By Brandon Martin
USA –-(AmmoLand.com)- The fact that I have a distinct fondness for plants isn’t surprising to most that know me or read what I write; what often goes unexplained is the why I love plants as much as I do.
The answer is simple: knowledge of plants is one of the single most useful things to know about when taking into consideration survival in an uncertain future.
What if I told you that I knew of a plant that could stop the bleeding of a wound in seconds?
(The plant is called Yarrow and within 13 seconds by my own personal testing it stopped all bleeding.)
How about a plant that if applied quickly enough after contact could stop the symptoms associated with poison ivy (Jewelweed)? What if I told you about a plant native to the Northwestern United States that lowers blood sugar (Devil’s Club)? What about one that has been clinically proven to work similar to the SSRIs (antidepressants) in use today (St. Johns Wort)?
I imagine there would be a lot of you out there thinking “hey, that’s pretty nifty.” At least that’s what I said when those very same questions were posed to me years ago. The uses of plants that are probably growing around you Spring through Fall are myriad. With the exception of Devil’s Club which only grows in the Northwestern United States the plants I alluded to above are all prolific throughout North America and Europe.
The first question anyone has when learning to identify these immensely useful plants is where to begin. My hope with this article is to give the potential forager a starting point and an understanding of the basic terminology involved in honing this skill.
With that said, I would be remiss if I also didn’t warn about the potential dangers of what you are about to embark on; let me say this on no uncertain terms: there are plants out there that will kill you and if you don’t know what you are identifying and consume them. This is not always the case, there are some poisonous plants out there that will give the mistaken forager a terrible bout of diarrhea, others that will have next to no effect whatsoever.
The way I have written this post is to mitigate any of this from happening, and start with easy to identify plants with no poisonous lookalikes.
Getting Started: As I hinted before in my previous survival skill post the initial cost of entry when learning this is minimal.
Here are the basics of what you need:
Basic Terminology: Any guide worth its salt will go over the following terminology in greater detail, but what I describe below will suffice for a beginner:
Basal Rosette: This formation is low to the ground with leaves and/or stalks that radiate outward. Here is a picture of a dandelion which has a basal rosette shape:
Feather Compound Leaf: Which are leaves on each side (even with one another) and also having a terminating leaf. Staghorn Sumac has a Feather Compound leaf shape:
Palmate Compound Leaf: Leaf that has a set of leaflets radiating out from a center (similar to a basal rosette, but not on the ground) usually on a stem or vine. The toxic plant Virginia Creeper has this shape.
Alternate Leaves: These are leaves that alternate from side to side and are not even like compound leaves. Spicebush has an alternate leaf shape.
Teeth: Some leaves will have points around the leaf, called teeth. The shape of these points can vary (most are pointy there are some that are rounded).
Now I’m going to try and describe the processes that I go through to identify a new plant. Let’s say that I’m walking along the edge of a forest and I happen upon the plant pictured below. The first thing I do is look at its characteristics:
I note the oval shaped leaves and upon closer inspection I notice that the leaves have rounded teeth as pictured below:
Then I note the distinctive trumpet shaped flowers and the nodules on the stem. The more characteristics that I can gather the easier the identification process will be. With the characteristics of this plant in mind I then pull out my guide and begin skimming through the pages until I see a plant that matches all of these criteria. The plant in this case is a plant called Jewelweed that is entirely edible, great for skin conditions (used topically), and has a shimmering effect when submerged in water.
Considerations and Warnings:
This post doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is out there. Depending on the success of this post I will post subsequent follow-ups on important plants that would be immensely beneficial in a survival situation. Let me know in the comments if you want to hear more.
If you are interested in seeing more of my plant identification exploits you can find them here (although I should warn you that I’m not the world’s best photographer): http://imgur.com/a/NyA1v
About Brandon Martin
Brandon Martin has been a follower of all things collapse related for well over a decade, an avid firearms enthusiast, a husband, a father of four, and Brandon can often be found in the warmer months in parks learning to identify wild edible and medicinal plants growing around him. Twitter: @BrandoTheNinja