Category Archives: Survival Guide

Bunchberry Wild Edible

Bunchberry Wild Edible

General

bunchberry plants in autumn with ripe berries

Bunchberry Plants are perennials growing 4” – 8” tall. Because they spread by rhizome they generally form a carpet-like mat. They are not overly tasty but in a foraging situation they are edible. Additionally, they are widespread and hence can be found in many places if you are looking and know what you are looking for.

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Common Names

Bunchberry, dwarf cornel, creeping dogwood, crackerberry

Description

bunchberry drawing showing stem, leaves, flower heads and berries

As previously stated, bunchberry are small plants that form carpet like colonies. Each “individual” plant grows a singular stem with about six leaves positioned at the top. 

The elliptic, dark green leaves form as wheels at the nodes. Leaf veins follow the leaf margin as is seen in other dogwoods. In autumn, the leaves may develop red and yellow tones.

The plant generally puts forth four white leaves from the top center. These are not the flower. The true flowers are small white to purplish-white clusters in the center of the white leaves. The flowers are formed in late spring and early summer.

From the true flowers, clusters of red berry fruits grow beginning in mid-summer as the white leaves typically drop.  The fruit can stay viable into late autumn.



Location

springtime bunchberry with the white leaves surrounding the true flowers

Bunchberry can be found growing in forested areas and is native to Canada, parts of Alaska and the northern to Central portions of the contiguous United States. It can be found coast to coast. It grows best in acid soils that are not overly dry. The plant grows best in shade, (4 hours or less of light daily).

Edible

The red ripe berries are the edible parts of the plant. They can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be combined with other fruits even added to puddings and sauces.

Harvest

In late summer into late fall the red berries are picked. The berries can be rather dry and tasteless but are edible.

Interesting Notes

Bunchberries were collected and eaten by Native Americans raw, cooked, even put into sauces and puddings.

The berries are a source of food for deer, grouse and small mammals.

Birds are the main dispersal agents of the seeds, feeding on the fruit during their fall migration.

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USDA plant guide

Burdock Plant wild edible

Burdock Plant Wild Edible

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General

Burdock plant wild edible, a member of the aster family, is a native plant to Europe and Northern Asia. It was brought into North America by colonists and is now widespread throughout the United States. Like the dandelion, it is an invasive species that competes with native plants.

Burdock plant stems, leaves and root picture

Burdock is a biennial. In its first year it has no large central stem or flowers. It grows only as a basal of rosette leaves that stay close to the ground.

The burdock plant contains minerals and vitamins. This should be considered an important year-round forage plant since most parts can be eaten and different parts can harvested year-round.

Common Names

Common Burdock, Gobo, bur weed, clotburbeggar’s buttons

Description

Burdock is a tall, about 3’ – 7’ in height, weed with burrs that stick to clothing. The basal rosette of leaves stays close to the ground the first year and the beginning of the second. These basal rosettes can grow over 3 feet wide.

Burdock plant flowers bloom between June and October

The plant has purple flowers on tips of a prickly ball of bracts (Velcro like) on long stalks that bloom between June and October. Flower heads are ½” – 1 ½” across.

The lower leaves are broad and lightly lobed and can grow almost 2’ long and about half as wide – as a comparison, they are somewhat rhubarb like. They are dark green and egg shaped.   

Location

Burdock, like many such plants, thrive along riverbanks, disturbed habitats, roadsides, edges of forest, vacant lots, and fields. Except for the southern areas, it grows throughout North America.



Edible

Leaf stems can be peeled and cooked by boiling for about 20 minutes.

Young leaves can be boiled or steamed and eaten like spinach.

Roots should be scrubbed to remove the skin. Chop off and discard the top few inches of root, which can be tough. The root should be boiled until tender.

Immature flower stalks may be eaten raw or boiled, their taste resembles that of artichoke.

Harvest

Immature flower stalks may be harvested in late spring before flowers appear.

The root can be rather long (up to 3’). The best parts are fragile. Dig carefully.  

Leaves and stems are best when picked young.

Grow Your Own

Burdock plant territory map of locations in North America

Sow seeds directly outdoors in spring as soon as the soil can be worked and when the danger of frost is over. Cover the seeds with light soil and lightly tamp down. Because it is a biennial, the first year growth only forms a cluster of large leaves. The large leaves grow from a long tap root that can grow over two feet down. In year 2 a branched stalk with smaller leaves will grow out of the plant and, in the late summer, purple-pink flowers will form. In autumn, these flowers are replaced by round brown burrs that persist into the winter.

Notes of Interest

Cultivated in China, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and in various countries in Europe as a vegetable.

The inspiration for Velcro came from the burdock bur. The inventor, a Swiss electrical engineer named Georges de Mestral, was walking along one day in the mountains and saw burs sticking on his wool socks and his dog’s fur.

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USDA plant guide:

White Baneberry Facts and Information

White Baneberry Facts and Information

General Information

White baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), also known as dolls eyes white cohosh, white-beads, white beads and toadroot is a native wildflower to the western hemisphere. It is a perennial member of white baneberry is sometimes called Dolls Eyes because the shiny white fruits resemble the china eyes once used in dollsthe buttercup family growing in eastern North America. The plant flowers from May to June with white berries following that ripen over the summer. The berries will stay on the plant until frost. Many people use white baneberry in landscaping taking the plant from woodlands. In many cases this is illegal and in several states such as New York and Florida, the actions have led to the plant being listed as exploitably vulnerable and endangered respectively. Taking seeds and planting them in domestic landscape may take two years to germinate and adversely affect the natural environment. If you find white baneberry interesting and wish to include it in your landscaping, please contact a stocking nursery – if they do not have in stock, they can special order.

Description

White baneberry grows to about 18 inches to 2 feet tall and can spread from 2 feet to 3 feet wide. Its leThe roots and berries of white baneberry are the most poisonous parts of baneberryaves are toothed at the edges and are also compound. They are roughly 16 inches long and 12 inches wide. The leaves grow alternately on the stem – this means one leaf comes out at a time on the stem.

The flowers are small – maybe ¼ to ½ inch and are colored white and grow on the end of a stalk. As referenced earlier, the flowers bloom from May to June. The picture of the white baneberry flower comes from USDA plant database.

What is so interesting about this plant are the berries and the way they sit on the plant. They look almost alien. One of its nicknames, dolls eyes is spot on. The berries are not really that big, ½ inch or so in diameter, all white with a black stigma scar.

Habitat

White baneberry thrive in moist, fertile soil with lots of organic white baneberry range mapmatter in partial to full shade. White baneberry is an upland plant and almost never occurs in wetlands. The picture of the plant with berries was taken in the Southern Adirondacks in a deciduous forest border facing south above a small lake.

Range A range map indicates, white baneberry grows North into Ontario Canada and east to Nova Scotia. It grows as far south as Florida and west out to Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Edible

Although I have read that certain birds dowhite baneberry leaves are toothed at the edges and are also compound eat the berries, the entire plant, just like Climbing Nightshade, is poisonous including the leaves, stalk, and especially the berries. If eaten, symptoms include nausea, vomiting, cramps, mouth blisters, confusion, and headache. The plant’s poison also has cardiogenic properties and can cause cardiac arrest (heart attack) in in children and immune compromised adults. This is a plant best admired for its beauty and left alone.

Partridgeberry

Partridgeberry Facts and Information

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) also known as twinberry is a low growing perennial woodland plant of the eastern United States. It is in fact an evergreen non-climbing vine, no taller than 6 ½ inches with Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) also known as twinberrycreeping stems 16 inches long. It blooms from late spring to mid-summer and sets berries that typically turn red when mature. Partridgeberry is highly ornamental and is used in gardens and landscaping. It is easy to find on online nursery shops. It grows typically by its spreading vines setting roots. The seeds will sprout, but only after a period of dormancy, called stratification.

The berries are a food source for many native animals – deer, birds, small mammals, etc. Native Americans made partridgeberry leaf tea as well as using the berries medicinally and for food.

Description

As noted above, Partridgeberry is a low trailing evergreen vining plant. Its flowers are fuzzy white, each having four petals, and as the picture indicates, grow in pairs. What is interesting is that the flower pairs generally create one red berry. Partridgeberry is a low trailing evergreen vining plant.

The stems are mostly light green to light brown and either glabrous or hairy; old stems become brown, smooth, and woody.

As the first picture indicates, pairs of opposite leaves occur along the stems and are ½ inch to 2 inches long and similarly across; they are oval in shape and smooth to slightly undulate along their margins. The upper leaf surface is shiny, and usually dark green. The glossy green leaves are small and broad with a conspicuous white midvein.

Habitat

Partridgeberry grows in both dry and moist wooded areas. The upper most picture was taken streamside in a mature deciduous Adirondack forest. Habitats include rocky woodlands, sandy savannas, slopes of wooded sand dunes, sandstone ledges along ravines, mossy boulders in wooded ravines as well as edges of swamps and bogs.

Range

This plant has a territory somewhat similar to mayapple and is found across a wide area of eastern North America. Partridgeberry is found from south Eastern Canada south to Florida and Texas all the way to Central America into to Guatemala.

Edible

Both leaves and berries are edible. Leaves are typically made into a tea.

The berries can be eaten raw, dried and cooked. They are basically bland tasting. The berries can be mixed with other forest berries. They are reported to be high in vitamin C, tannin, anthocyanins and antioxidants

Pickerelweed Facts

Pickerelweed Facts Basic Information

classic picture of pickerelweed in habitat
classic picture of pickerelweed in habitat

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) also called pickerel weed, tuckahoe, black potato, wampee or wampi is an aquaticplant native to the Americas (both North and South). It is perennial plant that can grow from either seeds or rhizomes. Pickerelweed forms large colonies along shallow shorelines, usually growing from its spreading rhizomes. The seed of the plant needs a period of cold dormancy, called stratification, for about 2 months before it will sprout a seedling. In temperate zones the growth dies back in late fall only to emerge again in Spring when weather is favorable.

Pickerelweed is important for wildlife. Deer are fond of it, as are muskrats and ducks. It also has its own bee for pollination!!

Description

As named, pickerel weed is an aquatic plant. It is a rather large plant,
reaching up to 4 feet tall. The leaves and stems of the plant are green and somewhat waxy in appearance. They develop at the ends pickerelweed is an aquatic plantof stems and are highly variable in shape and size. Leaf shape ranges from an oval to almost lance shaped. Leaf sizes are also variable, ranging from as small as 2 inches to as much as 10 inches long and from less than an inch up-to 6 inches wide. Leaf veins run parallel in the leaf and are never “net-like”.

The small flowers are violet-blue in color and bloom in summer. They are small and cluster around a stalk-like stem (see picture). The flowers are the key to really identifying the plant.

Habitat

Just like water lily, pickerelweed grows in a variety of wetlands including pond and lake margins and the edge of a slow moving streams. It prefers shallow water, a foot or so deep. Pickerelweed does not do well in salt water, so you will never find pickerelweed growing in salt marshes.

Range

Pickerelweed has an extremely large range, its northern most
reach is eastern Canada as far north as Nova Scotia, west to Minnesota and south to Florida and Texas. It is found as far south as Argentina in South America.

Edible

The seeds are edible, when dried, roasted and ground they make a good flour for bread. They can also be eaten raw, cooked even boiled like rice or roasted like nuts. Young unfurled leaves can be eaten raw or boiled and eaten. Stalks are edible as well and are prepared just like leaves. Please make sure the water you take the plant from is clean and unpolluted.

Mayapple – Podophyllum peltatum

Mayapple – Podophyllum peltatum

Common names:Mayapple. (Podophyllum peltatum). Other common names: Mandrake, May Apple, May-apple

hogapple, Indian apple, mayflower, umbrella plant, wild lemon (flavor of the fruit), wild mandrake, American mandrake, devil’s apple

Mayapples are unique looking plants that I always consider fun to come across when out hiking. Typically you will not find just one. They usually are found in groupings. All plant somehow attached, even identical, as they can all be grown from a rhizome.

Description:

In spring the main stems of mayapple grow upright. These stems can grow 10” – 24” tall. Reproductive plants have 2 or occasionally 3 umbrella like leaves 8” – 12” in diameter with 5 – 9 deeply cut lobes Plants that will not reproduce, sterile, have one umbrella-like leaf. The single flower comes out in spring and is white 1” – 3” diameter with six, sometimes up to nine, petals and is produced at the axil of the two main leaves. The flower is quite showy The flower matures into a yellow-greenish fruit 1” – 2” long. Typically, when you find mayapple you will find a small “colony” since they can grow via rhizomes.

Mayapple, is also called American mandrake. Mandrake - the stuff of magic and legend and dark, stormy nights.Habitat:

Mayapples can be found in moist meadows and open / damp woodlands

Location:

Mayapple territory is from Quebec and Ontario in the north, south through New England down into Florida. They are as far west as Texas and Minnesota.

Edible:

The ripe fruit is the only edible on the plant. The fruit can be eaten raw or even made into jam. The leaves, stem, roots/rhizome and unripe fruit are poisonous – do not eat.

Notes of Interest:

They are a members of the barberry family.
Native Americans ate the berries and used the roots to make a tea.