Picture this: there we are in the Joshua tree desert, just walking along, when I notice a beautiful plant I know and love, and often buy from the grocery store: ground cherry! Well, I get excited and start eating a whole bunch, and Luke and his mom eat one cherry each. Lucas, in an attempt to bust my balls, goes: isn’t this a nightshade? Nightshades, a family of plants, have both very poisonous members, such as Bella Donna or bittersweet nightshade, but also very edible ones such as tomatoes and peppers. All of
A sudden I start to panic: am I sure of my identification? I’ve never seen this plant in the wild! We turn on the iPad Audubon app and lo and behold, Audubon calls this plant extremely poisonous. Fast forward ten minutes, and we are all on the side of the road with our fingers down our throats, forcing ourselves to puke up this supposedly toxic plant.
Well! Upon further research, Audubon was WRONG. Only the unripe fruit is poisonous, once yellow it is safe to eat. Thank god! But this was a good learning experience. Here are the things I discovered:
– I need to trust myself. I really do know my plants
– I need to slow the f down. I get excited about new things and don’t think through sometimes
– I need to be a thousand percent sure of my ID if I’m going to feed it to other people
– Audubon guides suck and give you misinformation
It was a whole roller coaster of an experience and I’m glad the outcome was what it was: the fruit out of our system, and it being edible in the first place. But nature is a powerful thing and though it provides, it can take away, too.
This was a really good lesson.
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!
My buddy Luke’s sister, who we are staying with in L.A. had this great idea for plant presses with fimo. They are beautiful, and are a fun way to infuse nature into your home. It’s simple: collect some plants (I did sequoia, California live oak, and lavender) press them into some fimo, and bake. I wrote their common name on their back, and they make beads, magnets, and wall hangings. Great gifts!
In honour of my journey to Idaho, I’d like to share with you a plant we discovered in the mountain meadows of this lovely place. A member of the rose family, I’ve fallen in love with this slender, pale, and gentle plant.
The plant I’m talking about is old man’s whiskers, so named after the fluffy strings that emerge after the flower has bloomed. An infusion of this plant is known to cure yeast infections.
Yes, you heard it here first.
Old man’s whiskers cures yeast infections. How comical!