Tag Archives: wild food

Hazelnut Plant Identification Guide

Hazelnut Plant Identification Guide

Back to Edible Plants


hazelnut leaves are serated and oblong

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


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.

hazelnut fruit grows in clusters

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


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.


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.


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


The wild rose plant found widely across North America

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


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

Wild rose can be anything from small bushes to large shrubs to vining plants growing upward

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.


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.


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.


Rose hips can be eaten raw or cooked. wild rose 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


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.

Back to Edible Plants

Common Names

Bunchberry, dwarf cornel, creeping dogwood, crackerberry


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.


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).


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Strawberry Plant Facts and Identification


Strawberry – Fragaria Virginiana

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

Woodland strawberry; California strawberry, Virginia Strawberry


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.


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.


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.

Plantain – Plantago


Common names: ribwort plantain, English plantain, buckhorn plantain, narrowleaf plantain, ribleaf and lamb’s tongue, dooryard plantain, Plantain: The Miracle Plant You Can Find in Your Yardcommon plantain, Englishman’s foot, White Man’s Foot

It is just one of those damned weeds that you fight with every year – that is of course if you care about your lawn. Plantain, a perennial, is a very common “weed” that can be found just about anywhere. Just like so many other plants, Colonists brought it over from Europe with them. So, it is in my opinion an invasive species. Native Americans gave plantain two of its “common names” – Englishman’s foot and White Man’s Foot.


Leaves spiral on a very short, weakly woody stem. Leaves are broadly lance shaped to egg shaped, hairless or sparsely short haired. Roughly 2″ to 7″ long, leaves have five to seven prominent parallel veins from the base. Roots are fibrous and shallow. Broadleaf plantain can be distinguished from buckhorn plantain, Plantago lanceolata, by its broader leaf and longer flower head spikes.
The leafless flower stalks grow in summer into fall. They will reach approximately 6″ to 18″ tall. As the picture illustrates, the flower stalks grow out of the center of the plant. The flower stalks bear densely packed greenish white flowers each of which will form a seedpod containing 10 to 18 seeds.


Plantain grows in varied habitats. They can grow in moist soil, shade or full sun, poor soil in between sidewalk cracks – take your pick.


As the map demonstrates, plantain grows throughout Canada and the Coninental U.S.


The very young leaves can be added to salads, or cooked as greens. The immature flower stalks may be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds have a nutty flavor and may be parched and added to a variety of foods or ground into flour.

Notes of Interest:

Plantain is very high in beta carotene (A) and calcium. It also provides ascorbic acid (C).

The plant provides food for butterfly caterpillars, rabbits, deer, and grouse. A wide variety of birds eat the seeds.

According to WebMD: Fibers from broccoli and plantain plants may block a key stage in the development of Crohn’s disease…read more


Back to edible wild plant index