Some wild plants make themselves difficult to miss like the Eastern Coral Bean above. It grows in a drab environment of saw palmettos and scrub oaks. To get pollinated by Hummingbirds it throws on a splash of red. That helps us find it, too. Later it displays large toxic red beans with a black spot (I think to mimic a bug.) Birds find those seeds and spread them around. We cannot eat the seeds but we can eat the blossoms. I boil them first (they turn green) then I mix them with scramble eggs. Some folks eat the red blossom raw. You can read more about it here.
The 2017 Florida Herbal Conference is now history. The weather and plants cooperated. It was the sixth annual conference and my sixth time there talking about edible wild plants. Herbal students over three days got to see a lot of seasonal edibles, some choice, some marginal. Among the plants we saw were: Bitter Gourd, Caesar Weed, Camphor Tree, Cucumber Weed, Dollarweed, Epazote, False Hawk’s Beard, Fireweed, Gotu Kola, Grapes, Lamb’s Quarters, Oaks, Oxalis, Pines, Poor Man’s Pepper Grass, Smartweed, Smilax, Sorrel, Southern Wax Myrtle, Spanish Moss, Spanish Needles, Sweet Bay, Sword Ferns, Tallow Plum, Turk’s Cap, Usnea, Violets, Water Hyacinth, Western Tansy Mustard, West Indian Chickweed, Wild Pineapple, and Willow.
Among the medicinal plants I took to class (for show only as I am not an herbalist) was Mistletoe. Like everyone I have been trained to give this species (Phoradendron leucarpum) a wide berth because it’s “poisonous.” However we do have to remember the words of the Swiss-German botanist Paracelsus: “sola dosis facit venenum” the dose makes the poison. Modern doctors — at least the sharp ones — say a poison is dose, time and host response. I can remember when a TV newscaster here in Florida died from drinking too much water, not an uncommon way to die. And history records that some killers conditioned themselves with poison (usually arsenic) so they could withstand a fatal dose whilst they gave a fatal dose to a dining companion or spouse. So what might one mistletoe berry and one mistletoe leaf do to someone? I cannot say but I did see an herbalist consume one mistletoe berry and one mistletoe leaf. Interestingly among the side effects of Mistletoe “poisoning” is to lower blood pressure. As I am not an herbalist I can’t recommend said. But I can say I have seen, in person, someone eat Mistletoe and someone eat Poison Ivy. (Natives used the latter topically to get ride of warts.)
There were also a few conversations about whether Willow bark (the original crude from of aspirin) decreases clotting (like aspirin) and can it trigger Reyes Syndrome in children. Opinions were split on whether Willow bark reduces clotting (however moldy clover can.) And there was no clear view on Willow bark and Reyes Syndrome and probably never will be. Identified in 1926 only one child in a million gets Reyes from aspirin. While that is decades after the creation of modern asprin compounds it’s doubtful if a million children have ever been treated with Willow bark or ever will be. Unless there is an unfortunate chance example we will probably never know if Willow bark triggers Reyes in children.
As far as I know this next plant is not edible or medicinal and probably should not be mentioned in a newsletter about edible wild plants. However, it’s commonly seen, people do inquire about it, and for a “Daisy” it has if not a unique aroma certainly an unusual one.” Locally called Green Eyes, Berlandiera lyrata has blossoms that smell like cocoa or unsweetened chocolate. The fragrant parts of the blossom are the stamen which attract beneficial insects. Also called the “Chocolate Daisy” it grows in moderately moist to moderately dry areas and can be as tall as two feet. I seem to always find it in dryer areas. Stalks are leafless. The “green eye” portion is the center of the flower before its covered with tiny blossoms which then gives it a maroon color. You can pull the rays to smell the chocolate or crush a blossom. Locally it can bloom nearly year round.
Also making itself better know this spring is a Dandelion relative, the False Hawk’s Beard. While one can find it all year the edible favors the spring. It’s a very common lawn invader and can occasionally get up to a couple of feet tall. Young leaves are eaten raw, older leaves which can be tougher and a bit bitter, can be boiled. I have a Croatian friend who also cooks up the roots, too. They can be easily distinguished from the Dandelion by the flower stalk which is branched (unlike the Dandelion which has one straight stalk.) Also the False Hawk’s Beard can have blossoms in all stages of development at the same time, unopened, open, and going to seed. You can read more about the False Hawk’s Beard here.
Foraging Classes: Except for hurricanes foraging classes usually are held as scheduled. We’re hungry when we are cold and wet so foraging classes are held when it is wet, when it is cold, and when it’s hot.
Sunday, March 5th, Bayshore Live Oak Park, Bayshore Drive. Port Charlotte. 9 a.m. Meet at the parking lot at the intersection of Bayshore Road and Ganyard Street.
Saturday, March 11th Blanchard Park, 10501 Jay Blanchard Trail, Orlando, FL 32817, 9 a.m. We meet at the tennis courts next to the WMCA building.
Sunday, March 19th, Dreher Park, 1200 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, 33405. 9 a.m. We meet just north of the science center.
Sunday, March 26th, Florida State College, south campus, 11901 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, 32246. 9 a.m. We will meet at building “D” next to the administration parking lot.
Sunday, April 2nd, Red Bug Slough Preserve, 5200 Beneva Road, Sarasota, FL, 34233. 9 a.m.
Sunday, April 9th, Wickham Park: 2500 Parkway Drive, Melbourne, FL 32935-2335. Meet at the “dog park” inside the park (turn right after entrance, go 1/4 mile, dog run on right, parking at run or on previous left.)
Saturday, April 29th, Bayshore Live Oak Park, Bayshore Drive. Port Charlotte. 9 a.m. Meet at the parking lot at the intersection of Bayshore Road and Ganyard Street.
To read more about the foraging classes go here.
Now’s the time to get a jump on spring. All of Green Dane’s videos available for free on You Tube. They do have ads on them so every time you watch a Green Deane video I get a quarter of one cent. Four views, one cent. Not exactly a large money-maker but it helps pays for the newsletter. If you want to see the videos without ads and some in slightly better quality you can order the DVD set. It is nine DVDs with 15 videos on each. Many people want their own copy of the videos or they have a slow service and its easier to order then to watch them on-line. They make a good gift for that forager you know. Individual DVDs can also be ordered. You can order them by clicking on the button on the top right of this page or you can go here.
Want to identify a plant? Looking for a foraging reference? Do you have a UFO, an Unidentified Flowering Object you want identified? On the Green Deane Forum we chat about foraging all year. And it’s not just about warm-weather plants or just North American flora. Many nations around the world share common weeds so there’s a lot to talk about. There’s also more than weeds. The reference section has information for foraging around the world. There are also articles on food preservation, and forgotten skills from making bows to fermenting food. You can join the forum by clicking on the button on the upper right hand side of this page.
This is issue 246.
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