Archive for the ‘Native Florida Plants’ Category

I absolutely love spring because it ushers in new beginnings.   Fresh and vibrant plants which lay dormant all winter are now poking their little heads up to feel the warm air and greet the sun.  This is about the time of the year when our Southern Dewberries (Rubus trivialis) start to bloom.  The berries won’t come in until sometime in late April or early May, but the blossoms are just a reminder that soon we will be gorging ourselves on their juicy ripe berries.

The Dewberry is often confused with the Blackberry as they look quite similar.  However, Dewberries fruit earlier and grow close to the ground like a vine, while the Blackberry grows on upright stems or canes.

Like the Blackberry the Dewberries are edible and are a great treat on a warm spring day.  Dewberries like Blackberries can also be used medicinally (more…)

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Spring has sprung here in North Florida and the violets abound.  What an absolutely beautiful flower with its delicate petals and its dreamy aroma.  The scent of the violet for me conjures up memories of my childhood and a perfume my mom had for years which she had brought with her from England when she moved to the United States.

Sometimes known as, “The Flower of Love” violet is the epitome of beauty and grace with a hint of modesty as her flowers bow slightly to the ground.  Her heart shape leaves surround her like an alliance of mutual admirers professing their love.

I was fortunate to find an abundance of violets this year which enabled me to gather some to use in various preparations.  As I was gathering the flowers and leaves on my knees I felt a sense of calm.  Perhaps it was the subtle aroma which permeated the air around me which put me at ease or just the sheer joy of being surrounded by such beauty.

While out harvesting with me my son slipped and fell down a ravine scraping his arm.  I showed him the leaves of the violet and told him he could use it on his arm to help ease the sting.  I then proceeded to chew one of the leaves to place as a poultice on his arm.  My son’s reply to that was, “…no way mom, I’ll chew it up myself”.  I guess “mom” spit is not as appealing once you’ve reached the age of nine.  If you chew the leaves of a violet you will truly understand the meaning of mucilaginous (slimy and gooey).

When used externally a mucilaginous herb is called an emollient and helps to soothe inflamed and irritated tissue.  When taken internally a mucilaginous herb is called a demulcent.  Either internally or externally that gooey substance will soothe irritation, help to reduce inflammation and help to stimulate the innate immune response.

If you think about conditions that are hot, inflamed, irritated and dry you can apply this action just by knowing about the benefits of mucilaginous plants.  Some examples of plants with this mucilaginous quality include Plantain, Mallow’s, some Elm species, Cinnamon (to some extent), Violets, Mullein and Comfrey.

So the next time you come across Violet nibble a little bit off of one of the leaves, experience the mucilage and consider all the wonderful healing possibilities available through the use of this wonderfully enchanting plant.

Violet Flower Infused Honey

1 part Violet flowers

1 part of Raw Honey

Gradually warm the honey over a double boiler.  Pour the warmed honey over the flowers until it covers the tops by at least 1/2 inch.  Push the flowers down into the jar assuring that all the air bubbles are out and flowers are completely covered.  Leave the honey to infuse for at least a week or more.  You can either strain out the flowers or leave them in and enjoy nibbling on them.

Disclaimer:  Never eat any plant that you have not positively identified to be safe for consumption!!

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I’m getting a bit of a late start on my winter garden, but hey, at least I’m getting something into the ground.  The area where I have my garden located is absolutely covered with this plant refered to as Florida Betony (Stachy’s floridana).

Most people here in Florida find this little plant to be an invasive nuisance.  I, however, feel extremely fortunate to have this plant covering a large majority of my pasture and skirting around the edges of my fences.

The stem of this betony is square distinguishing it within the Lamiaceae or mint family and it has opposite leaves with scalloped edges.  Also know as hedgenettle or rattlesnake weed this Florida Betony hides a little secret below the surface at the base of it’s roots…a tuber.  The wonderful thing about this tuber is that it is edible and quite yummy.  While I was digging my garden I unearthed literally dozens of these tubers.

The tubers of the plant resemble a rattlesnakes tail and thus the name rattlesnake weed.  They have a very fresh taste and are usually crisp and crunchy when you bite into them.  To me they taste like a very mild radish.

Depending on the area that they grow in or if there has been little moisture the tubers may end up almost dehydrated which makes them inedible.  You can get very creative when cooking these tubers.  The tubers are quite delicious when sauteed with butter or oil, boiled, pickled, added to soup and stews or just eaten raw in salads.  One website that I came across was selling the tubers for $20.00/pound which makes me feel even more fortunate that I have such an abundance of this wonderful plant.

The tuber as well as the aerial portion of the plant may have some medicinal and healing capabilities as do many of the other species of Stachy’s.  If dried and powdered the roots of the Stachys affinis are said to be anodyne and the aerial parts were made into a tea for colds and pneumonia.  With that said, some believe that the two plants S. floridana and S. affinis are actually the same plant.

So if you are as fortunate as me to have this wonderful plant growing in abundance in your area go out and dig some up and give it a try.  They are really delicious and a wonderful addition to any meal.

If you are interested in getting a better look at the plant and seeing how they are harvested you can check out this video by Green Deane from Eattheweeds.com:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAudL109GOg

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Blue Camp 005This past week my family and I headed from North Florida where we live to camp in central Alabama. The area is absolutely beautiful and we have made this trip our traditional Thanksgiving adventure. Last year I had discovered a patch of wild roses and had hoped to pick some rosehips to bring home with me. However, much to my dismay the area had been contaminated. The owner on the land is “Round-up” happy. He is on a quest to pretty much destroy most of the wild weeds on his property. This man is the sweetest and most kind hearted man you would want to meet, but he just doesn’t understand that he is poisoning his surroundings. So alas…no rosehips from there anymore. I did, however, discover some Sassafras on a piece of uncontaminated property. The area was about to be cleared so I ask the owner if we could harvest the Sassafras before it got destroyed and he obliged. If you’ve never chewed a leaf off of a Sassafras tree you must. The leaf turns into a jelly like substance. My 7 year old thought it was gross, but he really enjoyed the harvest. He is such a great little apprentice. He is learning so much about health and living naturally. So while we are on the subject of Sassafras I thought I would tell you a little about the wonderful plant.

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Energetics: Spicy, warm

Organ/Meridian affected: lung and kidney

Properties: Aromatic, stimulant, diaphoretic, alterative, anodyne, vasodialator and carminative.

Parts Used: Root bark

Long before it was combined with other herbs and used in patented medicines Sassafras was used in the folk tradition as a spring tonic. As a blood purifier and thinner the root of the plant was used in the early spring as a tonic to be taken after a long winter of eating heavy foods with little physical activity. The leaves can be used as thickener for foods such as gumbo. Sassafras has been used historically to treat high blood pressure, rheumatism, gout and arthritis. Another use for the root is to make root beer.

Simple Root Beer Recipe:

Make an herbal decoction of the root (fresh or dry root) by simmering it for 20 minutes or more depending on how strong you want the flavor. Strain the tea and add a natural sweetener and seltzer or sparkling water for the fizz.

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