The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) hardly needs an introduction. It is one of only a few plants that the vast majority of those inhabiting temperate climates worldwide can easily recognize. Many of these same people are very likely to have interacted with dandelions in a meaningful way as well, whether as a child wishing upon the wispy seed heads or frustratingly attempting to remove them from a garden.
Yet as you will see, this lowly weed is not only both edible & medicinal but is also an excellent conduit in which we may learn about ourselves as a species, how we have fundamentally changed the world’s ecology and how we should best react to our changing environments and landscapes. Understanding the life cycle of and experiencing dandelions first hand as an edible or medicinal herb will help to shed light on what this one plant among countless others can teach us.
The hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) is a large shrub or small tree native to swaths of low-lying regions of Eastern North America that is quite rare in Ontario, restricted to a few localities along the north and eastern shores of Lake Erie, most notably Long Point Provincial and Point Pelee Provincial Parks where it grows along sandbars or beaches. (more…)
Fomes fomentarius, known by more readily decipherable names as tinder or hoof fungus, is a perennial polypore fungi that is indigenous to most regions of North America, Europe, North Africa and Asia. Despite it’s drab, mundane and seemingly uninteresting appearance that many of us have unknowingly passed by in the forests that we stroll through from time to time, this species possesses a rich ethnomycological significance to ancient societies that dwarfs that of some other more rambunctious fungi that we may commonly associate with today. (more…)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is probably one of my favorite native perennial medicinal herbs. It was one of the first plants that I learned to identify with confidence, and it is a common sight in many parts of the northern hemisphere, found virtually right across the top of our world. One of the chief medicinal applications of yarrow has been to both as a topical disinfectant and to stop profuse bleeding when wounded. It’s these compounded characteristics of the plant which earned it its genus name Achillea. Achilles is a warrior in Greek mythology who was believed to have treated the injuries his soldiers sustained in battle by applying a poultice of crushed yarrow leaves.
Indigenous peoples, where ever they have access to this plant, developed surprisingly similar medicinal and therapeutic traditions for yarrow, many of which have been proven by modern science including it’s ability to increase perspiration and thin the blood. Folk medicinal proclaims yarrow to be almost something of a cure-all, and many of this proposed medicinal attributes I can personally vouch for either directly or indirectly including it’s effectiveness for soothing sore throats, relieving nasal congestion, easing headaches and discouraging/relieving symptoms of indigestion and nausea. (more…)