Tag Archives: ethnobotany

Bad ass Cali plants

I went to Joshua tree, home of dr Seuss and U2. It was my second time there, and seeing some of the plants there felt like meeting up with old friends again, who I haven’t seen in years. I really wanted to share the sites and smells of some of these plants with you all!

Joshua trees, or yucca brevifolia, is the iconic tree of the park. It is shockingly not a woody plant! It’s part of the agave family, which explains why the sap Luke and I chewed on was so sweet. The leaves are used for making rope and weaving baskets.


Mistletoe!! That plant you’ve made out beneath is actually a parasitic plant quite widespread! It’s name apparently comes from the Anglo-Saxon which literally translates to shit-on-a-stick, which is how their seeds get spread, through bird butts! The plant then grows into the branch of a tree or shrub, sucking nutrients like a vampire. Apparently, you can use the sticky from the berries as a trap by rubbing the berries between your hands, and then rubbing the sticky on a stick or rock where a small animal will land and become stuck! Fascinating!

You may not recognize creosote, but I guarantee if you recognized the smell if you crushed it’s leaves in your hand. It smells like telephone pole (!!!) which are oftener covered in this chemical substance (though not derived from this plant) to protect it from rotting. Creosote releases this chemical to keep other plants from growing nearby it, an then clones itself. The oldest plant has been dated to almost 12,000 years old. Medicinally, it is used by indigenous communities as one of those generic treatment for STDs, chickenpox, etc.

Lastly, I present to you honey mesquite, a member of the pea family which was a crucial bean crop for the local population, especially because it usually fruits during drought years. I’ve never had the chance to try it, but I hear it’s gluten free!
Hope you get a chance to meet these bad ass plants some day, and when you do, tell them I say hi!


The Delicious Mints

Mints are a huge family of plants, and they’re pretty easy to identify. They all have square stems, opposite leaves, and tend to be fragrant. They also have flowers that often look like mouths, known as bilabiate, and the flowers are found on the top of plant. And, lucky for us, most of them are edible, and none of them will kill you!

The other cool thing about mints is that they are incredibly easy to grow, both in your garden, and all over abandoned or disturbed fields. They’re easy to find easy to harvest, and you don’t need to be too concerned about over harvesting, because mints will proliferate if you harvest a lot of them! They’re a plant that loves neglect.

Use your mints for cooking, and for tea. Mints are especially good for stimulating digestion. Many mints also tend to calm people down, like catnip and lemon balm, which are known as nervines, for their smoothing effect on the nerves. Mostly, it’s just exciting to find/grow spices that are so easily recognizable by many.

Fun Fact about Plants

Did you know plants had placentas? I sure didn’t. These green little beings are coming way closer to us vertebrates then I expected! Plant placentas provide nutrition to the seed (or ovule), which is found inside the ovary, or carpel. The placenta is connected to the seed through a short filament, very much like an umbilical cord. Who would have thunk?

The question is, do seeds have bellybuttons?