Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Pasture Plant Identification-- Part 1. Bells, Texas
One of my goals for this year is to learn more about the wild plants around me. I would like to be able to identify at a glance all of the common wild plants I see in this area of Texas. Once I know what they are, I can start to research which ones are useful for foods or herbal medicines. This has been an idea of mine for quite some time now, and I even have a few wild plant identification books I've collected... but it has never worked out. I never remember to actually bring the books with me. So I'm trying this a new way... We visited family this weekend and I took my camera out for a walk into the pasture. While dodging crazy golf cart drivers, sloppy dogs, and miniature equines, I was able to snap pictures of many of the wild plants common to that area of North Texas. Now, I'll use the power of google to try and identify them.
Pink Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)
These are the most profuse flower in the pasture. The blooms on these pretty flowers range from almost white to dark pink and seemed to do best in areas the horses preferred to hang out... They are called evening primrose because the blooms open as the sun sets, in this case, it was a cloudy day so the blooms were out in full force. Plus, the whole plant (flower, leaves, root and seedpod) is edible. I read that young seedpods can be steamed and are a good source of gamma linolenic acid (said to help with PMS symptoms)
These plants are very branched and grow 1-3 feet tall, although often they lie near the ground. Leaves are 2-3 inches long with slightly wavy edges. Flowers have four white to pink petals. The primrose thrives in disturbed areas, such as roadsides. (2)
Prairie Purple Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida)
With a black swallowtail butterfly visiting. I can't find any reference to Vebena being anything but an ornamental, but I did find that it is in the same family as teak, which is used for marine wood applications.
The plant is hairy, branched, and somewhat prostrate, reaching 6-18 inches in length. The leaf is divided into several lobes that are 1/2 to 2 inches long. The flowers are in terminal spikes, five-lobed, tubular, and about 1/2 wide. The color is purple or lilac. The plants prefer rocky limestone soil. (2)
Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus)
Erect plants growing up to 2.5 ft. tall. The flowers resemble miniature daisies. Leaves are less than 1 in. wide, with the stalked basal leaves in a circular cluster at the stem base. Flowers are on individual branches in a spreading cluster. (2)
Has been used in the tea form as a diuretic and a medicine for digestive ailments. Essential oil from Daisy Fleabane can be used to relieve bronchitis and cystitis. When burned the plant may keep insects away. (ref 3)
Prairie Parsley (Polytaenia nuttallii or Lomattium foeniculaceum)
Plants grow to 3 ft. tall and have thick, alternate, compound leaves. Leaves have several segments, each of which is divided or lobed. Pale yellow flowers are in umbrella-like clusters near the top of the plant. (2)
I did not find any references saying this was edible, but did find several potentially poisonous plants that looked similar. So no nibbling here for me.
Plantian (Plantago major -broad leafed and Plantago lanceolata -narrow leafed)
The photo is of the narrow leafed plantian, broad leafed plantain also grows here but I don't think I got a photo.
I'm probably most excited to find this plant in the pasture. As an herb this thing is considered a cure all and the Indian name for Plantain translates to 'life medicine" Crushed leaves (chew one up) are placed on bee stings or other bug bites for relief. Whole plant is good for its medicinal properties. Other notes: All of the plantains contain a high level of tannin and the seeds have a high mucilage content. The astringent property of the leaves due to the tannin makes the leaves useful for all types of sores on the skin, cuts, bites and various inflammations. A tea brewed with the seeds is a treatment for diarrhea and dysentery and for bleeding in the mouth or other mucous membranes.
(4), (5), (6), (7)
Green Milkweed Asclepias viridis
This one has all kinds of conflicting information on the web, edible, not edible, good for herbal cures or poisonous... I'll play on the safe side and NOT EAT IT. All sources say the sap can treat warts and poison ivy. The fluff from the milkweed pods was used during WWII to stuff life vests and has better insulating properties than goosedown. It is also a good fire starter. Milkweed is favored by the monarch butterfly caterpillar. (2) (8)
Common Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense)
I grew up calling this nasty thing stinging nettle because one brush of the spiny stem and it feels like you've been stung by a bee.
The plant has large concentrations of solanine which is a toxic alkaloid. Has fruit which may not be poinsionous when ripe...again, not gonna try it. The juice of the fruit has been used topically to treat mange in dogs. The fruit could be a sedative or anti spasmodic.
Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium)
possible laxative use.
Common Yarrow/Wooly Yarrow
Can be used as a remedy for colds, can be used to stop the flow of blood from a wound or nosebleed. Astringent tea made from yarrow is good for skin care and as a hair conditioner.
Yellow Sweet Clover Melilotus officinalis
excellent for honey bees, good green manure cover crop, can be dangerous to cattle if allowed to go moldy in hay.
Poison Ivy Toxicodendron radicans
Leaves of three, leave it be! Causes itcy rash, very common across US. Grows along fence rows and at the edges of shady cover
False Dandelion Pyrrhopappus grandiflorus
Totally edible and less bitter than true dandelion. It has fuzzy leaves (also called cat's ear) and a solid stem (true dandelion has hollow stem)
American Pokeweed Phytolacca
Whole plant is potentially poisonous, but young leaves can be boiled with frequent water changes and eaten. Poke Salad was common dish in the south. Grated pokeweed root was used by Indians to treat inflamationand rashes. Berries yield a red ink dye used by indians to decorate their horses. Pokeberry ink was used during the civil war and the ink is still visible in letters. Pokewee is a food source for the giant lepord moth larvae.
I have more photos, but this is about it for my excitement level on this project right now.
1) Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center http://www.wildflower.org