Now is the time to go looking for blackberries. They are just coming into season with a few tart black ones and many pink to red berries aripening. Even when very sweet wild blackberries have a bitter note or aftertaste. That comes from the center, which stays with the blackberry when picked. That also gives it more shelf-life. Raspberry, in the same genus, leave the core behind when picked which is why they are sweeter and go bad quicker. If you have enough large blackberry shoots they can be peeled, boiled and eaten. The roots can produce a bit of sugar. Beside the fruit the most common use is the leaves for tea. It’s tasty and medicinal. Having foraged for them from Maine to Florida I think the farther north one goes the better the berry gets. To read more about the blackberry click here, and here.
Blackberries and Lemon Bacopa grow in two very different environments. Blackberries like it dry, Lemon Bacopa likes it wet. Yet you can find them close to each other if a hill slopes down to a lake. Thus after nibbling on the blackberries above I found some Lemon Bacopa at the base of the hill at shore’s edge. No where near as well known or as common as it’s genusmate Bacopa monnieri, it is actually the far better tasting of the two. It’s call Lemon Bacopa but tastes more like lime. Whether it has the same medicinal qualities as Bacopa monnieri is debatable. Some think so but the plants really are worlds apart in taste so personally I doubt it. One is exceptionally bitter, the other very citrusy. Lemon Bacopa makes a nice tea. To read about it go here.
The Surinam Cherry in my yard finally decided to fruit, about a month behind schedule. Nearly two months ago there was fruit in Port Charlotte and a month ago in West Palm Beach. The weather has been different this year. In the 10 years or so that shrub’s been bearing this is the latest that I recall. However, it is also probably producing the largest crop ever. The species is naturalized in warm areas of the world. In the picture to the left you can see the span of ripeness. The berries go from green to yellow to orange then red. The top one is not quite ripe. It needs to be a deep red with blue tones, like the color of old-fashioned fire trucks, a blue red not an orange red. The best ones are the ones you have to fight the ants for. There are no in betweens with the fruit: You will either find the ripe fruit edible or not. You will also only eat an unripe fruit once. They do not taste good. Do not eat the seeds. Not only do they taste bad but enough of them will make you sick. To read more about the Surinam Cherry click here.
Tongue Depressors in the woods. Yes, tongue depressors. You’ll find something that looks that wood Popsicle on the Basswood Tree. It’s not wood but rather one bract of the flower. Blossoms are defined/arranged by their parts, from the outer most parts in, or the inner most out. Next out from flower petals are bracts (which can sometimes look like a petal as they do in the daylilies.) The Basswood has a bract that looks like a tongue depressor. If I remember correctly it is the only tree in North America to do that so identification when blossoming is quite easy. The tree is quite edible, actually most of it at one time or another from spring fresh leaves to inner bark. You can read more about the Basswood here.
Lastly, a city park I teach in often sprayed herbicides on its lake shore on Earth Day. How enlightened of them. When asked why the answer was to “make it look more aesthetically pleasing.” More aesthetically pleasing? To whom? To the birds who lost their nesting ground? To the animals that lost their shelter? How about the fish that have no where to hide or raise little ones? Maybe it is more aesthetically pleasing to suburbanites who like putting green lawns but that is a perverted view of reality. Looking more “aesthetically pleasing” is why here in Florida you see residential lakes that have decapitated grass to the shore line and then water but literally no other plants. Just naked lawn and dead lakes. It makes home owner associations proud: The only good nature is sterile and coiffured. Wild Mother Nature? Banish the thought. In times of budget cuts and sensitivity to environmental issues one would think governmental agencies would stop wasting tax dollars on toxins that kill plants… if not animals and us.