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Plantains, especially common plantain, Plantago major, and lanceleaf plantain, Plantago lancelolata, are very common plants, so common they usually go unnoticed. They’re small plants (up to 20” tall, often much less) with flat leaves and distinctive veins running the length of the rounded (common plantain) or long narrow (lanceleaf plantain) leaves. All the leaves come […]Read more »
Skunkbush (Rhus trilobata) and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) (in the sumac family, Anacardiaceae) are widespread sumacs. If you think smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) when you think of sumac, you may not recognize them. Instead of a large compound leaf with long leaflets on each side, skunkbush and aromatic sumac have smaller, three-lobed, irregularly-shaped leaves. Both […]Read more »
Sumac. It is a weedy shrub that fills in neglected pastures and spreads into your yard. But if you haven’t done so, stop and taste the red fruits. There are twelve species of sumac native to the United States, 130 worldwide. All the actual sumacs, genus Rhus, have red fruits and are safe to eat. […]Read more »
Lambsquarters is a vegetable most people weed out of their yards. The foraging community calls it wild spinach. Lambsquarters: A Wild Spinach with Many Names Lambsquarters, Chenopodium album, in the amarathus family (Amaranthaceae), was a pot herb (vegetable you add to the stew) across Eurasia and was certainly brought to North America as a food. […]Read more »
One of the most visually interesting plants in my garden is lungwort, Pulmonaria officinalis, in the borage family, Boraginaceae; the flowers are both red and blue and the dark green leaves have white spots, making it an easy plant to recognize. It is low-growing and has spread as a pretty ground cover. Lungwort is native […]Read more »
It is winter across North America and gardens are frozen. Yet we eat vegetables, not all of them imported from warmer regions. Squashes are traditional winter vegetables, with dozens of distinctive varieties. The word squash is from the Narragansett tribe of Rhode Island. European settlers had never seen squashes before and had no name for […]Read more »
Lettuce is one of the most common and recognizable vegetables. And, surprisingly, one we under-use. Lettuce is Lactuca sativa, an annual plant in the daisy family (Asteraceae). Since we eat the leaves before it flowers, we rarely notice the small yellow flowers or the seed heads with whitish wind-carried seeds. The name lettuce is derived […]Read more »
My last post (Houseleek, Jupiter’s Beard, Sempervivum tectorum Part 1) described the characteristics of the houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum. This post talks of its healing history and folklore. The Ideal Houseplant of the Ancients Sempervivum means “live forever.” The species epithet of the common houseleek, tectorum, means “of roofs.” Its odd common name, houseleek, also means “of […]Read more »
One of the most widely-planted succulents is the houseleek Sempervivum tectorum (Crassulaceae, stonecrop family). Grown since Roman times, it has many common names. You might know it as hens-and-chicks, bullocks eye, Jupiter’s beard, Thor’s beard, syngreen, sengren, liveforever, or something else. The name hens-and-chicks or hens-and-chickens (a name also applied to other plants which make little replicates […]Read more »
Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale (sunflower family, Asteraceae) are perhaps the most widely recognized U. S. weed. Huge amounts of money and time are spent killing dandelions. How the Dandelion got its Name No one knows why the scientific name is Taraxacum. In 1600 pharmacists called it Taraxacon, but whether that word is based on the Arabic words […]Read more »