Category Archives: Survival Guide

Poison hemlock Identification

Poison hemlock Identification

Back to Poison Plant Guide

General

Poison hemlock is a biennial plant – it typically has a two year life cycle. First year plants are low-growing and may resemble carrots. They can be distinguished by the lack of hairs on the stems along with purple-reddish blotches. Second year plants may stretch over 10 feet tall.

Poison hemlock was brought to the United States from Europe as a garden plant. It took a bit less than a few centuries for this noxious plant to populate the North American continent. Just another case of poor thoughts and dire consequences.

Common Names

poison parsley, spotted corobane, carrot fern, devil’s bread and devil’s porridge

Description

Poison hemlock stems are hollow and hairless. They are green with reddish or purple spots and streaks.

The triangular leaves are green and look like fern leaves. They are toothed on edges and have a strong musty odor when crushed.

Flowers grow on second year plants. They have 5 petals that are tiny and white – approximately 2 to 3 inches across. They are arranged in small, umbrella-shaped clusters on ends of branched stems – much like Queen Anne’s lace. Flowers are followed by green ridged seed cases that turn brown as the seeds mature.

Range and Habitat

As the map shows, poison-hemlock grows throughout the United States.

It likes sunlight and grows along fence lines, in irrigation ditches, and in other moist waste places.

Poison Parts

Poison hemlock range map across North America

Poison hemlock is acutely toxic to people and animals, with symptoms appearing 20 minutes to three hours after ingestion. All parts of the plant are poisonous and even the dead canes remain toxic for up to three years. Eating the plant is the main danger, but it is also toxic to the skin and respiratory system.

The seeds and roots are toxic. Roots of poison-hemlock are poisonous and may be mistaken for wild parsnips.

Poison Effects

The typical symptoms for humans include dilation of the pupils, dizziness, and trembling followed by slowing of the heartbeat, paralysis of the central nervous system, muscle paralysis, and death due to respiratory failure

Toxic Look-alikes

Poison hemlock Flowers grow on second year plants. They have 5 petals

Water hemlock stems may have purple spots, but leaves are not lacy. Highly toxic to humans and livestock.

Giant hogweed, which can cause severe blistering and swelling when the sap contacts human or animal skin, stems may have purple spots, but its leaves are not lacy.

Queen Anne’s Lace has lacy leaves, but stem has hairs and does not have purple blotches.

Wild parsnip does not have purple spots on the stem. Wild parsnip can cause severe blistering and swelling when the sap contacts human or animal skin.

Interesting Facts

Socrates is the most famous victim of hemlock poisoning

Back to Poison Plant Guide

USDA plant guide

Wintergreen Plant Identification

Wintergreen Plant Identification

Back to Edible Plants

General

Once growing, the wintergreen plant, spreads out by its rhizomes. When you find a grouping of wintergreen, chances are there is an underground root system connecting most of the plants together. Plants also start by seed but stratification, a period of cold, is necessary.

Wintergreen is still highly regarded and used by foragers and herbalists for both food and medicine.

Common Names

Boxberry, deer berry, Ground Berry, Spiceberry, wintergreen, checkerberry, tea leaf, teaberry, and creeping wintergreen

 Description

The oval-shaped leaves are green, leathery, shiny, hairless, and slightly toothed and grow on stems that are 3” to 7” tall. They are, broadest beyond the midpoint and coming to a rounded point at the tip, about 1″-2″ long and 1/2″-1″ wide. In autumn the leaves turn reddish.

The flowers are colored white to pale pink, bloom during the later summer (July – August) and are shaped like blueberry flowers. They have five terminal lobes.

Range and Habitat

The wintergreen plant is native to Eastern North America from Georgia north to New England to Newfoundland to Manitoba and south to Mississippi – Eastern US and Canada.

It can be found under white pines or in moss, and in mixed forests. The plants do well in low nutrient soil as long as there is good drainage.

Harvest

wintergreen plants are evergreen

Although wintergreen plants are evergreen the leaves turn reddish during winter months. They can still make a good tea but it will not be as good as fresh greens leaves would make. With that said, you can harvest leaves year-round and use.

The berries will turn red in the fall. This is the time to harvest. They are at their freshest. Just like with wintergreen leaves, you can harvest the berries throughout the winter. Later in the winter they will lose some of the taste and become dryer, but they can still be harvested – they don’t necessarily go bad.

Edible

The berries of wintergreen plants are edible for people and a wide range of animals.

Wintergreen plant leaves are used in herbal teas.

Interesting Notes

wintergreen plant can be found in eastern North America

The volatile oils of winterberry deter most insect pests.

Native Americans brewed a tea from the leaves to alleviate rheumatic symptoms, headache, fever, sore throat, and various aches and pains.

Wintergreen is a common flavoring in American products ranging from chewing gum, mints, and candies to smokeless tobacco such as dipping tobacco

The berries are high in vitamin C and contain wintergreen oil

Wintergreen essential oil is much more concentrated. It is potentially not safe to ingest in any amount – click the link and read the potential issues from NDNR.com

Back to Edible Plants

USDA plant guide

Picture License attribution
English: Wintergreen from Greeley, Pennsylvania in early December.
Date 6 December 2016
Source Own work
Author Bramblehillshaman
CC-BY-SA-4.0 self
3.31MB 2448×3264

Hazelnut Plant Identification Guide

Hazelnut Plant Identification Guide

Back to Edible Plants

General

The Hazelnut is a native shrub to North America. You should be able to, except for the US southwest and Gulf coast, find hazelnut plants growing. Once located, remember where they are since nuts are an important food source. Count yourself lucky if you can forage such a free food. Their leaves, twigs, and catkins (male flowers) are important for wildlife. They are browsed by rabbits, deer, and moose and are winter food for turkey and ruffed grouse to name just a few of the dependent animals. The dense shrub provides cover and nesting sites for many wildlife species.

This plant has separate male and female parts on the same branch. A single shrub will produce some nuts, but as a wind-pollinated species 3-5 shrubs are recommended for optimal nut production.

Common names

American hazelnut, American Filbert, American hazel, America hazelnut, beaked hazelnut, California hazelnut

Description

The shrub is deciduous and grows from 3’ – 15’ tall. Once established, it grows by its spreading rhizomes forming thickets.

The main stems are straight with spreading branches. The coloration is light brown with red-hairs. 

Leaves grow alternate and are broad oval with a heart-shaped or rounded base. They are approximately 3 inches – 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. The leaf edges are doubly serrate, hairy beneath, the petiole with stiff, glandular hairs. The leaves turn orange to red or purple in the fall.

Male and female flowers are separate, but both types grow on each plant. Male flowers, in small clusters – maybe 2 to 3 flowers per cluster, form as catkins that are 3 inches to 5 inches long in the fall. They will winter and open the next spring as yellow. Female flowers form and are tiny and inconspicuous with only bright red stigma and styles protruding from the gray-brown buds near the end of the twigs.

Clusters of 2 -6 of the acorn-like nuts about 1 inch long and a bit wider will grow after pollination. The nuts are enclosed in two toothed leafy husks

Location

Plants can grow in sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Hazelnut map

They (several species) are widespread in North America, Maine west to Saskatchewan and North Dakota, south to eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Georgia, not found along the Gulf coast region or Southwest USA

When foraging, look in moist to dry woods and thickets, forest margins, roadsides, and fencerows and other disturbed areas. Also search streamside as long as the soil is not boggy.

Harvest

Hazelnut shrubs flower from March thru May before the plant leaf’s out. The nuts (fruits) form and ripen in the July – October time period. Late summer thru fall is the time to harvest. Be careful if you wait to long you will lose out to wildlife. Visa versa – if you get there first, make sure you leave a good amount for wildlife.

Edible

The nuts of hazelnuts are sweet and may be eaten raw, dried and roasted or ground into flour (gluten free).   

Interesting Notes

The nuts of American hazelnut, which have a higher nutritional value than acorns and beechnuts, also are eaten by squirrels, foxes, deer, northern bobwhite, ruffed grouse, turkey, woodpeckers, pheasants, and deer. 

Plants of American hazelnut may begin producing seed after the first year and produce good seed crops every 2-3 years. 

American hazelnut is not affected by any serious pests. 

Hazel flowers are wind-pollinated, so no bees or butterflies are needed for pollination.

Back to Edible Plants

USDA plant guide

Rose Plant Wild edible

Rose Plant Wild edible

Back to Edible Plants

General

The wild rose plant found widely across North America, as well as many places around the world, is an overlooked forage food. Most people look at the plant and see flowers and thorns not thinking of the multitude of food choices the entire plant provides over an extended harvest period. For the semi-initiated into foraging, wasted comments such as, “You can make rose hip tea.”, is about all you will get. Yet this is a must if you want to forage wild food. Rose hips contains vitamins such as C and A as well as antioxidants, along with nutrients such as zinc. The seeds can contain vitamin E.

There are 35 or so species of the wild rose family in the USA. Some species were brought to North America and became naturalized over time (invasive).

Common Names

Pasture rose, Scotch briar, Prairie rose, Wood rose, Wild brier, Sweetbrier

Description

Roses grow on thick canes; the ends of old canes turn gray to tan. Newer growth is dark green in color; all stems and branches have thorns

Most truly wild roses have flowers with only five petals, usually pink to white. Most also bloom only once, in early summer. Any rose blooming later in the season may be a cultivated variety gone wild.

The plants, because there are so many varieties, can be anything from small bushes to large shrubs to vining plants growing upward. The most important visual characteristic will be the thorns on branches and the leaves that look very much like domestic rose plant leaves. In late summer to fall the hips developed from pollinated flowers are the dead give-away.

Location

As the map shows, wild roses can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They prefer partial shade and moist well-drained soil in dry fields to open woods.



Harvest

You can pick the ripe hips in the fall when it is full and, typically, red. The buds can be picked right into winter.

Harvest young shoots and peel off any thorns during spring and summer.

Pick flowers when they are in bloom. Make sure to take only healthy looking flowers. Cut the portion at the base as that may be bitter.

Leaves can be pick and used in teas.

Edible

Rose hips can be eaten raw or cooked. There are multiple ways to use them. You can bake rose hips into breads or pies, puddings, soups, jellies and their pectin has been used as a thickener. Remember, rose hips and leaves make a nutritious tea!!

The rose petals are edible. You can candy rose petals add to cakes for decoration and yes they can be eaten. Petals can also be made into jams, jellies, vinegars and syrups.

The young shoots peel and eat the young shoots raw or cooked with other vegetables.

Interesting Notes

The pollen and nectar of the wild rose is a valued food source for many beneficial insects, including many types of bees.

Rose hips are a winter food for birds and mammals such as waxwings, pine grosbeaks, grouse, squirrels and mice to name a few.

Native Americans used the roots as an ointment for sore eyes, and the wood of the plant for arrows as well as a food source.

Back to Edible Plants

USDA plant guide

Bunchberry Wild Edible

Bunchberry Wild Edible

General

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.

Back to Edible Plants

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

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.

Back to Edible Plants

USDA plant guide

Burdock Plant wild edible

Burdock Plant Wild Edible

Back to Edible Plants

Burdock General Comments

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 plant in mid-summer

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.

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.

Back to Traderscreek edible plants

USDA plant guide: