Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category


I was demonstrating the cold infusion technique to a class of herbalism students when I discovered my new favorite drink: cold cleavers (Galium aparine) infusion. I had never actually used the cold infusion method on cleavers before. “It tastes like Easter!” I exclaimed. “Banana Laffy Taffy!” said Gabe. You can decide what it tastes like for yourself by chopping up a bunch of fresh cleavers and suspending them in a cloth at the top of a jar of cold water approximately overnight.

-Michael Moore says, “It has feeble effects on liver function but it one of the few herbs that has some healing value and yet may be used during hepatitis without fear of irritation,” and “In cases of urinary calculi or gravel…drink two or three teaspoons of the juice in a cup of water three time a day.”

-Juliette de Bairacli Levy writes, “Its refrigerant properties  make it excellent for all fevers, including smallpox and typhus. For skin troubles including dandruff. It is also an effective jaundice remedy…taken internally, cleavers is also a hair tonic and does much to help check tooth decay.”

-Gregory Tilford says, “Herbalists frequently use cleavers in the healing of stomach ulcers, ovarian cysts, tonsillitis or in circumstances where the lymph circulation seems to be chronically or acutely impaired. Because this herb is safe in large doses over extended periods, it is commonly used as a preventative ‘lymphatic tonic.'”

-Susun Weed comments, “I find it unsurpassed for easing tender, swollen breasts, PMS symptoms, and mild lymphedema. It is also reduces allergic reactions.”

-David Hoffman adds, “Cleavers is helpful in skin conditions, especially the dry types, such as psoriasis.”

-Emily Porter says, “That’s all good, but more importantly, it tastes rad.”


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nettlesIn case you were wondering…nettles in Portland (Oaks Bottom) are this big.

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Daucus Carota

The other day Rebecca Lerner and I were prepping for one of our Urban Foraging 101  walks when I spied a regular carrot in somebody’s sidewalk garden.  Domestic carrots will rapidly interbreed with wild carrots. Saving carrot seed involves vigilantly eliminating nearby wild carrots (aka queen anne’s lace).  I said, “Maybe we can point this out for comparison to wild carrot.  You know, if you leave the domestic carrots alone they just revert to their wild state, like, really quickly…hey maybe that is a metaphor! Becky helped me figure out exactly what the metaphor might be which is this: The instinct for rewilding is within each and every one of us. Think about it: Why do we like grilled meats so much? Why do children build forts of sticks and dirt? Why do millions of Americans go camping on vacations? Why do most of our hobbies involve pursuits like hunting, fishing, gardening, and making crafts? If left alone, unconstrained by laws that prohibit wild living, schools that break our spirits, and brainwashing by the media that tells us we need to purchase more consumer products, how quickly might we too begin to revert to a more wild state?! If you have any more ideas about the “rewilding instinct” please share them here.

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sunberry smoothie?

Yesterday I discovered an abundance of orange, low-growing Rubus berries in the groundcover at Lewis and Clark College. I have been calling these delectables “cloudberries” although upon further research (so many passerby were asking questions, I knew I had to come home and get my facts straight!) I found that cloudberry more generally refers to Rubus chamaemorus, a native of the arctic, whereas this plant, also known by landscapers as emerald carpet, is Rubus calycinodes, native to Taiwan. These delicious raspberry-like berries were perfect for adding to a peach smoothie. So what is the common name of the orange berry of the emerald carpet? The internet suggests creeping raspberry, oriental raspberry, ornamental raspberry, all of which seem rather bland to me. I vote we come up with a more distinctive name for this “double-rainbow” awesome berry: orange raspberry? carpetberry? sunberry? What do YOU think?

lush Rubus calycinoides on Lewis and Clark campus

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Nettles in Portland are currently yea big. Actually this picture was taken on Monday in the Columbia River Gorge which runs a little cool so townie nettles may be larger. Don’t miss out this season! Get ’em while they’re young!

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Natural Fashion

I was at Powell’s the other day and I saw a really cool coffee table book, Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa. I don’t buy picture books because they are kind of useless, but if you get a chance you should check this one out.

Review from Publishers Weekly:

In this stunning collection of photographs, Silvester (Ethiopia: Peoples of the Omo Valley) celebrates the unique art of the Surma and Mursi tribes of the Omo Valley, on the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. These nomadic people have no architecture or crafts with which to express their innate artistic sense. Instead, they use their bodies as canvases, painting their skin with pigments made from powdered volcanic rock and adorning themselves with materials obtained from the world around them—such as flowers, leaves, grasses, shells and animal horns. The adolescents of the tribes are especially adept at this art, and Silvester’s superb photographs show many youths who, imbued with an exquisite sense of color and form, have painted their beautiful bodies with colorful dots, stripes and circles, and encased themselves in elaborate arrangements of vegetation and found objects. This art is endlessly inventive, magical and, above all, fun. In his brief text, Sylvester worries that as civilization encroaches on this largely unexplored region, these people will lose their delightful tradition.

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Signs of Spring

Blooming Camellia

Blooming Camellia

The seasons are mushy here in Portland. If you look closely it becomes obvious that spring has already begun. Bulbs are pushing up, bittercress is multiplying, forsythia is blooming, and buds are swelling, Every year I start collecting photos as evidence and never get around to posting them. This year by gosh I’m just going to show you what I have before it is too late.

pussy willow, heather, hazelnut catkin, and crabapple flower

Pussy Willow, Heather, Hazelnut Catkin, Crabapple Flower

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