Archive for the ‘Unavoidable’ Category

And Then I Got Stung, AGAIN!   Leave a comment

Back in April, on an unseasonably hot day, while battling back the Knotweed Forest, I got stung by a wasp.  Without the blessing of acclimation, I was covered in sweat, as it rained in my eyes.  Maybe, that smelled good to the beast; however, I wasn’t able to get a good look at my attacker.  He was big, black and blurry, best I could tell!  Between the heat and the sting, I was ready for ice.  On the way in, I grabbed a Plantain Leaf, Plantago juncoides, chewed it up a bit and slapped it on the sting;  which brought immediate relief. The cool darkness of my kitchen was wonderful.  Ice felt marvelous on my arm, and on my lips.  As I nursed my wound and relieved my thirst, an overwhelming urge to curl up, set in.  The stone kitchen floor looked so cool and inviting, that I figured I had gotten a little too much sun, and decided to go lay down.  In retrospect, this was a dangerous mistake, however, I was unaware that I was having a severe allergic reaction.  I missed that entire day, sleeping 9 hours, waking up feeling ready to go back to bed, not being able to eat, thinking I was coming down with the flu, or some junk, I went back to bed and slept until the next morning.  My body was working so hard, to stay alive it refused to do anything but rest and recover.  The next day, I woke up wheezing and struggling to breath; which, began a week long odyssey of E.R., and Dr visits, resulting in several breathing treatments and prescription, after prescription.  Now I carry an Epi-pen, an Albuterol inhaler, and liquid Benadryl; wherever I go.

Two weeks ago, I received an email from Blanche Cybele Derby; explaining that she was coming to the Cape, for a visit, and would like to stop by, on the way home, to meet me.  My first though was rather childlike, “SHE wants to meet ME!?!?!?”  Then a thousand questions splattered my thought train!  OMGoodness, I’m going to have an hour or so, with my Foraging Idol!  Blanche is a foraging encyclopedia!  My head was swimming for a week, until; finally, the knock came upon my door.  Realizing we, both, already have an idea of each other, from our published efforts, I knew I had the advantage.  I’ve watched the “Edible Plants: Wild and Tame” series, and read both editions of “My Wild Friends”, repeatedly.  All Ms. Derby had to go on was this blog.  My plan was to unleash my inner Librarian.  I prepared a list of questions, with the intention of writing an interview, here.  Our conversation flowed freely, as Blanche’s apparent love and knowledge was enthusiastically shared.

On the top of the list of questions was, “What do you do about flying invaders?”  Blanche explained that she isn’t usually bothered by insects; although a green fly invasion, during her stay on the Cape, inspired her to crush Yarrow and rub it on her skin; which seemed to help.  That is truly a genius thought!  Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a wonderful bite remedy; therefore, if you do get bit, the medicinal properties will immediately relieve the pain, itch and/or rash that often follows. (2)  And, in retrospect, it seems to me that Yarrow has few invaders, as it does not get eaten, full of holes.  Blanche also related, that, in her experience, sweaty folks and meat eaters get stung, more often.  She is a dry vegetarian.  I am a very sweaty meat eater.  Hummmmm!  She vaguely remembered an article about Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, and Anaphylaxis, and gave me the name of a chemist, to investigate.

After our visit, I had several errands, then my plan was to begin writing up our interview.  And, Then I Got Stung, AGAIN!  This time it was a Yellow Jacket, which I plainly saw.  I didn’t realize Yellow Jackets are, also, wasps; but, more about that, tomorrow, with Our Sunday Guest, Kat Koch. (3)

I’ve read and been told that with each sting the effects will worsen.  And, this is certainly my experience.  I immediately felt my chest tightening and began to wheeze, as I fumbled for the Epi-pen; I could hear myself gurgling.  Following the pre-practiced instructions, I stabbed my thigh with the pen.  WOW, that stung and hurt, a lot!  Within seconds, oh. .  gee. . . . wow. . . . ., I felt like I could fly!  I ran upstairs, for the phone and dialed 911, as I used my inhaler and swigged Benadryl.  For some unknown reason, I had the foresight to turn on the AC!  Everything felt so much more real, immediate and alive; as the stairs, walls, even the cats struggled to breathe, with me.  A fireman, who was across the street, came to sit with me, until the ambulance arrived; as several other firemen and firewomen, magically, appeared.  Each one of them was gloriously beautiful and smelled sooo nice.  When the ambulance arrived, it was a Carvel Ice-cream truck, playing ice-cream vendor music.  The EMTs wore Carvel uniforms. I still did not realize that I was hallucinating; everything just seemed very right and very good.  In the ER a nurse placed a lead on my chest, and it felt like she punched me, so I winced.  This nurse and I discussed the fact that I was indeed hallucinating, and I agreed to kept in mind that she wasn’t actually punching me, and she agreed not to mind me wincing; as she continued to punch me at least a dozen times; maybe it was a thousand times.  The Doctor was a cross between Goofy and Dr. Kildare.  I received accolades for remembering and executing the “Sting Drill”, a breathing treatment, prednisone and several prescriptions; and was sent on my way, with an instruction sheet, containing Activity Restrictions and Additional Instructions, which reads, “DON’T MESS WITH BEES”, and a warning to take it easy for a few days!  I left with a million questions!  Honest to goodness, there has got to be a better way!

The past week has been real!  The closest I can come to describing it is, pneumonia-like.  Doing anything has required brute determination.  And, my mind is elsewhere, really, nowhere.  In an effort to look on the bright side, I figured a few days of taking it easy, gives me a chance to do some research, and write up the interview.  However, little has been accomplished.  Most of the week has been spent in front of the AC, having a “Lost” marathon.  It is really a much better story than I had imagined!  Right this moment, I’m pretty happy I’ve been able to sit up long enough to type this out.  Each day I feel a little more like me.  The interview post, with Blanche Cybele Derby, is coming along, slowly.

In April, I was given more Prednisone, then this go round.  I believe that is part of why I recovered faster and easier, then.  I could have asked for more prednisone, this time.  It was a tough choice, not to ask.  The short-term benefits of feeling stronger and breathing better, is very tempting; however, the long-term side effects of steroids, frightens me.  Not to mention the side effects of Epinephrine, Albuterol; et all.

Obviously, I have more questions than answers.  Any thoughts, comments, and/or wisdom that anyone would like to share, here, will be greatly appreciated.  My Mother always said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

      I will find a better way.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time.

(1) Blanche Cybele Derby:

(2) Yarrow, Achillea millefolium:

(3) Kat Koch:

If You See Japanese Knotweed and Garlic Mustard, Along the Path, KILL THEM!   6 comments

Honest to goodness, go apeshit, take out your frustrations and do the environment a favor, before they flower and go to seed!  Both Japanese Knotweed,  Polygonum cuspidatum, and Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata, are tenacious, horribly invasive species, choking out many lovely natives, at an alarming rate.  Many states have disposal regulations for these species, it’s that bad.  Sure they both, also, share a short window of edibility; which, here in New England, is right now.  Although, a good deal of the Knotweed is past, the Garlic Mustard shoots are at their edibility peek.


If I’m out, tool-less, and come upon Japanese Knotweed, it gets stomped!  Sure, clippers, a machete, and bush-hog would all be helpful, but, my feet work, too!  And, I try not to carry all that much, all the time!

After I snip the tender young shoots, Garlic Mustard gets yanked.  Thankfully, they give little, if any, resistance.  No seeds will form on these!

Remember to wonder off the beaten path, while gathering.  Never forage where poop grows!

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time.

Just click on any photo to enlarge.

More about Japanese Knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum:

 More about Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata:

You Are Not Going to Eat Skunk Cabbage, Are You?   4 comments

Recently, someone posted on Foragers Unite (1) that they had eaten Skunk Cabbage; and I thought, ‘Ewe, for real?’  Then, laughed at myself, thinking, if only I had a nickel for every time someone has said to me, “Ewe, you are NOT going to eat THAT, are you?”  But, stinky, Skunk Cabbage, really, you eat that?  I knew that the roots have medicinal value, but, are also potentially toxic.  So, for me, Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, has already been filed under the unavoidables.  And, the only habitat I’ve ever seen them growing in, is scary, swampy wetness.  I’m a firm believer in the “better to be safe than sorry” rule; and avoid possibly hazardous situations, especially when out alone. 

Never-the-less, inquiring minds need to know; so I went cyber sailing; to find:

“In the 19th century the U.S. Pharmacopoeia listed Eastern Skunk Cabbage as the drug “dracontium“. It was used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, nervous disorders, rheumatism, and dropsy. It is not considered edible raw, because the roots are toxic and the leaves can burn the mouth.” (2) 

And, indeed, some folks do eat Skunk Cabbage!  “In North America and Europe, skunk cabbage is occasionally cultivated in water gardens.  Skunk cabbage was used extensively as a medicinal plant, seasoning, and magical talisman by various tribes of Native Americans. While not considered edible raw, because the roots are toxic and the leaves can burn the mouth, the leaves may be dried and used in soups and stews” (3)

However, after reading Steve Brill’s review, I will pass, “Marginally edible at best, skunk cabbage contains calcium oxalate crystals, which cause the most unpleasant burning sensation of the mouth and tongue. Boiling does not dispel this quality,” (4),

and this on calcium oxalate, convinces me:

“Calcium oxalate, a major constituent of human kidney stones, is a poisonous substance that can produce sores and numbing on ingestion and could even be fatal. It is also found in rhubarb (in large quantities in the leaves) and in species of Oxalis, Araceae, taro, kiwifruit, tea leaves, agaves, and Alocasia and in spinach in varying amounts. Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals are found in plant stems, roots, and leaves. Kidney stone sufferers should not eat plants high in oxalates. Even a small dose of calcium oxalate is enough to cause intense sensations of burning in the mouth and throat, swelling, and choking that could last for up to two weeks. In greater doses it can cause severe digestive upset, breathing difficulties, coma or even death. Recovery from severe oxalate poisoning is possible, but permanent liver and kidney damage may have occurred.” (5)

So, really, I’ll pass!

Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, is a low growing, nasty smelling, intriguing, flowering, perennial plant, that is one of the first plants to emerge, often through ice; due to its ability to generate temperatures of 10-15° above air temperature; placing it in a small group of plants exhibiting thermogenesis.

The mottled, lime-green and red-maroon, hooded, bract flower-canopy appears before the leaves, and is called a spathe, which surrounds the actual flower cluster, knob structure, called a spadix.

Although, not poisonous to the touch, breaking or tearing a leaf produces a skunk-ass, but not harmful, stench. So, I will enjoy Skunk Cabbage from the solid edge of the swamp, through my zoom lens, thank you very much.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time.


 (1) Foragers Unite!!/groups/184173308292665/






I’ve learned an awesome magic trick.   It’s a presto-chango, now you see it, now you don’t, slight-of-hand, very powerful, kind of magic trick.  Would you like to see it?  Yes, oh good.  Please watch closely.

Now you see litter.

Now you don’t!

Pretty awesome, right?  Would you like to see it again?  Yes, let’s do it!  Watch, real close, I’ll go slower, this time.  Ok, ready?  Watch this!

Now. . .you. . .see. . .litter.

Now, you don’t! 

Did you catch it, that time?  I performed, both of, these tricks along the Wareham River, over by the old Tremont Nail Factory.  Foraging along the river would be a whole lot safer, if the trash wasn’t here.  So, I learned this trick.  Maybe it will be safe for my grandchildren.  Or, for yours.

Pretty AWESOME, right?!?!?!?!

And, it’s really simple.  A few tools, are helpful; although, in a pinch, every handful of litter, gone, makes this a better world.

I like to use several tools. 

Dave, the rolling dumpster, is a 50 gallon, fortress of acceptance!  I hang a 30 gallon trash bag, inside, from the rake handle; so, litter can go in the bag, and recyclables go straight in the can.  On the outside of the can, also, hung from the rake handle, I have a foraging cloth bag, (not shown in photo) complete with, paper bags, leather gloves, a claw and trowel, garden sheers, several other folded cloth bags, and an empty 32 oz yogurt container and lid, ready for toxic insanity; such as hypodermic needles, and condoms.

The “Grabber”, lying across the top of the can, is an absolute must, and a fabulous back saver!

Little Reachy Rake, goes way back into the beyond; leaving no trash unclaimed!

I, also, wear my deer-skin foraging apron, to keep undesirable muck, grime, and the like, off of myself.  There are pockets for my camera, gloves, Swiss Army Knife, notebook, guides and whatnot.  It adds to the flair of the trick!

Perhaps, the most important tool, is gloves.  Protective gloves are best, leather and Kevlar, both, work well.  Rubber or surgical gloves are helpful, however, they offer no protection from broken glass or other frequently found, sharp objects.  NEVER, never, pick up hypodermic needles or condoms with your hands.  Hep C lives outside of the human body for weeks.  I use the grabber to transfer dangerous materials into a safe container; and dispose responsibly.  Many hospitals happily take the find.

You don’t needs any of these tools;  they just make the trick easier.  All you need is your hands, gloves (which fit nicely into the glove box!) and a minute.  Or 2 minutes and a grocery bag.  Really, that’s all it takes.  Please, do try it; feel the power of magic.  I hope you love doing this awesome magic trick; as much as I do!

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time!

Needles and Ivy and Snakes, OH MY!   Leave a comment

Among the dangers of foraging, in this neck of the woods, are needles and ivy and snakes.  Yes, needles, hypodermic needles.  I almost stepped on these.  One of the many reasons to trend lightly, wherever we step.  My “Grabber” snatched 15 hypodermics, yesterday, and safely relocated them to an empty 32 oz. yogurt container I carry, for just such purposes.


And, there is the ever-present danger of  “Leaves of 3”, as in, POISON IVY, Rhus radicans (1)


Contact with Poison Ivy can cause extreme dermatitis.  Funny, how it likes to hide in plain sight!

I always thought the Common Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis (18 – 48″), was harmless!  Did you know, “Their saliva appears to be toxic to amphibians and other small animals and a bite may produce swelling or a burning rash in some people. Although garter snakes may or may not bite if handled, most individuals secrete a foul-smelling fluid from anal glands when alarmed.”? (2)   Thankfully, this beauty was not alarmed!

In spite of the dangers, it was a good day, out there.  I foraged 60 gallons of litter, and located a new, off the beaten path, edibles foraging spot.

Be safe out there!

Thanx for stopping by.  See you soon.




Posted March 22, 2012 by forageporage in Unavoidable

Tagged with , , , ,

Plant Whispering – A Very Old, New Knowing   3 comments

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!” ~Henry David Thoreau (1)


            Before the Common Era, for the most part, we hunted, gathered and lived off the land.  Certainly there was agricultural development as well as “city/state” societies.  However, most “commoners” made due with what was at hand.  Knowledge of what was good, what wasn’t, what worked and what didn’t, was shared; face to face and hand to hand.  Survival in the moment and the hope of a future depended on group reliance.  Therefore, truth was not only necessary, it was revered.  A single lie was capable of wiping out entire nations.  Slowly, through the quest for progress, a better way and the supposed good of all, much of this knowledge has been lost or purposely destroyed.  Some “original knowledge” was translated, bastardized and hopelessly muddied.  Thankfully there are, still, tiny, remote pockets of innocent, original genius.  In the last 200 years or so there has been a conscious movement backward; toward the truth; likely a reaction to the sonic blast of the industrial revolution.  Folks like John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Marcel Proust, Euell Gibbons and Woody Guthrie (just to name a few; as the list is lengthy) stood against the “norm” and reminded us that “This Land Was Made For You And Me.”  (2)  They left us with wild places, literature, full of wild notions, about those places and wild songs to sing while we are there!  They took personal responsibility for what they knew to be right and good in the world.  All made considerable sacrifices to come to know, stand for and preserve what they instinctively felt, in Nature.  As a modern forager I, also, feel and carry that responsibility.  The nagging question is: with all the conflicting information, available, how do I know what is good, what is not, what works and what doesn’t?  For me, deep knowing is an eventual process; where the answers begin outside.

            Finding unfamiliar plants is a frequent and most welcome occurrence.  Often, something at the edge of my periphery will stand out and catch my eye.  In my heart I believe they call to me.  No, I don’t hear little voices coming from plants.  However, there does seem to be an attraction dynamic happening.  Then, out comes my camera and notebook.  As I approach, notes are recorded and photos snapped about the time, date, weather, location, neighboring vegetation and landscape.  Whenever possible I sit beside my new friend, watch, listen and get personal; WITHOUT TOUCHING.  Size, shape, branch, stem, leaf, bud, flower, seed, color and fragrance (again, without touching) characteristics are all noted and photographed; as well as signs of animal or insect invaders and plant diseases.  Every detail, essential to the whole, gives clues to the story of the plant.  This is where plant whispering begins.  After some time (often hours) and an area trash sweep,  I thank my new friend for the company and head home to hit the books; which is where it can get tricky!  Whatever I will come to learn; I’ve already done myself a world of good.  In addition to sunshine, fresh air, and a walk, I took time out to study, observe, meditate and reflect, in a natural setting; which for me, is always healing, leaving me feeling better, more confident and well connected to both Mother Earth and Father Sky.

            Up front, I should confess to being highly suspicious of “scientific research”.  Certainly we all know the scientific community isn’t always telling the truth.  A great deal of “research” has been paid for and directed toward corporate dividends; disguised in “greater good” propaganda; and, some of this “research” isn’t even good science.  For instance, any study based on the consequences of “lab rats” is absurd.  I’m not a lab rat!  Domesticated rats have a short life expectancy of about 2 years and they tend to develop tumors and die from the results.  When used experimentally, they are fed high doses of whatever substance, over long periods of time; a practice, which, in and of itself, is lethal.  Therefore, I do not understand how such foolery is relevant.  On the other hand, botanical information is a must.

            Having a basic understanding of plant chemistry is invaluable and ultimately satisfying.  Plants contain a plethora of chemicals; including, plant acids, alcohols, alkaloids, anthraquinones, bitter principles, carbohydrates, cardiac glycosides, coumarins, flavones, flavonoid glycosides, phenolic compounds, salts, saponins, sugars, tannins and volatile oils.  Understanding the function of these chemicals, and their actions on the body, brings a whole new reverence to plants and food; all food.  Knowing which chemicals pose risks and how to deal with and eliminate or avoid those risks is quintessential.  Also, the supermarket will, necessarily, become a new frontier!  And, chemistry is fun!  Honest!  I’m so very grateful to learn each handy tidbit; such as, the chemical components of Hawthorn berries, Crataegus leavigata, act to normalize the heart, by either stimulating or depressing heart activity, depending on which action is appropriate! (3)  Imagine that, Hawthorn berries “read” your body and then do what your body needs.  Smart berries!  There is an abundance of smart food outside; patiently wait for us to become smart enough to remember how to eat it; again.

            Leafing through several field guides and cross referencing plant characteristics, quickly narrows the search, usually giving me (at least) the first half of the plant’s Latin or scientific name; which tells me what plant family (genus) it belongs to.  Not all guides contain all members of every genus; most don’t.  Going, point for point, without exception, or substitution, through my list of characteristics leads me to the second part of the Latin name, its specific name (species).  I like using the Latin names for several reasons.  Most importantly, any given plant may have several, to dozens, of common names, yet that plant holds only one Latin name; ending much confusion.  Latin names are old and romantic; albeit a little intimidating, at first.  Honestly, at my age, I’m surprised how easily and quickly these names stick with me.  Learning a new language is fun!

            Once I know the Latin name, a world of information unfolds between my fingers.  Now other, more specific guides come out, depending on which direction the Latin name leads me.  And, of course, it’s internet surfing time!  I read most of what I come across, including contradictory “facts” and study every picture I come upon; often to the point of complete distraction!  The librarians in my town are great; and are usually up for any plant discussion and/or investigation.  Another viewpoint is always a must; many viewpoints is best.  Eventually, hungry and/or tired sets in, and I come up for air; with a head-full of plantery.  Having gathered imperative specifics; such as, edibility, toxicity, and possible look-alikes, along with gathering and preparatory issues and culinary and medicinal usages, I like to mull it around and discuss it, all, with someone knowledgeable (not always easy to find!).  

            Then I go back to the original plant and make certain I didn’t overlook anything.  Taking a 15 minute walk, in every direction possible, out from that original plant, will usually yield a good number of relatives, for comparison; if not, I keep looking.  I like to see, study and photograph hundreds of my new friend, in every season, BEFORE I decide if I will use it, or not.  If there is only one plant, I won’t touch it, ever.  90% certainty can be deadly.  I never bet on identification; nothing short of 100% positive identification is acceptable.  With all the tools available and attention to detail, plant identification isn’t difficult.  Only after positive identification and careful study, can an educated decision whether to use the plant or not, be made.  Whatever the decision, my brain gets a good workout!  It is often a year, or more, after my first meeting with a plant, before I even touch it.  One exception I’ve made, to this way, is Autumn-Olive, Elaeagnus umbellate.  I felt 100% positive identification had been achieved, in a week, as, along with an avalanche of print and photos I was very fortunate to stumble upon 3 local, longtime Autumnberry fanatics; and there are hundreds of Autumn-Olive shrubs right in my neighborhood.

           Because I’ve experienced eating a poisonous plant, food poisoning (not the same thing) and plant allergies, I tend to err on the side of caution.  Any plant containing alkaloids, saponins or tannins gets a long, hard look, great care and deep reverence.

            As a child, my nature was annoyingly curious; at least to my Mother.  I would often sit for hours in her garden and dissect plant parts.  I was particularly attracted to American Yew berries, Taxus canadensis; which are know to be poisonous.  For reasons I can’t explain, I would eat the flesh of the berries, after I squished out the seeds. (Do NOT try this at home).  American Yew seeds and foliage are toxic, and contain taxine, a heart depressing alkaloid; however the pulp (and ONLY the pulp) is actually edible. (4)  My mother would find the seeds and ask, “Who’s been picking at my garden?”, usually followed by, “Linda, you better not be messing around in my plants”.  One day (when I was 5 or 6) she snuck up, from behind and caught me; berry handed.  To hide the evidence I quickly popped the Yew berry, into my mouth; bit down and gulped in fear.  The sudden blast of unexpected, acrid bitterness caused me to shudder, gag and forcefully vomit.  Other then that, and spending the rest of the day in my room, I suffered no ill effects.  To this day I’ve not touched another Yew berry.  Its funny, how after half a century that moment is so crystallized in my being.  Just the mention, or sight, of an American Yew, even writing this, causes me to cringe and I can still almost taste it!  Funny, too, American Yew was the first plant to be posted on my Poisonous Plants page (up top).  Wow, I just discovered a psychic scar!  I can’t help but wonder if that scar wasn’t an intended blessing; encouraging caution in this once and future forager!?!?!?!?

            Food poisoning was very different.  In my early twenties I had an affair with Chinese food; which included a favorite restaurant.  I ate there once a week, for several years; usually ordering the same thing.  One day I felt adventurous and ordered sweet and sour chicken. The first bite tasted wrong; so wrong I spit it into my napkin.  Wondering if that’s what sweet and sour chicken really tastes like, I decided it wasn’t for me; and faked a toothache to politely get out of eating it.  Thank goodness I did.  Within a few hours I felt very tired and a bit feverish; and went to bed early.  For three days I remained in bed (except for bathroom sprints), running a 104 fever, shaking and sweating with intense muscle cramps and diarrhea.  Over the next two weeks I sipped tea, ginger ale and broth; but wasn’t able to look at solid food.  It took the better part of a month before I felt like myself; albeit 20 pounds lighter. 

            Both experiences taught me that if something doesn’t taste right, spit it out!  Then rinse out your mouth.  In retrospect, I wonder, had I vomited, after the sweet and sour chicken or rinsed my mouth, if I would have had a better time of it.

            And, then, there is the issue of possible plant/food allergies.  Any food, at any time, can cause an allergic reaction, in anyone.  It is important to go slow with any new food, wherever it comes from.  A mild allergic reaction is much easier to contend with than anaphylactic shock.  Recently, I’ve come to understand that I’m allergic to wheat.  Having been a bread freak my entire life, this is a big disappointment.  However, sacrificing wheat for a happy tummy is well worth it!  As the saying goes, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”  

Poison Ivy, Rhus radicans, Poison Oak, Rhus diversiloba, and Poison Sumac, Rhus vernix, are important to become aquainted withUrushiol, an alkaloid, in the plants, is an allergen; which, in sensitive individuals can cause allergic dermatitis. (5) Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac abound in this area.  It’s important to know what grows in your area and be able to recognize it at a distance.

            Knowing what is good, what is not, what works and what doesn’t, takes time, patience, dedication and experience.  Yet, even after decades of experience, food poisoning and allergic reactions are always a possibility.  However, with care and experience, the incidence of ingesting a poisonous plant decreases.  Therefore, I intend to go slowly, quietly, knowledgably and confidentially in the direction of my dreams; which is to know, every plant I come across; what’s good, what’s not, what works and what doesn’t!

The real voyage

of discovery

consists not in

seeking new lands

but in seeing

with new eyes.

~Marcel Proust (6)

             If you ever suspect you’ve eaten a poisonous plant, or that you may have food poisoning, or that you are having an allergic reaction, to anything, please, immediately seek medical attention.

 Just click on any photo to enlarge for greater detail.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time.



(1) Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862): A Guide to Resources on Henry

Henry David Thoreau links: a concise, simple directory to resources on Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet and philosopher. More links to Thoreau’s

(2)  Welcome to the Official Woody Guthrie Website  Official Woody Guthrie web site with biography, lyrics, artwork, the Woody Guthrie Foundation, the Woody Guthrie Archives, news and events, and educational programs.


      Element Books.  1996

(4) PETERSON FIELD GUIDES, Edible Wild Plants, Lee Allen Peterson.

     Houghton Mifflin. 1977

(5) The POISON IVY, OAK & SUMAC BOOK, Thomas E. Anderson

     Acton Circle, 1995

(6)  Marcel-Valentin-Louis-Eugène-Georges Proust (July 10, 1871 – November 18, 1922) was a French intellectual, novelist, essayist and critic, best known as the author of In …​Marcel_Proust

Tansy, The Good Riddance Herb!   3 comments

Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare, a perennial, of the aster family; is, also known as Bitter Buttons, and Golden Buttons and grows throughout North America.  Tansy has a smooth, thick, often reddish stem, growing 3 – 5 feet tall, that branches near the top.

The leaves are alternate, 1 to 10 inches long and are deeply lobed, divided almost to the stem, into segments, with saw-toothed edges.

The round, button-like, green buds, and yellow to brown flowers, bloom in clusters, from mid-to-late summer. The delightful fragrance is very aromatic; reminiscent of rosemary and camphor.

The leaves and flowers are toxic when consumed in large quantities.

In Medicine Grove, Loren Cruden notes, “Tansy banishes what is unwanted; it is an ally of release.” (1)

The ancient Greeks were the first to record Tansy as a medicinal herb. Since then Tansy has been employed for a number of medicinal, culinary, insecticidal and embalming purposes.  Although most of its medicinal uses have been discredited, tansy is still a component of some medicines. In his Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman writes, “Externally a lotion will be useful in cases of scabies” (2)

The American colonists recognized Tansy’s usefulness, as meat was packed in tansy leaves to repel insects and delay spoiling. It was worn in shoes to prevent illness.  Used in embalming, Tansy was packed into coffins, inside funeral winding sheets, and tansy wreaths were placed on the dead. (3)

Tansy is an, organic gardening and sustainable agriculture, ally; when used in companion planting, for biological pest control. It has been shown to repel ants, cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ticks, flies, moths and mosquitoes, among others.  Some bee-keepers, burn Tansy, in their bee smokers.

A potted Tansy or bouquet can be placed on window sills to keep out flying invaders.

Sprigs placed in bed linens drive away tiny intruders. With all the recent press about bed bugs, I’m sure glad I know Tansy! I love the fragrance!  I made a Green Man mandala on my bed with Tansy; and asked him to rid me, and my environment, of all unwanted pests, on all planes.  He made me laugh and reminded me that laughter is, really, the best medicine.  I left him there all day to keep me company and to meditate and reflect upon; before I tucked his feathers and beads into my sheets.

There are beautiful bundles of drying Tansy, all around my home. And I haven’t seen wing nor flit of a single insect since hanging it! Crushed, dried or fresh, Tansy can be sprinkled, placed or stuffed into cracks, crevices, drawers, closets, linens, and between sofa or chair cushions to keep away pests.  I also, like to fancy up my outfit with a sprig of Tansy in my lapel; especially while I’m out foraging.  I’m so sweet that flying insects think I’m a meal.  Since taking up the practice of wearing a Tansy Posey I’ve had no stings or bites, in the field!  Hallalulah!  Thank you Gaia; I remain so very grateful.

I did get stung by a bee, yesterday, however, I was getting out of the car,  Poseyless! 

Be certain children and pets can’t get at it, due to the toxic nature attributed to Tansy’s constituents.

Tansy is an abortant, and should be avoided during pregnancy.

Tansy can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive folk.

Thujone, an active component of Tansy’s volatile oil, sensitizes neurons; increasing brain activity and can cause hallucinations, spasms, convulsions, liver and brain damage and death. (3)

Therefore Tansy goes into the “Unavoidable” category.  I’ll use Tansy for its decorative beauty and help in warding off pests.  Medicinal applications are best left to an expert.

Just click on any photo, to enlarge for greater detail.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you soon.


(1) Medicine Grove, Loren Cruden.

      Destiny Books, 1997

(2) Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman

      Element Books, 1996

(3) Wikipedia – Common Tansy