Wild Arkansas

January 4, 2011

Bird & fish kills in NW Arkansas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — WildArkansas @ 11:41 pm

Mysterious bird and fish kills in NW Arkansas appear to be a mystery to most authorities–at the moment.

The estimated five-thousand birds appear to have died New Year’s eve (in a one mile radius of Beebee) just before midnight and though some have embarrassingly suggested fireworks or weather as a stressor causing the mass night flight of (non-predatory) birds that are not nocturnal, that does not explain the massive trauma and blood clots suffered by the birds just before they dropped to the ground dead. (more…)


September 14, 2010

Scouting Siloam

I made it back to  Siloam Springs yesterday and began scouting the area to see what has changed in the past month. I’ve found quite a few edible weeds.

If you use pokeberry to dye with, the season is getting short. The berries are more than ready and beautiful as ever, but you need to pick them soon.

Epazote is going to seed. There are still a few hangers-on, but the next two weeks you may want to start checking plants daily to see if they have turned brown yet, to plant for next year or trading online.

The field amaranth here is almost completely seed. If you have the patience to grind flour, now is the time to collect.

The wide leaf dock is looking beautiful. We just got a new growing spurt, so it’s time for fresh greens.

New mullein – meaning just the new leaf is sprouting. If you’re just collecting leaf, there’s quite a bit of on the edges of wooded areas and along fences.

Last, but not least, the lambsquarters are still leafy. I’ve been collecting quite a bit of it for freezing so if you run across large patches in the area that look a bit thin on leaf, you may have come behind me.

August 6, 2010

Ready, ripe for picking

Picking Passionflower

Several patches of passionflower caught our attention last week. The vine is literally growing everywhere in Northwest Arkansas and we harvested a couple of pounds, dried it and have put it aside for tea.

Prunus serotina or the wild black cherry is also ready. We found several trees in Rogers and Siloam Springs, the fruit falling to the ground.

Prunus serotina - Black Cherry

Fruit can be used for jelly, as trail nibble or for juice.

We harvested some for snacks–it can also be dried and eaten like raisins.

August 4, 2010

Re-post: summer edibles w/parts

Filed under: Edible plants, foraging, fruit, herbs, summer — Tags: , , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 5:37 pm


A couple of readers expressed an interest in viewing the list with the information on which plant parts should be harvested. Here it is.

A Short list of common edibles currently in season (summer) for Northwest Arkansas, though some can be found throughout the year.

Common name                         Binomial                                What’s Edible?

American Elder             Sambucus canadensis        Berries (prepared)

Asparagus                       Asparagus officianalis        Tips

Black Cherry                 Prunus serotina                   Berries

Cattail                            Typha latifolia                      Root, stem, flower, pollen

Chicory                        Cichorium intybus             Every part of plant is edible

Chufa                            Cyperus esculentus            Tubers; raw or cooked

Dandelion                  Taraxacum officianale        Every part of plant is edible

Docks                          Rumex (acetosa,longifolia…)    Leaves; raw or cooked

(There are several varieties of dock/sorrel in the area; including curly, spinach, broad leaved and the dooryard. All are edible.)

Ground Cherry       Physalis pubescens                    Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Ground Nut              Apios americana                          Tubers; cooked

Lambs quarters      Chenopodium album                  Leaves; raw or cooked

May apple                 Podophyllum peltatum             Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Mulberry (red, white) Morus rubra/alba               Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Oak (Red, White)    Quercus rubra/alba                  Fruit; raw (alba) or prepared (rubra)

Passionflower          Passiflora incarnata                All parts are edible; raw or cooked

Pawpaw              Asimina triloba        Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Peppermint          Mentha piperita        Leaves; raw or cooked

Pickeral weed       Pontederia cordata        Leaf stalks/fruit; raw and cooked

Plantain/Plantago   Plantago major, asiatica…    Leaf; raw and cooked

Purslane            Portulaca oleracea        Leaf/leaf stalk; raw and cooked

Quickweed           Galinsoga parviflora        Green tops; cooked

Smilax              Smilax rotundifolia        Vine tips/berries; raw and cooked

Smooth Sumac        Rhus glabra            Fruit; cooked

Spearmint           Mentha spicata        Leaf; raw or cooked

Sweet Flag          Acorus calamus        Young stalks; raw or cooked

August 1, 2010

So many plants, so little time

Patrick investigating

Lactuca nine feet tall. The vibrant lavendar of the bull thistle, smart weed, jewel weed, flea bane, dog bane, sumac and few delights for the wildcrafters among us: chamomile, evening primrose and vervain among them.

Roaming the perimeter of Lake Fayetteville with Mr. Ethnobotany we only managed to traverse half a mile per hour–stopping every few feet to take photos and investigate our finds.

Though quite a few of the specimen we stopped for had already went to seed, there were just as many in full bloom or headed that way.

Patrick dug the root of a first year bull thistle as I looked on. It took a bit of work, because the thistle has a tap root much like the dandelion. This one happened to be a youngster, but I imagine if it had been older, it would have been next to impossible to uproot completely.

Bull thistle

The taste and smell of the raw root is quite distinct and brings to mind a time when we grew our own artichokes. The thistle is a relative of the artichoke, afterall.

The chamomile (Matricaria) we found grew close to the marina. Though I’ve seen plenty of photos of the plant, it was my first up close and personal encounter. You can tell a nerd by how excited they get over their first encounter with a much loved plant.

[Yes the heart leaps into the throat and there is a brief moment of wide-eyed wonder, corresponding to a sharp intake of breath.]

Toward the end of our walk, I realized I had stepped into a patch of Rhus radicans (poison ivy) and felt the stinging sensation creeping up my ankle. Patrick spotted some jewel weed, grabbed a handful and instructed me to crush it and use the juice on the infected area.

Voila! It worked. The pain immediately subsided, as did the itching and two hours later I had no rash.

Alas, the quick rise of temperature into the nineties dictated we stop early, though with the promise of another visit soon.

July 28, 2010

Lake Wedington

Filed under: Edible plants, foraging, Sagittaria latifolia — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 4:37 pm

Mid-Summer photos of some edibles at Lake Wedington

Sagitaria and Cress

The year before last, I found a small patch of Sagitaria and attempted to harvest. This year, Lake Wedington is offering another challenge.  The waterscape is abundant with the plant, so there’s plenty of opportunity.

Red-Belted Polypore?

I’m not a shroomer , but this looked a lot like the artist conk or the red-belted polypore. We left it where it grew, because we didn’t want to harvest what we felt unsure about.

Butterfly on fruit

Though I’m good with berry fruits, I was at a loss when I ran across this fruit. A reader identified the species as ‘Buttonbush’ or Cephalanthus occidentalis.

July 10, 2010

Filed under: Edible plants, foraging, herbs, trails — Tags: , , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 1:48 am

Along a one-mile stretch on JBU trail (NW) we found:

Acacia, black walnut, chicory, wild grape, pokeweed, sour dock, broad-leaved dock, lambs quarters.

Sourdock has gone to seed, but the broad-leaved variety is ready to pick.

Chicory is ready for anyone wanting flowers. Lambs quarters should be available throughout the season.

September 19, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Lowell and its gifts

Filed under: dandelion, Edible plants, Epazote, foraging, herbs, Lowell, passionflower — Tags: , , , , — WildArkansas @ 9:04 pm

Though foraging for edibles isn’t done as often as it once was, many Ozark families still retain knowledge and skills used by older generations and regularly collect wild greens, poke root or maypops.

Today, most people drive to the local market rather than grow or forage their own food, though the benefits go beyond the feeling of accomplishment and nutrition.

There is something transferred from plant and earth to the harvester. An acknowledgement that we depend upon one another or perhaps that connection lost when walking through the produce section of Wal-mart and stuffing the plastic bags with waxed greens.

Few realize how many wild edible greens are growing so close. On a recent forage in Lowell, I managed to discover garlic mustard, wild spinach and several varieties of Rumex or sorrel.

Many medicinal and culinary herbs are also found locally. Goldenrod is plentiful, as is, hedge woundwort, Japanese honeysuckle, passionflower, Asiatic dayflower, red clover, dandelion, yellow woodnettle and wild lettuce to name just a few.

Walking down dirt roads and along rows of a grape vineyard, I found the common mallow that is a regular diet staple in Israel, or once was.

Epazote is a culinary and medicinal herb used extensively in Mexico and has been naturalized to the U.S. In Arkansas it grows as a noxious weed despite its medicinal value. And the Cutleaf Coneflower, shines it’s mighty yellow head above all the other “weeds” in the vicinity.

The Coneflower was commonly used as a burn dressing by the Chippewa and a dietary aid by the Cherokee, by using it in cooked spring salad.

…And all of this is a reminder to me that Arkansas is abundant in natural resources. Maybe not the resources we typically look for, but those kind that are good for the body and soul.

I may not always be as grateful as I should be, but today I thank this land we live on for giving us so much.

September 10, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Taraxacum officianale

With harvest season coming upon us, I’ve found the dandelion root is a favorite among wildcrafters. As one of the most widely distributed herbs, the mighty dande is still one of the most affordable. Primarily because it is so abundant.

Considered a weed by most people the common dandelion (Taraxacum officianale) is also considered by herbalists to be one of the most helpful and powerful herbs available.

The nutrition content alone is motivating factor to consider the dandelion a regular diet staple. Per every 100 grams of fresh plant the dande contains 190 mg of calcium, 13,650 I.U. [international units] of vitamin A, generous amounts of B complex vitamins and 36 mg. of vitamin C. It’s also rich in niacin, potassium and zinc.

But the benefits don’t stop there. The active constituents in dandelion cleanse and tone the liver and is used, “In the treatment of several kidney ailments and also chronic hypertension,” writes Michael Hallowell in Herbal Healing, a practical guide to medicinal herbs.

Historically, the Chinese have used dandelion in the treatment of breast ailments, reducing the size of cysts and tumors and promoting milk flow for new mothers. New studies have documented the plant to have antioxidant and in vitro anti-tumor constituents.

As an alterative, the dandelion is acknowledged to have the ability to alter the condition of a patient from one state to another. As a febrifuge the dande has the ability to reduce abnormally high body temperature and from personal experience, being menopausal, the days I take a cup of tea or infusion is another day without hot flashes.

Literature lauds Taraxacum’s laxative properties and its use as a blood and lymph cleaner, but by far the best thing about this herb is its accessibility. You can probably dig some from your back yard.


Make sure the plants you dig are far enough away from the road so as not to have absorbed toxins from local traffic.

A small shovel or knife should be worked around the base of the plant and once you feel the plant loosen, you should be able to pull the root with no problem. If dandelions are young the roots will be quite small and you may have to hunt for a few to get the amount you need.


The easiest and fastest method of drying is in the oven. I pre-heat to 300 degrees while washing the plant material and separating from the leaves. Lay everything flat on a baking pan, lower the temp to right below 200 and check and turn every few minutes.

If drying the leaves, they should be crackling to the touch when dry. Check the bottom parts of the leaves before taking from the oven as they take longer than any other part of the leaf. Drying the roots takes a bit longer and when done, you should be able to snap the root apart. If it still bends instead of snapping apart, there is still some moisture.

To air dry, hang in a cool, dark place and check it every couple days. For roots, it may take up to four weeks to dry.


There are few cautions against dandelion. Drug interactions include cautions for those who take lithium, other diuretics or hypoglycemics.

Though dandelion is extremely safe, remember to use in moderation. The carrot is also extremely safe but one man, Basil Brown, overdosed on carrot juice in 1974 after consuming ten gallons of the juice in ten days.

Using Dandelion

Though useful, the plant is very bitter to the taste.  To make it more palatable, I use sweetner and lemon with the plant or add to other tea mixtures.

The coffee can be made with the dried root of the plant by grating and using as a substitute or adding to other coffee. I use four tablespoons for a twelve-cup pot, but you may want to experiment a little and vary that for your own taste.

The tea can be made from any part of the dandelion. I use the leaves and flowers in an infusion/tea. The leaves seep for a bit longer than the flowers. Generally, I seep the leaves approx. 6 minutes and the fresh or dried flowers 4-5 mins. Sweeten and add lemon or honey to taste.

Dandelion salad
Wash greens and flowers thoroughly and add to other greens, radishes and other favorite salad veggies. Toss with olive oil and vinegar.

August 28, 2008

Toxic tomatoes

While wandering around Lowell, I found a few wild tomatoes. I wanted to wait on sampling until after I conducted a little research.

Solanum carolinense is also known as a wild tomato and horse nettle.

There are conflicting reports on this plant, though most say the whole plant is toxic. According to Medicinal Herbs, by Foster and Duke the plant is used by herbalists to treat epilepsy and other ailments.

There are toxic constituents found in all parts of the plant and there have been cases of animal and children dying from ingestion; however, the berries are less toxic than other parts of the plant and when cooked, toxic constituents break down.

Some information exists showing an infusion of the leaf was used to treat worms, as a dermatological aid and the leaves were crushed with sweet milk to kill flies.

The plant is useful for those who know how to use it, but toxic to those who don’t. Never ingest any part of this plant unless you know what you are doing.

For better identification please visit Kirk Jordan’s site, ID Arkansas and take a look at the photos of the plant there.

Some links for further information:

Link Basic info from 2Bnthewild.com

Link Horse nettle in different stages of developement.

Link Short article at Wikipedia

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