Instructions and tips for earning the Flowers honor can be found in the Nature chapter.
2. Photograph, collect pictures of or sketch 75 species of flowers. Make a scrapbook from these and correctly label each flower.
Rather than finding a specimen and comparing it to thousands of pictures in a Field Guide, the candidate for the Flowers - Advanced honor will need a more systematic approach to field identification if there is ever to be any hope in finding 75 species. The most important tool to the budding botanist is a key, which is a series of questions, the answers to which are mutually exclusive, and lead to another set of questions. See requirement 4 for more details on using a key.
Once the Pathfinder has a key in hand, it is time to set out in search of wildflowers. The important thing to remember here is that the term wildflowers covers a lot of different plants, not just the ones with showy blossoms. Many flowering plants bloom for only a short time, and luckily, the blossom (though useful) is not the only indicator of its identity. Wildflowers in the context of this honor are any flowering plants that are neither trees nor grass. This excludes ferns (which do not flower) and mushrooms (which are not plants, but rather, are fungi). This definition does include what most people would call "weeds".
In addition to having a good key, the Pathfinder will also need a camera or a sketch pad. Note that this honor does not require the collection of the plants themselves. In fact, this practice is strongly discouraged, as a troop of Pathfinders in search of wildflowers can quickly eliminate them from a heretofore thriving habitat. If the Pathfinder opts to use a camera, remember that there is no requirement for the photographs to be professional-grade prize-winning entries in an international competition.
Even if the Pathfinder is not a good artist, there is still much value in attempting to sketch a plant. Sketching requires attention to the details, and as the Pathfinder spends time recording these details in the form of a sketch, the information will work its way into the memory. Afterwards, the Pathfinder will be able to look at the sketch - however badly drawn it may be - and recall a vivid image of the plant as it really was.
In spite of this, we still recommend that a good key be taken along in the field and that the Pathfinder attempt to identify the plant while there. Otherwise, the key may ask a question that cannot be answered by looking at the sketches (or even photographs) and the Pathfinder will have no recourse other than to return to the field to gather the required information, or give up on identifying that specimen.
3. Give the distinguishing characteristics of the flowers of each of the 12 common plant families.
The Orchid family is the largest family of flowering plants, containing some 25,000 species. Orchids, like the grasses and the palms, which they resemble in some ways—for instance the form of their leaves—are monocotyledons. They have one cotyledon, or embryonic leaf, in contrast to the two of most flowering plants. Orchids have simple leaves with parallel veins. Their shape is highly variable between species.
The leaves are almost always opposite, rarely whorled. The blades are entire, petiolate and often stipulate. These stipules are not sheathforming. The flowers are regular and mostly have 5-way symmetry, i.e. with 5 petals and 5 sepals, but sometimes with 4 petals. The sepals are free from one another or united. The petals are fringed or deeply cleft at the end.
Plants in the Buttercup family are mostly herbaceous plants, but with some woody climbers (such as Clematis) and subshrubs (e.g. Xanthorhiza). Leaves are very often more or less palmately compound. The flowers have many free stamens arranged in a spiral and usually many free pistils. Flowers are most often grouped in terminal racemes, panicles or cymes.
Cacti are distinctive and unusual plants, which are adapted to extremely arid and hot environments, showing a wide range of anatomical and physiological features which conserve water. Their stems have expanded into green succulent structures containing the chlorophyll necessary for life and growth, while the leaves have become the spines for which cacti are so well known.
Members of the Rose family have 5 sepals and 5 petals which are flat and wavy at the margins. Each flower has at least ten stamens. All members of the rose family have a hypanthium, which is a bowl-shaped part of a flower consisting of the bottoms of the sepals, petals, and stamens stuck together.
All members of this family have five-petaled flowers in which the superior ovary ripens to form a "pod", technically called a legume, whose two sides split apart, releasing the seeds which are attached to one or both seams. A significant characteristic of legumes is that they host bacteria in their roots, within structures called root nodules. These bacteria have the ability to take nitrogen gas out of the air and convert it to a form of nitrogen that is usable to the host plant. This process is called nitrogen fixation.
The Bellflower family consists mostly of herbs, shrubs, and more rarely small trees, which usually have milky non-toxic sap. Leaves of these species are often alternate, more rarely opposite. They are also simple and without stipules. Flowers are bisexual, bell-shape, consisting of a narrow tube-like corolla with small spreading lobes. Flowers are fairly often blue. Fruits are often berries, but can also be capsules.
The flowers in the Mint family typically have petals fused into an upper lip and a lower lip. The leaves emerge oppositely, each pair at right angles to the previous one or whorled. The stems are frequently square in cross section, but this is not found in all members of the family, and is sometimes found in other plant families. The flowers are bilaterally symmetrical with 5 united petals, 5 united sepals. They are usually bisexual and have a flower cluster that looks like a whorl of flowers but actually consists of two crowded clusters.
A typical Asteraceae flower head (here Bidens torta) showing the individual flowers
Flowers of a sunflower with different forms and phases (sterile ray flowers, disc flowers in female, male and unopened phases)
Plants in the Aster family typically have one or both of two kinds of florets. The outer perimeter of a flower head like that of a sunflower is composed of florets possessing a long strap-like petal, termed a ligule; these are the ray florets. The inner portion of the flower head (or disc) is composed of small flowers with tubular corollas; these are the disc florets. The composition of asteraceous inflorescences varies from all ray flowers (like dandelions, genus Taraxacum) to all disc flowers (like pineapple weeds).
The plants are annual or perennial herbs with flowers that are zygomorphic (can be divided by only a single plane into two mirror-image halves, much like a person's face), or rarely actinomorphic (can be divided into symmetrical halves by more than one longitudinal plane passing through the axis, much as a pie can be cut into several equal and identical pieces).
4. Prove ability to use plant keys to genus and species.
Identification keys - also called dichotomous keys - are a series of questions which when answered correctly and in the sequence given reveal the identity of a plant (or animal, or any pretty much other thing that naturalists have studied in the past three of four hundred years).
The questions are designed such that they offer two (sometimes more) mutually exclusive answers. The answer selected when using a key will lead to a different question (or to the identification of a species). Naturalists have developed various schemes for identifying the next set of questions.
Many keys are replete with technical terms which can be very confusing to the novice and it is very important to understand all the terminology used in the question before choosing an answer. Luckily most keys will also have a glossary, and ideally, illustrations as well. If you come to a term you do not understand, look it up until you do understand. A key is very much like directions to an unfamiliar place, and the questions are like road signs. If you make a wrong turn, you will end up in the wrong place.
Some keys are better than others, and some strive to use less technical jargon. If you have difficulty with a key, try a different one. Another thing that distinguishes a good key from a poor one is the number of "road signs" given at a particular juncture. For instance, the key may ask if the plant's fruit is red or blue, and you happen to be examining a plant when at a time when it does not bear fruit. Alternative questions help in situations like this.
It is best to have the key in hand when you are examining a plant, as it may very well ask a question that cannot be answered without close examination (sometimes with a hand lens, or even with a microscope). Read all the options presented by the question, as sometimes they are only subtly different. Choose the answer that fits best. If none of the answers seem to apply to the plant at hand, you may have previously chosen an incorrect answer. Backtrack and double check. When the last question is answered, and if all the questions were answered correctly, then the species will be successfully identified. Good keys will end with a detailed description of the plant. It is important to read this description and compare it to the plant you are keying just to be sure it is the right one.
5. Tell the difference between perfect and imperfect flowers. What is meant by pistillate and staminate flowers? Give an example of monoecious and dioecious plants. Tell the difference between monocotyledons and dicotyledons.
The terms perfect and imperfect as pertaining to flowers relates to their sexuality. Flowers are the sexual organs of a plant, and they may contain male (stamens), female (pistils), or both parts. A plant is said to be perfect if it possesses both male and female equivalent parts. If a flower has only male, or only female structures, it is said to be imperfect.
The Alder is monoecious. Shown here: maturing male flower catkins on right, last year's female catkins on left
Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is dioecious: (above) shoot with flowers from male plant; (top right) male flower enlarged, showing stamens with pollen and reduced, sterile stigma; (below) shoot with flowers from female plant; (lower right) female flower enlarged, showing stigma
and reduced, sterile stamens with no pollen
A monoecious plant is one that possesses both male and female unisexual flowers on the same plant; from Greek for "one household". Individuals bearing flowers of both sexes at the same time are called simultaneously monoecious. Individuals that bear only flowers of a single sex at one time are called consecutively monoecious. An example of a monoecious plant is the Alder (a shrub).
A dioecious plant is one in which the male and female unisexual flowers occur on different individuals; from Greek for "two households". An example of a dioecious plant is the Holly.
Grass sprouting on left (a monocot), showing a single cotyledon. Compared to a dicot (right)
Dicotyledons, or "dicots", is a name for a group of flowering plants whose seed typically contains two embryonic leaves or cotyledons. Monocotyledons, or "monocots" have a single embryonic leaf.
6. From the Bible point out two spiritual lessons in which writers used flowers for illustrations.
Jesus spoke of the futility of worry:
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? - NIV
The Lord caused Aaron's staff to blossom to show that He had set him up as the high priest.
The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron's staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. - NIV
7. Name and describe eight poisonous plants, noting the particular part of the plant that is poisonous.
Description: Poison Hemlock is a herbaceous biennial plant which grows between 1.5–2.5 m tall, with a smooth green stem, usually spotted or streaked with red or purple on the lower half of the stem. The leaves are finely divided and lacy, overall triangular in shape, up to 50 cm long and 40 cm broad. The flowers are small, white, clustered in umbels up to 10–15 cm across. The plant is often mistaken for fennel, parsley or wild carrot although the characteristic stem hairs of the wild carrots are missing. The Conium root is fleshy, white and often unbranched and can be mistaken for parsnip. When crushed, the leaves and root emit a rank, unpleasant odour often compared to that of parsnips.
Where found: Poison Hemlock is native to Europe and the Mediterranean region, and to southern Africa, but has been introduced and naturalized in many other areas, including much of Asia, North America and Australia. Poison hemlock is often found on poorly drained soils, particularly near streams, ditches, and other surface water.
WARNING: All plant parts are poisonous but once the plant is dried, the poison is greatly reduced, however not gone completely. Hemlock is also known as "poison parsley" or "spotted parsley".
Description: Poison Ivy is a woody vine that is well known for its ability to produce urushiol, a skin irritant that causes an itching rash for most people. The leaves appear in groups of three with almond-shaped leaflets. The color ranges from light green (usually the younger leaves) to dark green (mature leaves), turning bright red in fall. The leaflets are 3-12 cm long, rarely up to 30 cm. Each leaflet has a few or no teeth along its edge, and the leaf surface is smooth. The stem and vine of poison ivy are brown and woody, and as the plant grows older, it may begin to climb trees, attaching itself firmly to the tree by sending fibers into its bark.
Where found: Found normally in wooded areas, especially along edge areas, poison ivy grows vigorously throughout much of North America, including all provinces (but not the territories) and all states except Alaska. It also grows in exposed rocky areas and in open fields and disturbed areas. The plants can grow as a shrub up to about 1.2 meters (4 ft) tall, as a groundcover 10–25 centimeters (4–10 in) high, or as a climbing vine on various supports. Older vines on substantial supports send out lateral branches that may at first be mistaken for tree limbs.
Poison ivy is more common now than when Europeans first entered North America. Real estate development adjacent to wild, undeveloped land has created "edge effects", enabling poison ivy to form vast, lush colonies in such places. It is listed as a noxious weed in the U.S. states of Minnesota and Michigan.
WARNING: All parts of the plant are able to produce urishiol, including the roots, leaves, stems, vines, flowers, and berries. People have been known to contract poison ivy by directly contacting the plant, indirectly contacting the plant (i.e., a pet gets into poison ivy and then rubs against its owner), inhaling the smoke from the burning plants, or ingesting the plant (ingesting poison ivy can be fatal).
Description: Western Poison-oak is extremely variable in growth habit and leaf appearance. It grows as a dense shrub in open sunlight, or as a climbing vine in shaded areas. Like Poison ivy, it reproduces by creeping rootstocks or by seeds. The leaves are divided into 3 leaflets, 3½ to 10 centimeters long, with scalloped, toothed, or lobed edges- generally resembling the leaves of a true oak, though the Western Poison-oak leaves will tend to be more glossy. Leaves are generally bright green in the spring (or bronze when first unfolding), yellow-green to reddish in the summer, and bright red or pink in the fall. White flowers form in the spring and, if fertilized, develop into greenish- white or tan berries.
Where found: Western Poison-oak or Pacific Poison-oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) is found only on the Pacific Coast of the United States and of Canada. It is extremely common in that region, where it is the predominant species of the genus
WARNING: All parts of this plant contain urushiol, which can cause severe dermatitis in some individuals. See the entry under Poison Ivy for more details.
Description: Atlantic Poison-oak (Toxicodendron pubescens or formerly Rhus pubescens) is an erect shrub that can grow to 1 m (3 ft) tall. The leaves are alternate, with three leaflets on each. The leaflets are usually hairy, and are variable in size and shape, but most often resembling white oak leaves. The leaves are usually 15 cm (6 in) long, turning yellow or orange in autumn. The fruits are small, round, and yellowish or greenish.
Where found: Atlantic Poison Oak is native to the Southeastern United States westward to Texas and Oklahoma.
WARNING: All parts of this plant contain urushiol, which can cause severe dermatitis in some individuals. See the entry under Poison Ivy for more details.
Description: The head of the tree is round and narrow and the branches slender and rather pendulous; often it is simply a shrub. Small branches and young stems pithy. Has acrid, milky, poisonous juice which turns black on exposure. The compound leaves are pinnate, 25-50 cm long, with 7 - 13 leaflets; the leaflets are 4-10 cm long and sometimes mistaken for individual leaves. The veins from which the leaflets grow are always red. The fruit is a small white or grey berry, produced in panicles 10-20 cm long; this distinguishes it from other sumacs which have red berries. Differs from other sumacs in having shorter leaves, leaflets fewer, margins are entire. It is found in wet soils, whereas the others like it dry.
Where found: Poison sumac grows exclusively in very wet or flooded soils, usually in swamps and peat bogs, in the eastern United States and Canada. In the U.S., it can grow as far west as Idaho, where it is found only in the southern part of the state.
WARNING: All parts of the plant contain a resin called urushiol. See the entry on Poison Ivy for details.
Description: Bittersweet is a semi-woody herbaceous perennial vine, which scrambles over other plants, capable of reaching a height of 4 m where suitable support is available, but more often 1-2 m high. The leaves are 4-12 cm long, roughly arrowhead-shaped, and often lobed at the base. The flowers are in loose clusters of 3-20, (1-1.5 cm) across, star-shaped, with five purple petals and yellow stamens and style pointing forward.
Where found: It is native to Europe and Asia, and widely naturalised elsewhere, including North America, where it is an invasive problem weed. It occurs in a very wide range of habitats, from woodlands to scrubland, hedges and marshes.
WARNING: The fruit is an ovoid red berry about 1 cm long, soft and juicy, poisonous to humans and livestock but edible for birds, which disperse the seeds widely. As with most Solanum species, the foliage is also poisonous to humans.
Description: The stems are reddish and contain a milky latex capable of causing skin blisters. The leaves are opposite, simple broad lanceolate, 7-15 cm long and 3-5 cm broad, entire, and smooth on top with white hairs on the underside. The flowers are produced in mid summer, with large sepals, and a five-lobed white corolla.
Where found: Dogbane grows throughout much of North America, in the southern half of Canada and throughout the United States. It grows in open wooded areas, ditches, and hillsides.
WARNING: All parts of the plant are poisonous and can cause cardiac arrest if ingested.
Description: Taxus is a genus of yews, small coniferous trees or shrubs. They are relatively slow growing and can be very long-lived, and reach heights of 1-40 m, with trunk diameters of up to 4 m. They have reddish bark, lanceolate, flat, dark-green leaves 1-4 cm long and 2-3 mm broad, arranged spirally on the stem, but with the leaf bases twisted to align the leaves in two flat rows either side of the stem.
WARNING: All species of yew contain highly poisonous alkaloids known as taxanes, with some variation in the exact formula of the alkaloid between the species. All parts of the tree except the arils contain the alkaloid. The arils are edible and sweet, but the seed is dangerously poisonous; unlike birds, the human stomach can break down the seed coat and release the taxanes into the body. This can have fatal results if yew 'berries' are eaten without removing the seeds first. Grazing animals, particularly cattle and horses, are also sometimes found dead near yew trees after eating the leaves, though deer are able to break down the poisons and will eat yew foliage freely. In the wild, deer browsing of yews is often so extensive that wild yew trees are commonly restricted to cliffs and other steep slopes inaccessible to deer.
Taxus baccata (European Yew) shoot with mature and immature cones
a. Name five plants that are of medicinal value and indicate what part of each plant is used.
Some of these plants may seem familiar as they were also listed in the previous requirement in the "poisonous plant" category. It is curious, though it should not be surprising, that medicinal plants are also considered poisonous. This would be a good opportunity to talk to your Pathfinders about drug abuse.
Any medicine, if taken incorrectly, can poison the body, and that is why it is important to never take medicines unless there is a need for them, and then it is vital to follow the doctor's instructions (or the instructions on the package for over-the-counter medicines). Note that medicinal herbs found in the wild do not come with instructions! We highly recommend that you stress to your Pathfinders that they should never attempt to medicate themselves or others using these plants, as it can be very dangerous or even fatal!
Poison hemlock has been used as a sedative and for its antispasmodic properties. It was also used by Greek and Persian physicians for a variety of problems, such as arthritis. However, it wasn't always effective as the difference between a therapeutic and a toxic amount is very slight. Overdoses can produce paralysis and loss of speech being followed by depression of the respiratory function and then death.
Extremely dilute forms of poison ivy are used in homeopathic medicine, most often as a remedy for musculoskeletal complaints with progressive stiffness that worsens with cold, wet, or inactivity and improves with motion, warmth, and use. The patient may have a red tip of the tongue or a red triangle on the tongue, herpetic outbreaks, and itchiness that improves with very hot water.
Bittersweet is used in homeopathy and herbalism. Its main usage is for conditions that have an impact on the skin, mucous membrane and the membrane (synovial membrane) around the joints. Bittersweet is considered by some to be a herbal remedy for treating herpes and allergies.
Dogbane was used in herbal medicine to treat syphilis, rheumatism, intestinal worms, fever, asthma, and dysentery. Although the toxins from the plant can cause nausea and catharsis, it has also been used for slowing the pulse.
The Pacific Yew Taxus brevifolia, native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, and Canada Yew Taxus canadensis are the sources of paclitaxel, a chemotherapeutic drug used in breast and lung cancer treatment and, more recently, in the production of the Taxus drug eluting stent by Boston Scientific.
b. Name ten wild plants that are edible in root, stem, or leaf.
We present some of the more common edible plants here. For more options see the Edible Wild Plants honor in the Nature chapter of this book. Incidentally, once you have met this requirement, you will be well on your way to earning the Edible Wild Plants Honor.
Description: Acorns are the fruit of the oak tree. They are a very important food source for wildlife. Creatures that make acorns an important part of their diet include birds such as jays, pigeons, some ducks and several species of woodpeckers. Small mammals that feed on acorns include mice, squirrels and several other rodents. Large mammals such as pigs, bears and deer also consume large amounts of acorns; they may constitute up to 25% of the diet of deer in the autumn. However, acorns are toxic to some other animals, such as horses. In some human cultures, acorns once constituted a dietary staple, though they are now generally only a very minor food.
Where found: The oak is native to the northern hemisphere, and includes deciduous and evergreen species extending from cold latitudes to tropical Asia and the Americas.
Use: The acorn contains tannin, which is very bitter and slightly toxic. Luckily, tannin is easily removed by soaking in water. Acorns from the white oak family have far less tannin than acorns from the black (or red) oak family, so if you have a choice, opt for white oaks. The first acorns to fall from the tree are likely to contain worms and moth larvae. Most of these bad acorns will float in water, while most good acorns will sink. At the beginning of acorn season (late summer or early autumn) you will find that most of the acorns will float and very few will sink. As the season progresses, you will find that most acorns will sink and few will float. Once you have sorted them, shell them. They can be opened with a pair of pliers or a nutcracker. Remove the meat from the shell, crush it into a fine powder (use a mortar & pestle or a food processor), and then soak it in water for about a week, changing the water twice a day. If you choose to, you can speed this process by boiling the shelled, crushed acorns in several changes of water. Native Americans would put the crushed acorns in a sack and then place the sack in a swift stream for several days. If after soaking, the acorn mush is still bitter, it needs to soak longer. When they are no longer bitter, spread them out on a cookie sheet and dry them in an oven at 120°C for 90 minutes. They can be used as flour or to make acorn mush - a staple of the Native American diet. You can also skip crushing them and eat them as nuts, but uncrushed acorns will take much longer to leach.
Description: The blackberry is a widespread and well known shrub; commonly called a bramble in the eastern U.S. and Europe but a caneberry in the western U.S. growing to 3 m (10 ft) and producing a soft-bodied fruit popular for use in desserts, jams, and seedless jellies.
Where found: Throughout the non-polar regions of the world.
Use: The berries are fantastic eaten straight from the cane, cooked into jelly, or baked into pies.
Typha latifolia - Cattail
Where found: in wetlands throughout the Northern Hemisphere
Availability: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Use: In early spring, the shoots and stalks can be pulled up and eaten raw or boiled for 15 minutes. In late spring, the spikes can be gathered just before they break out of their papery sheaths, boiled for a few minutes, buttered, and eaten like corn-on-the-cob. In early summer, the spikes produce large quantities of pollen which can be gathered by covering the top of the plant with a paper bag, inverting it, and shaking vigorously. The pollen can be used as flour when mixed half and half with wheat flour. In fall and winter, the roots can be gathered. Wash them and then soak them in a bucket of water. While still submerged, crush them to remove the fibrous covering. Then let the starchy portion of the root settle to the bottom. Skim off the fiber, strain out the water, and use as flour.
Description: Chicory is a spindly plant with purple (though sometimes pink or white) flowers. The petals are narrow, notched at the tips, and numerous. The flowers fold up in the afternoon, opening again in the morning.
Where found: Originating from Europe, it was naturalized in North America, where it has become a widespread roadside weed.
Availability: Early spring (leaves), Fall to Spring (roots)
Use: The roots are washed, roasted, ground, and brewed as a coffee substitute (use 1.5 tsp per cup of water). In the spring the white, underground portion of the leaves are an excellent addition to salads, and the green above-ground portions can be boiled and eaten as greens.
Where found: Found worldwide in fields and yards
Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall
Use: The flowers can be eaten raw, added to salads, boiled in soups, or dried and ground to flour. They can also be used to make fritters. Red clover is shown here, but white clover is just as good (but a little smaller, so it takes more work to collect). The leaves and stems are also edible in salads or as greens.
Where found: Throughout Asia, Europe, and North America
Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall
Use: Add the young, tender leaves to salad raw, or boil and eat as greens. The roots can be roasted and ground, and used as a coffee substitute.
Description: The alternating lanceolate leaves are grouped into fans (a clump also containing the roots and the crown). The crown of a day lily is the small white portion of the stem, between the leaves and the roots. The name "day lily" reflects the fact that the individual flowers last for only one day. The flowers of most species open at sunrise and wither at sunset, to be replaced by another one (sometimes two or none) on the same stem the next day; some species are night-blooming.
Where found: Originally from Eurasia, native from Europe to China, Korea, and Japan, their large showy flowers have made them popular worldwide
Availability: Early Spring (shoots), Summer (buds and flowers), All Year (tubers)
Use: The early shoots make a good addition to a salad. The buds and flowers can be prepared by boiling or be made into fritters. The tubers can also be added to salads or can be prepared like corn-on-the-cob.
Description: Goldenrods are easily recognized by their golden inflorescence with hundreds of small flower heads. They have slender, usually hairless stems. They can grow to a length between 60 cm and 1.5 m. Their alternate leaves are linear to lanceolate. Their margins are usually finely to sharply serrated.
Where found: Found in the meadows and pastures, along roads, ditches and waste areas in North America and Europe.
Use: The flowers can be steeped in boiling water for 10 minutes to make an anise-flavored tea.
Description: On their own, Smilax plants will grow as a shrub, forming dense impenetrable thickets. They will also grow over trees and other plants up to 10 m high using its hooked thorns to hang on to and scramble over branches. The genus includes both deciduous and evergreen species. The leaves are heart shaped and vary from 4-30 cm long in different species.
Where found: Eastern United States
Availability: Spring, Summer
Use: The shoots and leaves are delicious eaten raw on the trail or in salads. They can also be boiled and eaten as asparagus and greens.
Description: Common milkweed is a herbaceous perennial plant growing from a rhizome to 1-2 m tall. The stem is very hairy, and all parts of the plants produce a white latex when broken. The leaves are opposite, simple broad ovate-lanceolate, 7-25 cm long and 3-12 cm broad, usually with an undulate margin and a red-colored main vein. They have a very short petiole and a velvety underside. The flowers are grouped in several spherical umbels with numerous flowers in each umbel. The individual flowers are small, 1-2 cm diameter, perfumed, with five cornate hoods. The seeds are attached to long, white flossy hairs and encased in large pods.
Where found: Native to most of North America east of the Rockies, with the exception of the drier parts of the Prairies. It grows in sandy soils and appreciates lots of sunlight.
Availability: Spring, Summer
Use: The stems, shoots, leaves, flowers, and young pods are all edible after they are boiled in several changes of water. The milky sap tastes bitter and is mildly toxic, but boiling removes it completely.
Description: Pines are evergreen and resinous. The bark of most pines is thick and scaly, but some species have thin, flaking bark. The branches are produced in regular "pseudowhorls", actually a very tight spiral but appearing like a ring of branches arising from the same point. Many pines are uninodal, producing just one such whorl of branches each year, from buds at the tip of the year's new shoot, but others are multinodal, producing two or more whorls of branches per year. The new spring shoots are sometimes called "candles"; they are light-colored and point upward at first, then later darken and spread outward.
Where found: Pines are native to most of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, they range from the Arctic south to Nicaragua and Hispaniola, with the highest diversity in Mexico and California. In Eurasia, they range from Portugal and Scotland east to the Russian Far East, Japan, and the Philippines, and south to northernmost Africa, the Himalaya and Southeast Asia, with one species (Sumatran Pine) just crossing the Equator in Sumatra. Pines are also extensively planted in many parts of the Southern Hemisphere
Availability: All year
Use: The needles can be eaten year-round. The young shoots can be eaten as candy when stripped of the needles, peeled, boiled until tender, and then simmered for 20-30 minutes in a sugary syrup.
Description: Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees. About 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting; in other pines the seeds are also edible, but are too small to be of value as a human food. The nuts are located at the base of the scales of the cones.
Where found: Temperate areas of North America, Europe, and Asia.
Use: Pine nuts can be eaten raw or baked into a casserole.
Plantago Major, or Broadleaf Plantain
Description: The Broadleaf Plantain or Greater Plantago (Plantago major) is a member of the plantago family, Plantaginaceae. In North America, this plant is primarily a weed, though it is edible and is used in herbal medicine. The plant is native to Europe, and is believed to be one of the first plants to naturalize in the colonies.
This plant does best in compacted soils, and hence is sometimes called "roadweed". It is commonly found on field boundaries as it is tolerant to pesticides and herbicides. It is wind-pollenated, and a cause of summer allergies when in flower.
Where found: Common lawn weed found throughout
Availability: Best in Early Spring, also usable in Summer and Fall, but tough and stringy.
Use: Crushed leaves can be applied directly to the skin to stop bleeding, bee stings and insect bites. Psyllium seeds are a bulk laxative. The young leaves are delicious raw in salads. In summer and fall the leaves can be eaten when boiled as greens.
Where found: Throughout the Northern Hemisphere
Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall
Use: Nibble on the raw leaves - a great addition to a salad. They may also be boiled and eaten like greens, or steeped to make a tea.
WARNING: Sheep sorrel contains small amount of oxalic acid which gives it its pleasantly sour taste. If eaten in large quantities over a period of time, however, may inhibit the body's ability to absorb calcium.
Description: Similar to the domestic variety, but the berries are quite a bit smaller, measuring about quarter inch (6 mm) in diameter. The Woodland Strawberry was widely cultivated in Europe before being largely replaced by the Garden Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa and other hybrids), which have much larger berries. Woodland Strawberry fruit is strongly flavored, and is still grown on a small scale commercially for the use of gourmets. Unlike most commercial and garden cultivars of strawberries, Woodland Strawberries rarely form runners, and are usually propagated by seeds or division of the plants.
Where found: Throughout the Northern Hemisphere
Use: The fruits can be eaten raw or cooked into jellies and jams. It can also be baked into pies. An herbal tea made from the leaves, stems, and flowers is believed to aid in the treatment of diarrhea.
Description: It grows to 3-10 m tall, and has alternate, pinnately compound leaves 25-55 cm long, each with 9-31 serrate leaflets 6-11 cm long. The leaf petioles and the stems are densely covered in rust-colored hairs. The fruit of staghorn sumac is one of the most identifiable characteristics, forming dense clusters of small red drupes at the terminal end of the branches; the clusters are conic, 10-20 cm long and 4-6 cm broad at the base. The fruit appear during autumn, at which point the foliage turns a brilliant red. Sumacs are considered some of the best fall foliage around. The fruit has been known to last through winter and into spring.
Where found: From Ontario and Quebec south to northern Georgia and Mississippi.
Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Use: The fruit drupes can be bruised and then soaked in water to make a refreshing lemonade-like drink.
WARNING: Avoid the Poison Sumac tree which is easily identified by its white flowers. Contact with poison sumac will cause a rash (like poison ivy).
Wintergreen, or Teaberry
Description: Wintergreen (also called Teaberry) is a low evergreen plant that grows in wooded areas. It produces red berries in the Fall, and they remain on the plant through the winter until the plant flowers again in the spring. The crushed leaves have a medicinal smell very much like peppermint (or surprise! wintergreen!) It is also used as the flavor of Wrigley's popular Winterfresh chewing gum.
Where found: Primarily found in the Northeastern United States, but it also grows in Minnesota, south to Mississippi, east to Georgia, and north to Maine.
Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Use: The leaves can be picked and chewed raw like a chewing gum. The leaves can also be finely chopped and steeped in boiling water to make a tea. The berries can be eaten as well.
WARNING: Wintergreen is endangered in Illinois, so if you find it there, leave it be!
Wild Carrot (Queen Anne's Lace)
Description: It is a biennial plant growing up to 1 m tall, bearing an umbel of bright white flowers that turn into a "bird's nest" seed case after blooming. Very similar in appearance to the deadly poison hemlock, it is distinguished by a mix of bi-pinnate and tri-pinnate leaves, fine hairs on its stems and leaves, a root that smells like carrots, and occasionally a single dark red flower in its center.
Where found: Waste ground, fields, throughout
Availability: Fall to Early Spring
Use: The roots of the wild carrot can be cleaned and used as regular carrots. They are quite a bit smaller than domestic carrots, but the flavor is unmistakable. It is best to use the roots of the plant during its first year.
WARNING: Do not confuse the wild carrot with poison hemlock. The root of the wild carrot smells like carrots. Also the bracts beneath the flower heads are three-forked. Poison hemlock has a smooth, hollow, jointed stem and often has purple spots. Queen Anne's Lace has none of these characteristics.
Description: All parts of the plant have a strong garlic odor. The underground bulb is 1-2 cm diameter, with a fibrous outer layer. The main stem grows to 30-120 cm tall. The leaves are slender hollow tubular, 15-60 cm long and 2-4 mm thick, waxy textured, with a groove along the side of the leaf facing the stem. The flowers are 2-5 mm long, with six petals varying in color from pink to red or greenish-white. It flowers in the summer, June to August
Where found: Northern Hemisphere
Availability: All year
Use: Use the tubular leaves and bulbs in salad or in soups.
Description: Wild Onion has an edible bulb covered with a dense skin of brown fibers and tastes like an onion. The plant also has strong, onion-like odor. The narrow, grass-like leaves originate near the base of the stem, which is topped by a dome-like cluster of star-shaped, pink or white flowers. It typically flowers in the spring and early summer, from May to June.
Where found: Throughout North America
Availability: Spring - Winter
Use: Use the leaves and bulbs raw in salads, or cook them in a soup. Basically, use them as you would domestic onions.
WARNING: Though the plant is edible, it pays to be careful in identifying it as there are several look-a-likes. So be sure to do more research before eating plant.
Where found: Occurs throughout most of the world, except for the polar areas.
Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall
Use: Use the raw leaves, stems, and flowers as a refreshing, sour addition to a salad. Steep in boiling water for 10 minutes to make a tea.
WARNING: Wood sorrel contains small amount of oxalic acid which gives it its pleasantly sour taste. If eaten in large quantities over a period of time, however, may inhibit the body's ability to absorb calcium.
c. An option from requirement 6 of the Flower Honor not completed for that Honor.
We restate the requirements here for your convenience, but for instruction, we ask you to go to the entry on the Flowers honor.
a. Arrange, draw or photograph a series of at least six flowers showing in order the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet.
b. Submit fresh, pressed or dried flowers which have: five petals, four petals, three petals, no petals.
c. Distinguish and name two out of five wild or cultivated flowers by their odor, while blindfolded.
d. List flowers that you have observed being visited for food by the following:
e. Watch a flower for at least ten minutes in the sunshine, and at least ten minutes after dusk, and report on insect visitors. State the number and kind of visitors and name of flower.