What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week? (June week 4)

This week, I’m featuring Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana ssp. canadensis or Circaea canadensis) as one of our local wildflowers that begins to bloom at this time.

The species name, Circaea lutetiana, is a recent reclassification from the older name Circaea quadrisulcata, which has resulted in 2 sub-species (or some botanists refer to them as two varieties of C. lutetiana) being adopted. Scientific names for plants are typically based on one (or more) of that particular plant’s parts. Neither of the scientific names for this plant refer to any of its parts, which may help explain the dichotomy of camps of professional plant taxonists and botanists each choosing a different means of how to classify this plant. The genus name Circaea, is named after Circe, the powerful sorceress in Greek mythology who has abundant knowledge of herbs and magic. The species, lutetiana, is derived from the old Latin name for the city of Paris – Lutetia – which supposedly was known at one time as the ‘Witch City,’ possibly a reference to L’affaire des Poisons during the reign of Louis XIV. So, both names refer to enchantment or more darkly, bewitchment, but nothing about the plant seems to cause any such ‘enchanting’ effects. Therein is the mistake, says John Gerard:

“There is no use of the herbe either in Phisicke or chirugerie that I can read of, which hath hapned by the corruption of time, and the errour of some who have taken Mandragoras [Mandrake – Mandragora L., which plant can produce hallucinogenic, and hypnotic effects.] for Circea, in which errour they have still persisted unto this daie, attributing unto Circea the vertues of Mandragoras; by which meanes there hath not any thing beene saide of the true Circea.” – FROM The Herbal, 1597, page 280, by John Norton, London.

Identification Tips:

This perennial plant grows up to 2 feet tall usually as an unbranched stem. The stem frequently has white hairs especially in the upper part, although it may become hairless with age. The opposite leaves are up to 5″ long and 3″ across; they are oval with teeth along their margins.

The central stem terminates in a cluster (called a raceme) of flowers up to 6″ long. The raceme elongates as flowers open from the bottom of the spike to the top. The small flowers are sparsely, but evenly, distributed along a stalk with slender outward spreading branches (called pedicels) up to ½” long. Each flower consists of 2 notched white petals. Each flower is short-lived and replaced by a small bur-like fruit, which readily attach themselves to animal fur or human clothing for seed dispersion. When a plant’s seed pods have evolved for dispersion by such means, the process is called epizoochory.


The meanings associated with the flowers of this species are sorcery and witchcraft.

Culinary and Medicinal Uses:

There are no known culinary uses of this modest plant.

Traditional medicinal use of this plant is predominantly as an anti-inflammatory agent for the external treatment of skin conditions and wounds.

Wildlife Value:

The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract small bees, including sweat bees and small carpenter bees, as well as hoverflies and bee flies.

Where Found Locally:


Forthcoming Wildflower Guides

Given the near absence of winter thus far, I have continued my wildflower inventories at a few locations.  And those activities have me thinking about spring and the upcoming return of blooming wildflowers throughout the next growing season.

With that in mind, I wanted to offer this sneak peak screen shot of five new wildflower field guides that will be available on this site in March.  Each of these new guides will be in Microsoft PowerPoint Show format (ppsx), featuring easier navigation throughout each document and higher resolution photographs as well as additional information regarding many of the species contained in each guide.  Unfortunately, each of these digital files is much larger than my previous wildflower guides; thus, downloading will take more time.  Those new wildflower guides will include:

  • Ashford Glen Preservea-field-guide-to-wildflowers-ashford-glen-preserve-1st-edition-march2017-chokecherry-sample-page
  • Bauer Environmental Parka-field-guide-to-wildflowers-bauer-environmental-park-1st-edition-march2017-cranberry-viburnum-sample-page
  • Old Iron Spring Fitness Traila-field-guide-to-wildflowers-old-iron-spring-fitness-trail-1st-edition-march2017-fringed-loosestrife-sample-page
  • Peter Desrochers Memorial Country Knolls Trailsa-field-guide-to-wildflowers-peter-desrochers-memorial-country-knolls-trails-1st-edition-march2017-woodland-agrimony-sample-page
  • Zim Smith Traila-field-guide-to-wildflowers-zim-smith-trail-1st-edition-march2017-common-arrowhead-sample-page

Also, please check my updated status of wildflower inventories.  I will be adding one of those destinations (Anchor Diamond Park at Hawkwood) as a new page on this site sometime later this year.

In the meantime, view my winter plant ID quiz.

Lastly, a reminder to keep a watchful eye for ticks.  During a winter as mild as this one has been, they remain active.  Last week, I found two while visiting a local preserve!

Happy trails!

Culturally Significant Plants – What, Why, Where?

Each of my wildflower guides includes a factoid about whether or not a particular plant species is deemed to be a “culturally significant plant.” You may view and download all of my FREE wildflower field guides here.

First, what is a “culturally significant plant”?

The USDA Plants DATABASE web site is an excellent source of information about culturally significant plants. The USDA Forest Service also has information on this topic.

Second, why is a given species identified as a “culturally significant plant”? Generally speaking, most plants are deemed to be “culturally significant” because they possess medicinal qualities or uses. Others simply provide a source of food. Still others exhibit characteristics or properties deemed important to trades, crafts or even religious ceremonies. Here’s a sampling of some of the culturally significant plants found on area nature preserves, parks and trails. For each, the principal ethnobotanic uses of each plant are summarized below; all information is excerpted from individual plant guides compiled by and available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Plants DATABASE web site noted above.  Each guide also provides information about how to propagate each plant.

1. Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata): The root of this plant was used by the Iroquois to treat venereal diseases, ulcers, and legs sores. The leaves were smashed and applied as a poultice to treat an abscess at the side of the neck. The plant was used to counteract sickness produced by witchcraft. The Cherokee mashed the roots of Indian tobacco and used them as a poultice for body aches. The leaves were rubbed on sores, aches, stiff necks, and chapped places. The Crow used the plant in religious ceremonies. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_loin.pdf)

2. Red Mulberry (Morus rubra): Red mulberry was used by several Native American tribes to treat a variety of ailments. The sap was used to treat ringworm (Foster and Duke 2000). The Cherokee made a tea from the leaves of the plant for treatment of dysentery, weakness, and difficulty urinating (Hamel and Chiltoskey 1975). The Comanche used the fruit of the red mulberry as a food source (Carlson and Jones 1940, Moerman 1998). (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_moru2.pdf; full reference sources of noted citations are contained therein)

3. American Basswood (Tilia americana): Native Americans and settlers used the fibrous inner bark (“bast”) as a source of fiber for rope, mats, fish nets, and baskets. Basswood is still valued for its soft, light, easily worked wood, especially for turned items and hand carving. It once was the material of choice for prosthetic limbs, but these are now made from synthetics. Other uses have included boxes, toys, woodenware, drawing boards, veneer, venetian blinds, excelsior, and pulp. Native Americans used fresh basswood sap, which contains moderate amounts of sugar, as a watery drink or boiled it into syrup. They also ate young basswood leaves and used the cambium for soups and breads. Various medicinal uses were made of leaf and bark extracts, and Iroquois used freshly cut bark as an emergency bandage for wounds. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_tiam.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read how to germinate basswood seeds.

4. Common Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia): Sagittaria is an aquatic plant with tuberous roots that can be eaten like potatoes. Lewis and Clark found it at the mouth of the Willamette and considered it equal to the potato, and valuable for trade. Indian women collected it in shallow water from a canoe, or waded into ponds or marshes in the late summer and loosened the roots with their toes. The roots would rise to the top of the water where they were gathered and tossed into floating baskets. Today, the tubers are harvested with a hoe, pitchfork, or rake. Tubers are baked in fire embers, boiled, or roasted in the ashes. Tubers are skinned and eaten whole or mashed. After roasting, some tubers were dried and stored for winter use. The Chippewa gathered the “Indian potatoes” in the fall, strung them, and hung them overhead in the wigwam to dry. Later they were boiled for use. The tubers of Sagittaria species were eaten by many different indigenous groups in Canada, as well as many groups of Washington and Oregon (Kuhnlein and Turner 1991). The tubers were also widely traded from harvesting centers to neighboring areas. The tubers were also a major item of commerce on the Lower Columbia in Chinook Territory. Katzie families owned large patches of the plant and clearing the patches claimed ownership. Family groups would camp beside their claimed harvesting sites for a month or more. A species of Sagittaria grows in China, and is sold in the markets of China and Japan as food, the corms being full of starch. Sagittaria latifolia is extensively cultivated in the San Francisco Bay area in California to supply the Chinese markets, and the tubers are commonly to be found on sale. The Chinese, on coming to California, used it for food and may have cultivated it somewhat. In so doing, they are believed to have extended its range into the southern part of the state (Mason 1957). Medicinally, the Maidu of California used an infusion of arrowhead roots to clean and treat wounds. The Navajo use these plants for headaches. The Ojibwa and the Chippewa used Sagittaria species as a remedy for indigestion. The Cherokee used an infusion of leaves to bathe feverish babies, with one sip given orally. The Iroquois used it for rheumatism, a dermatological aid, and a laxative. The Iroquois used it as a ceremonial blessing when they began planting corn. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_sala2.pdf; full reference sources of noted citations are contained therein)

5. Great Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica): The Iroquois used the plant as a cough medicine. The Meskwaki ground up the roots of this plant and used it as an anti-divorce remedy. The mashed roots were secretly put into some common dish, which was eaten by both husband and wife. The Cherokee used a cold infusion of the roots of great blue lobelia and cardinal flower to treat nosebleed. A poultice of the crushed leaves of the plant was used for headache and a warm leaf infusion was good for colds. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_losi.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read more about how to propagate Great Lobelia.

6. New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae): A decoction of the plant has been used in the treatment of weak skin (Moerman 1998). A poultice has been used in the treatment of pain, fevers, and diarrhea. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_syno2.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read more about how to propagate New England Aster.  Read another article about how to grow New England Aster.

7. Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra): This was a widely used species among Native American tribes. The uses included the making of a root and leaf tea to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and mouth/throat ulcers. The leaves of the plant were smoked for asthma. The blossoms were used by the Chippewa in a mouthwash for teething children. Comanche children enjoyed the sour acid taste of the fruits and leaves were added to tobacco for smoking by adults. Dye was also created from various parts of the smooth sumac. The fruits were used to make red dyes and the inner bark used to make yellow dyes. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_rhgl.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read how to grow sumac from seed.

8. Cranberry Viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum): The bark of highbush cranberry yields a powerful antispasmodic (whence the origin of one its American common names, crampbark). The water-soluble preparation (containing a bitter compound called viburnine) has been used for relief of menstrual and stomach cramps and asthma. The antispasmodic properties apparently were discovered independently by European, Native American, and Asian peoples. The action of this agent from highbush cranberry closely resembles that of black haw (Viburnum prunifolium). Highbush cranberry is used as an ornamental plant and valued for its edible fruits. The fruit is commonly gathered from wild stands in late August or early September, best when picked slightly under-ripe (and sour), and used in sauces, jellies, and juices. If picked after a heavy frost, the fruit are softer and more palatable but they develop a musty, somewhat objectionable odor during cooking. The species has never developed into a commercial fruit crop. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_viopa2.pdf)

9. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Several tribes of the Plains region of the United States including the Pawnee and Chippewa tribes used common yarrow. The Pawnee used the stalk in a treatment for pain relief. The Chippewa used the leaves in a steam inhalant for headaches. They also chewed the roots and applied the saliva to their appendages as a stimulant. The Cherokee drank a tea of common yarrow to reduce fever and aid in restful sleep. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_acmi2.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read more about how to propagate Yarrow.

10. New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus): Tribes of the Missouri River region used the leaves for tea and burned the roots for fuel on buffalo hunting trips when fuel wood was scarce. The roots of New Jersey tea were used by the Chippewa for pulmonary troubles and for constipation coupled with shortness of breath and bloating. The Cherokee held the root tea on an aching tooth to ease the pain and consumed hot root tea for bowel troubles. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_ceam.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read more about how to propagate New Jersey Tea.

11. Canadian Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense): The Abnaki used a decoction of the plant in combination with another plant for the treatment of colds. The Ojibwe used the roots of this plant as an appetizer by putting it in any food as it was being cooked. It was also used for indigestion. The Iroquois used the roots to treat scarlet fever, colds, urinary disorders, and headaches. The Cherokee used the plant for a wide variety of medicinal purposes. The roots were used to treat coughs, colds, heart trouble, and blood medicine. The Meskwaki used the roots for many things. The cooked root was put into the ear for earache or sore ears. When one could not eat certain things, this root was cooked with these foods and it rendered them palatable. Mud catfish were cooked with Canadian wildginger to improve its flavor. When the root was chewed and the fisherman used the spittle on the bait, it enabled him to catch catfish. The Menomini used the fresh or dried roots of Canadian wildginger as a mild stomachic. When the patient was weak or had a weak stomach and it might be fatal to eat something he craved, he was fed a part of this root. Whatever he wanted could then be eaten with impunity. The Micmac also used the root as a stomachic and to treat cramps. The Potawatomi used the root to flavor meat or fish and render otherwise inedible food, palatable. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_asca.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read more about how to propagate Canadian Wild Ginger.

12. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis): The Iroquois had many medicinal uses for cardinal flower. The root was boiled together with the root of Cichorium intybus and the liquid was used to treat fever sores. The mashed roots, stems, leaves, and blossoms were made into a decoction and drank for cramps. The plant was also used as an emetic for an upset stomach from eating something bad. The plant was added to other medicines to give them more strength. The Delaware used an infusion of the roots to treat typhoid. The Meskwaki used this plant as a ceremonial tobacco, throwing it to the winds to ward off a storm. The Pawnee used the roots and flowers of cardinal flower in the composition of a love charm. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_loca2.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read more information about how to propagate Cardinal Flower.

13. Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana): Chokecherry covered a large geographic range in North America, so a majority of tribes used it to treat a variety of health problems. It was valued especially for its astringent properties and beneficial effect upon the respiratory system. The Arika women would drink the berry juice to stop post-partum hemorrhage. The Blackfeet drank berry juice for diarrhea and sore throats. An infusion of the cambium layer mixed with Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier almifolia) was taken as a general purge treatment and to lactating mothers so they could pass on the medicinal qualities to the nursing baby. They also used it in an enema solution for their children. Willow (Salix spp.) tea was used to counteract the laxative effect of chokecherry. The Cherokees used chokecherry in the following ways: mixed chokecherry with hazel alder (Alnus serrulata), downy rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens), Canadian wildginger (Asarum canadense) and yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima) to make a blood tonic. An infusion made from boiled bark was given for coughs, laryngitis, chills, ague, fevers and to loosen phlegm. Warm chokecherry tea was given to women when labor pains began. The root bark is a good astringent and was mixed with water and used as a rinse for open sores and old skin ulcers. The tree bark of spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) was added to corn whiskey and used to treat for measles. The fruit was boiled and eaten to treat for bloody bowels. The branches and leaves were one of six ingredients burned in sweat lodges to treat for indigestion and jaundice. The Cheyenne would gather the immature fruit, dry it in the sun, pulverize it and use it as a treatment for diarrhea. The Paiutes made a medicinal tea from the leaves and twigs to treat colds and rheumatism. The Sioux chewed the dried roots and then placed this poultice in open wounds to stop the bleeding. The Sioux, Crows, Gros Ventres and others made a bark tea to cure stomach aches, diarrhea and dysentery. The Crows also used the bark to cleanse sores and burns. In the 19th century medical doctors used many concoctions of chokecherry leaves and bark to treat a number of ailments. Chokecherry bark was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1970. It is still listed as a pharmaceutical aid, a flavor agent for liquid medicines. Among the health complaints treated were debility, hectic fever, irritative dyspepsia, irritability of the nervous system, fever, pleurisy, whooping cough, tuberculosis, pneumonia, sore throats and gastrointestinal problems. It was recommended as a rinse on burns, open sores, cankers and skin ulcers. Pharmaceutical books at that time cautioned against boiling any mixture using chokecherry leaves or bark because it would drive off the medicinal properties. The bark was used as a flavoring agent in many cough syrups. In 1834, Dr. Proctor first identified the bark as containing prussic acid. In their journals, Lewis and Clark recorded that while camped on the upper Missouri River Captain Lewis became will with abdominal cramps and fever. He made a tea from chokecherry twigs and was well the next day. Modern medicinal research shows in small dosages hydrocyanic acid can stimulate respiration, improve digestion and gives a false sense of well-being. Some cancer research involving hydrocyanic acid is being conducted. (Excerpts from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_prvi.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read how to propagate Chokecherry from cuttings.  Read more about how to propagate Chokecherry.

14. Northern Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum): The Alabama, Cherokee, Chippewa, Comanche, Creek, Delaware, Iroquois, Oklahoma, Menominee, Meskwaki, Ojibwa, Pawnee, and Potawatomi were among the Native American tribes that used common pricklyash for many, mostly medicinal purposes. An infusion of the bark was used as a wash to treat itching skin and to treat swollen joints. Infusions of the bark were taken internally for back pain, cramps, pulmonary problems, to treat fevers, and as a cold and cough remedy. Infusions, made from the crushed roots, were also used to treat fevers. A poultice made from the inner bark was used to treated rheumatism and sharp pains. Placing the inner bark in the throat treated sore throats. The bark was boiled into a decoction that was taken to induce miscarriages. The plant was used to treat pain after childbirth. Bark infusions were taken to treat worms in adults. The bark of the roots was used to treat colic, rheumatism, and gonorrhea. An ointment, made my mixing the plant with bear grease, was applied to ulcers and sores. Infusions of the berries were used to spray on the chest and throat to treat bronchial diseases, to wash sores, and to flavor medicines. The bark and the berries were used to treat hemorrhages, to make cough syrup, as an expectorant, and to treat tuberculosis. Children who were weak were washed with a decoction of the bark to make their legs and feet strong. The bark was used in different forms to alleviate toothaches. Smoking the bark treated toothache. Bark, either beaten or powdered was packed in and around an aching tooth. Pieces of the bark were chewed to help breakup a tooth that was to be remove. The plant was an ingredient in compounds that were used for kidney trouble, to strengthen convalescing patients, and to induce vomiting. An infusion of the bark was, at least once, placed on a dog’s nose to improve its scenting capabilities during hunting. The fruits were administered as diuretics to horses. Young men of the Omaha tribe used a perfume made from the fruits. The plant is probably still used today for various purposes by various Native American tribes. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_zaam.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read more about how to propagate Northern Prickly Ash.

15. Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. sericea): Native Americans smoke the inner bark of redosier dogwood in tobacco mixtures used in the sacred pipe ceremony. Dream catchers, originating with the Potawotami, are made with the stems of the sacred redosier dogwood. Some tribes ate the white, sour berries, while others used the branches for arrow-making, stakes, or other tools. In California, peeled twigs were used as toothbrushes for their whitening effect on teeth (Strike 1994). Bows and arrows were made from Cornus shoots. The inner bark is used for tanning or drying animal hides. The Apache, Cheyenne, Dakota, Montana Indians, Ojibwa, Potawatomi, Omaha, Ponca, and Thompson Indians all use the inner bark in a tobacco mixture for smoking the sacred pipe (Moerman 1986). The leaves and/or inner bark of redosier dogwood are also used as a smoking mixture by the Okanagan-Colville, the Flathead, the Kootenay, and the Blackfeet peoples in the western United States and Canada (Hellson 1974, Hart 1976, Turner 1978, Turner et al. 1980, Johnston 1987). The Navaho-Kayentaf and Navaho-Ramah used the plant ceremonially as a Mountain-top-way emetic (Moerman 1986). An infusion of redosier dogwood bark was used as an anti-diarrheal by the Chippewa and the Potawatomi, an antidote for weak kidneys by the Shuswap, and a pediatric aid for children who wet the bed by the Shuswap. The Chippewa used an infusion of the bark for eruptions caused by poison ivy. The Chippewa and the Micmac used a decoction of redosier dogwood root for sore eyes and catarrh. The Okanagan and the Thompson Indians took a decoction of the leaves. Other remedies treated by redosier dogwood included headaches, sore throats, a wash for ulcers, a substitute for “larb”, and a decoction of bark was taken as an antidote for weakness. The Maidu of Northern California used redosier dogwood as a tonic, a laxative, emetic, and cathartic (Strike 1994). Maidu women took a dogwood decoction after childbirth. The fruits were eaten by the Indians of the Missouri region (Densmore 1974). The berries are known to be tart and bitter, but were nonetheless eaten by all of the southern Interior peoples of British Columbia, including the Nlaka’pamux, Lillooet, Okanagan-Colville, Shuswap, Kootenay, Blackfeet, and the Flathead of Alberta and Montana (Kuhnlein and Turner 1991). The fruits were gathered from August to October and eaten fresh, a few at a time, or, more commonly, were pounded and mixed with other fruits, such as chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) or Saskatoons (Amelanchier almifolia). Some people mashed the berries and dried them in cakes; others dried and stored them. Eating a few raw fruits was considered to be a good tonic among the Nlaka’pamux and the Okanagan-Colville, who ate them, raw as a kind of “relish” (Turner 1978; Turner et al. 1990). Redosier dogwood is used for basket weaving. Sometimes called red willow, both Salix species and Cornus sericea are used interchangeably. Differences in stem color create a multi-hued design element. Indian people from the mid-Columbia River used redosier dogwood to make “ribbons” for basket decorations (Schlick 1994). If gathered in the early spring, the bark will retain its deep red color when dried and could be mistaken for cherry. The Hidatsa, Arikara, and Mandan made twill plaited burden baskets with two-toned dark and light designs; these baskets were made of willow (Salix nigra), redosier dogwood, and boxelder (Acer negundo) splints (Turnbaugh et al. 1986, Hart 1976). Willow and redosier dogwood were used by the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Pawnee, and Teton Sioux to make a coarsely coiled gambling basket for dice. The Ojibwa and the Chippewa used redosier dogwood bark as a dye. The inner bark was mixed with other plants or minerals and used to make a red dye, a light red dye, a black dye, and an ecru or “khaki” colored dye (Densmore 1974). (Excerpts from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_coses.pdf; full reference sources of noted citations are contained therein)

  • NOTE:  Read more about how to propagate Red-osier Dogwood.

16. Common Cattail (Typha latifolia): All parts of the cattail are edible when gathered at the appropriate stage of growth. The young shoots are cut from the rhizomes (underground stems) in the spring when they are about 4 to 16 inches long. The raw young shoots taste like cucumber and can also be made into pickles. When the young shoots are steamed they taste like cabbage. The base of the stem where it attaches to the rhizome can be boiled or roasted like potatoes. The young flower stalks can be taken out of their sheaths and can be boiled or steamed just like corn (Roos-Collins 1990; Clarke 1977). Cattail pollen is a fine substitute for flours. It is a bright yellow or green color, and turns pancakes, cookies or biscuits a pretty yellow color (which children love). The rhizomes (underground stems) and lower stems have a sweet flavor and can be eaten raw, baked, roasted, or broiled. Cattail rhizomes are fairly high in starch content; this is usually listed at about 30% to 46%. The core can be ground into flour. One acre of cattails would yield about 6,475 pounds of flour (Harrington 1972). This flour would probably contain about 80 % carbohydrates and around 6% to 8% protein. Since cattail occurs around the world, it is a potential source of food for the worlds’ population. Newly emerging shoots of cattails are edible, with delicate flavor and crispy asparagus like texture (Glenn Keator, Linda Yamane, Ann Lewis 1995). The end of a new stem of cattail is popular for eating with Washoes (Murphy 1959). When mixed with tallow, the brown fuzz can be chewed like gum. The Klamath and Modocs of northern California and southern Oregon make flexible baskets of twined tule or cattail. Cattails or tules were also twined to form mats of varying sizes for sleeping, sitting, working, entertaining, covering doorways, for shade, and a myriad of other uses. The Cahuilla Indians used the stalks for matting, bedding material, and ceremonial bundles (Barrows 1967). Some tribes used the leaves and sheath bases as caulking materials. Apaches used the pollen in female puberty ceremonies. After dipping the spike in coal oil, the stalk makes a fine torch. The fluff can also be used as tinder, insulation, or for lining baby cradleboards. The down is used for baby beds (Murphey 1959). Lengths of cattail were plied into rope or other size cordage, and cattail rope was used in some areas to bind bundles of tule into tule boats. Air pockets or aerenchyma in the stems provide the buoyancy that makes tule good boat-building material. (Excerpts from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_tyla.pdf; full reference sources of noted citations are contained therein)

  • NOTE:  Read more about how to propagate Common Cattail.

17. Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus): A tea was made from the leaves and used in the treatment of diarrhea and as an aid in childbirth (Moerman 1998). The tea has also been known to relieve painful menstrual cramps (Ibid.). Externally, the leaves and roots are used as a gargle to treat tonsillitis and mouth inflammations, sores, minor wounds, burns and varicose ulcers (Brown 1995). Europeans in the 17th century regarded the raspberries as an antispasmodic and they made a syrup of the juice which they employed to prevent vomiting (Readers Digest 1990). In the 18th century physicians and herbalists deemed the berries useful as a remedy for heart disease (Ibid). Red raspberries are eaten fresh or in jams and jellies, or added to pies and other baked goods, candies and dairy products to add flavor. Purple to dull blue dye was obtained from the fruit. (Excerpt from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_ruid.pdf)

  • NOTE:  Read more about how to propagate raspberry plants.  Read another article about how to propagate raspberry plants.

Lastly, where is a particular culturally significant plant found? All plants occupy a particular type of habitat or, in other words, a specific landscape location in which a combination of soils, topography, exposure to sunlight, and accessibility to or availability of soil moisture are the principal limiting factors to what plants grow there. For each of the species listed above, here are examples of where you can find that particular culturally significant plant growing at some of the area nature preserves, parks and trails where I am conducting wildflower inventories.

  1. 100 Acre Wood: Indian Tobacco can be found along Upland Trail (blue) as you enter the forest @ 42.958485, -73.770382
  2. Ann Lee Pond Nature and Historic Preserve: Red Mulberry can be found along the woodland loop trail west of Ann Lee Pond, approximately 80 feet south of the path to the bridge over Ann Lee Pond @ 42.736256, -73.814626
  3. Ashford Glen Preserve: American Basswood can be found approximately 400 feet from the trailhead entrance @ 42.768886, -73.833020
  4. Ballston Creek Preserve: Common Arrowhead can be found along the edge of the marsh located at the end of Pat’s Trail (red trail) @ 42.965975, -73.837758
  5. Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve: Great Lobelia can be found approximately 500 feet from the trailhead entrance west of Pierce Road @ 42.894129, -73.788847
  6. Garnsey Park: New England Aster can be found along the Scout Trail – Meadow Loop, which is generally located @ 42.868667, -73.873647
  7. Hayes Nature Park: Smooth Sumac can be found near the trailhead adjoining the parking area off Moe Road @ approximately 42.826129, -73.788969
  8. Historic Champlain Canalway Trail: Cranberry Viburnum can be found approximately 1,600 feet south of Brookwood Road @ 42.832058, -73.677187
  9. Mohawk Landing Nature Preserve: Yarrow can be found adjoining the parking area @ approximately 42.824722, -73.857209
  10. North Woods Nature Preserve: New Jersey Tea can be found on the hilltop at the intersection of the Reservoir (blue) and Forest (yellow) Trails @ 42.921336, -73.812001
  11. Shenantaha Creek Park: Canadian Wild Ginger can be found along a steep embankment along the trail @ approximately 42.961091, -73.822098
  12. Town Park: Cardinal Flower can be found in the wetland area along North Loop @ 42.863789, -73.732066
  13. Ushers Road State Forest: Chokecherry can be found sporadically along Forest Loop @ approximately 42.912834, -73.772910
  14. Veterans Bike Path: Northern Prickly Ash can be found adjoining the small stream crossing approximately 1,130 feet north of White Beach Road @ 42.942818, -73.863518
  15. Veterans Memorial Park: Red-osier Dogwood can be found along the Perimeter Trail @ approximately 42.901893, -73.847407
  16. Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve: Common Cattail can be found along Shortcut Trail @ approximately 42.792102, -73.795697
  17. Woodcock Preserve (AKA Tanner Road Preserve): Red Raspberry can be found along the north boundary of the old field along the Wetland Meadow Trail @ approximately 42.886469, -73.833079

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Happy trails!