Posted by: wolfcampcollege | February 11, 2010

Most Critical Ethnobotanical Plants in Olympia

A couple evergreen students joined us this evening for our weekly Olympia adult class, which was great because 2 of our regulars couldn’t make it. We started the evening by grabbing some scraps of tanned leather, cutting one of them into long cordage, and designing the rest into small medicine pouches to carry gifts for the land – all in preparation for harvesting plants over the coming month.

While working on our pouches, the group went around and related stories from their study sites, and I shared about completing Field Exercise 002 – Drawing My Study Site. I had posted my journal entry here at wordpress, and showed them that along with how students can do the same.

Then we discussed the most critical plants to learn. My lecture consisted of deciding whether a plant, or plant group with similar characteristics, met 4 criteria: 1) key edibility, 2) key medicinal qualities, 3) key utilitarian qualities, and 4) readily available in our bioregion. Here was our list:

Met 4 Criteria: Pine Order; Cattails; Oak Family (plus beech family); Grasses (rushes and sedges); Algea (aka seaweeds); Roses; Nettles.

Met 3 Criteria: Elders; Vaccinium (blueberries); Chicoecea (dandelion, etc.); Oregon Grape; Cacti; and many more we  plan to talk about next week!

So if you don’t know where to start learning about plants, just choose one grass, one pine order tree, one oak tree, and cattails. You’ll basically know half of what you’ll ever need right there! Then depending on your region, add a seaweed or cactus, nettles, a rose, bamboo, a nut tree, and/or a fruit tree. Pretty much all you need to know!

But of course, if you really want to learn a ton, go down further into the “3 criteria” list, and you’ll find birches, maples, burdock, thistles, plaintain, comfrey, mullein, yarrow, chickweek, violets, mints, mustards, willows, sages, sumac, ginsings, rubus, ribes, lily, carrot, camus, salal, alders, aspens, poplars, yews, cedars/junipers, lichens, mosses, ferns and horsetail, etc.

Anyway, after our plant lecture, we went outside to learn the fox run in order to keep warm in the cold drizzle, and we sampled some dandelion leaves and douglas fir needles while looking at our potential group study site, which amazingly, some evergreen students had just started restoring by removing ivy that was starting to choke out native salal. We had talked about doing that just last week!

We also reviewed our sensory awareness skills, which you can check out by clicking on this video of us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIhq9d_KP44

Check out our OLYMPIA WOLF JOURNEY CLASS page for a list of upcoming class dates there and in other locations throughout Western Washington.

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