatives.

Buckthorn Poisonous Invasive Plant

Buckthorn Poisonous Invasive Plant

Common buckthorn, (Rhamnus cathartica) is a wild-growing deciduous shrub that produces small berries that resemble blueberries. Buckthorn berries are poisonous to both humans and animals, plus it’s an invasive plant. Buckthorn Poisonous Invasive Plant.

The plant is native to Europe and is sometimes called European Buckthorn, European Waythorn, and Hart’s Thorn. Whatever name you know the shrub by, make note not to forage for the berries.

Back to Poison Plants


Buckthorn Wild Poisonous and Invasive Plant

Buckthorn grows into a large shrub or small tree that can reach 20-feet tall when mature. The shrub will have a 3-5 foot spread with multiple branches and bark that easily flakes off. A nick in the flaky bark will reveal orange inner tissue.

The shrub develops small, oval leaves that are dull green with a lighter green underside, and the leaf edges are serrated. Each branch will have small thorns at the end and thorns may also be found at the junction of branches throughout the shrub.

Blooms appear in late spring at the same time the leaves are emerging. Flowers will have 4 petals that will be yellow or green in color. The blooms are fragrant but not much to look at.

Clusters of small green berries appear in the shrub after the flowers fade. As the berries ripen they turn from green to blue, then to purplish-black when fully ripe. Each small berry contains four seeds.

Wild Growing Locations

Common buckthorn is an understory plant and thrives along the edge of woods and waterways. It’s a hardy plant that develops into dense thickets and chokes out other native-growing plants.

The shrub is not picky about soil or light conditions and is able to grow almost anywhere. The long branches of the shrub and dense leaf covering that last well into fall produce so much shade that surrounding green plants quickly die from lack of sunlight.

Do Not Eat

Common buckthorn berries ripen they turn from green to blue, then to purplish-black when fully ripe.

Buckthorn berries look attractive on the shrub when they’re ripe but don’t eat them. In addition to being very low in nutrition and bitter, they also act as a strong laxative. The laxative impact is so strong that small birds and animals will die from the effect. Severe abdominal discomfort and dehydration will occur in humans if eaten.

Even the leaves of the shrub have a negative impact on the soil when they fall from the plant and decompose. The leaves are very high in nitrogen and provide a boost of energy for the shrub to develop more top growth. The increased nitrogen also promotes the fast growth of the hardier species of native weeds that survive around the shrub.


Under certain circumstances, the common buckthorn is useful. In barren areas where erosion control is needed this fast-growing shrub will provide a formidable windbreak and hold soil in place.

Buckthorn will survive in sandy, rocky, clay, or damp soil. It will also live in shady areas, in cold or hot climates. Salty sea air near the coastline or low oxygen levels on high mountains will not stop this invasive shrub from growing. As with any plant, the better the growing conditions the better it will grow, however, bad growing conditions will not stop this plant.

If you have a landscape area, like a rocky cliff or other steep terrain that needs erosion control, buckthorn may be helpful. The shrub does not attract bears, deer, or other wildlife, and in some situations that may be beneficial.

How To Get Rid Of Buckthorn

More people want to know how to get rid of the invasive shrub rather than how to grow it.  Removal is time-consuming and must be done meticulously to prevent the shrub from re-growing.

Small samplings can be pulled out of the soil by the roots and disposed of. The older shrubs that produce berries will need to be removed from the soil, along with all roots, and burned. If the shrubs are not burned and berries are on the uprooted buckthorn, there’s a possibility that birds will come by grab one in their mouth and drop it nearby. Buckthorns are so hardy and adaptable that all it takes is one dropped berry to start a new thicket.

After removal and burning, revisit the area several times to check for newly sprouted seedlings. Since each berry contains four seeds and shrub roots run deep, there’s always a chance that a few seeds escaped the flames or a root got left in the ground. Either occurrence will be the start of a new buckthorn thicket.

If multiple seedlings sprout in an area that has been cleared, mowing the seedlings down is often an effective removal method. Several mowings over the course of a summer may be needed to completely eradicate a buckthorn thicket.

Large stumps can be killed with chemical treatments instead of remmvong them from t he ground. However, if chemicals are used they will remain in the soil and render the soil unfit for growing any vegetations for the following 3-5 years.

Notes Of Interest

* Buckthorn has relatively no pest problems and no predators. The shrub can grow and spread undisturbed by any type of animal due to its poisonous nature.

* A few bird species will eat the buckthorn berries during winter when no other food source is available. Each berry contains four seeds so the invasive shrub is soon re-seeded in various locations through bird droppings.

* Seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to five years.

Buckthorn is a problem

  • Out-competes native plants for nutrients, light, and moisture
  • Degrades wildlife habitat
  • Threatens the future of forests, wetlands, prairies, and other natural habitats
  • Contributes to erosion by shading out other plants that grow on the forest floor
  • Serves as host to other pests, such as crown rust fungus and soybean aphid
  • Forms an impenetrable layer of vegetation
  • Lacks “natural controls” like insects or disease that would curb its growth

Buckthorn Poisonous Invasive Plant

USDA Plant database