On Saturday, 11/19, DGR Austin hosted our first Edible & Medicinal Plant Nature Walk. Our local experts Eric and Chris took thirty people (!!) on a walk in the woods, where we learned about how to identify and use a bunch of plants. Leaves to heal a cut, berries that one should not eat, a cactus that you can make into a container to boil water, bark that can treat a sore throat! Eric and Chris also demonstrated how to make fire with a bow and hand drill, and we had a discussion on how all of this relates to DGR’s goal to protect and heal the Earth.
We will do this again, for sure. Next time, I will post information about this event on this website before the event happens. I made a Facebook event, sent out an email, and told folks about it, and spaced on the website. Please accept my apologies. (Trevor)
Here’s some follow up information from Eric…
Thanks for coming out for the DGR plant walk! I really enjoyed the energy and excitement centered around cultivating a communal knowledge of local plants and their uses. I’m hoping to do a plant walk like it once a month or so. It’d be awesome if we had people trying out different remedies or edible plants and reporting back to the group (please use caution of course). It’s imperative that you are sure of the identification of the plants before you try anything though. You gotta know what plant it is before you try eating it! I got a few questions about good ID books and online resources so I have compiled a list below with some commentary about each resource. You can check out most of these books in the libraries for free by the way. Oh, also, a lot of people just want one book that both IDs plants AND describes their uses; unfortunately, this is rarely the case and I know of no book that does both for Central Texas effectively. You have to look at ID books to figure out what they are and other books to figure out what they’re good for. I use all of these resources, but I will highlight the best one for beginners who are trying to learn identification. Hope this helps and thanks again!
*Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of the Texas Hill Country by Jan Wrede – Really useful for IDing trees, shrubs, and vines. Not many uses listed, but really a good ID book.
*Wildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi – Really good color coded (by flower color) ID book for wildflowers. Some uses. Not totally comprehensive of Central Texas but has good stuff for all of Texas.
*Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest by Delena Tull – Not great for IDing but awesome for learning uses.
*Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country by Marshall Enquist – Awesome for IDing wildflowers in Central Texas and pretty comprehensive. No uses. Categorized by plant family so more useful for more advanced foragers.
*Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West by Michael Moore – Awesome herbalist talks in depth about how to prepare remedies. Most plants in the book are found locally, but not all. I don’t think it’s in the libraries…
*Remarkable Plants of Texas by Matt Warnock Turner – Really cool in depth accounts of our common natives. This book has more detail than all the other books because it talks about only a few plants but for like 3 pages each. Not good for ID. Also tells history of the plant uses.
*Botany in a Day by Tom Elpel – Not a local book, but awesome for learning botanical trends. For example you’d learn what shape the leaves and flowers are for the bean family or whether a plant family has alternate or opposite leaf structure. In short, it’s not for identifying specific species, it’s for identifying characteristics of certain groups of plants so you can figure out what group a plant belongs to that you haven’t ever seen before. Awesome for those who are starting out but are sure they want to get into foraging and plant ID for the long haul. It also has edibility and uses.
http://www.bio.utexas.edu/courses/bio406d/PlantPics_archive.htm – Has a fairly comprehensive list of the plants of Central Texas but is not very user friendly. You have to click on each scientific name to see a picture and read the common name… Really good for IDing, but no uses.
http://herb.umd.umich.edu/ – Really cool site where you can type in the scientific or common name of a plant and see if there are any uses known to this guy in Michigan. Sometimes our local plants are not in his database, but a plant like it might be. So if it doesn’t show anything the first time, try just typing in the genus name (the first word in the scientific name) and see what comes up.
http://www.foragingtexas.com/ – This is a pretty neat site for learning uses of our plants. Scroll down the page and on the left side will be a list of plants that you can click on to view. The guy is in Houston so not all the same plants are here, but my main caution is that he recommends some questionable things sometimes. Like I think he’s the guy that says he’s eaten Lantana berries. So just a word of caution, use your best judgment. You can email me if you have specific questions about something he says.
If you’d like to get in touch with Eric, please send an email to email@example.com.