Plant & Tree

Trees

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Here we will be compiling information on trees and their uses, both practical and mythological. The profiles will grow as we find out more, becoming more useful as we go.

Cauliflower fungus

Sparassis cripa

cauliflower fungusThe cauliflower fungus or wood cauliflower as it is otherwise known is a very intriguing looking fungus that we first found whilst walking through the new forest in the month of October. It is very easy to see why it came to be called after the cauliflower with a large white florette made up of thin, wavy clusters of flesh, roughly 10-50cm in diameter. When young it has a clean white/cream, moist appearance, which yellows, dries and stiffens with age. It has a slight cheese aroma. We found this to be one of the very best mushrooms we have eaten, if a little difficult to clean sometimes as dirt and pine needles become trapped in the flesh of the fungus.

Distribution

This fungus appears mostly in northern Europe and is fairly common where conditions are favourable.

Habitat

Cauliflower grows in coniferous woodland, usually found at the base of pine trees growing amongst the loose pine needles

Fruiting

It is usually found in prime season, September to November.

Edibility

One of the finest tasting mushrooms there is, a wonderful treat.

Similar species

Cauliflower fungus is fairly distinctive, but those who have not yet met this fungus could possibly confuse it with the zoned rosette or the rosso coral.

Hayfever Remedy from native Herbs

To ease hayfever in the summertime, make tea with elderflowers, fresh nettles, plantain, eyebright, mallow/marshmallow and mullein. Mix in a spoon of local honey if you can find it.

Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherd’s Purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris

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Folk Names

Mother’s heart, pickpocket, witches’ pouches.

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shepherds-purse-1

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Food

The young leaves can be eaten raw in spring and cooked as the year and their bitterness progress. The tops of flower stalks can be snacked upon and put in stews (though rather stringy).

As autumn arrives you can collect the heart shaped seeds and dry them over a few days in the sunshine (put them away somewhere dry at night or in rain). When powdered, the dried seeds can be sprinkled onto food for a bit of spice.

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Medicine

Shepherd’s Purse works with the blood. A strong infusion is used to slow and stop bleeding from a wound, and is a good anti-septic.

As a leaf tea it constricts the blood vessels and controls high blood pressure in an emergency.

Tea is taken as a tonic when feeling ill or when you need to stimulate your bowels (don’t drink regularly for more than one week).

The plant’s seeds resemble kidneys and are said to help the kidney function.

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Lore

The name Pickpocket came from farmers claiming the plant ‘took the heart from their land’.

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Other Details

You will find the plant growing in fields, on waysides and on any type of wasteland throughout Britain.

Teasel

At this time of year there are the skeletons of teasel plants gracing us with their silhouettes.

We have been wondering what its uses are for quite a time. We recently found some of its story.

a-teasel

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Teasel

Dipsacus fullonum (D.Sylvestris)

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Folk Names

Card Weed, Barber’s brush, Gypsy’s Comb

Teasel close up

Teasel close up

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Medicine

Teasel is a good plant for walkers. It helps injuries to your joints and tendons. It eases muscle pain and inflammation, weakness of legs, knees and lower back. It is the root that is used. Crush it as an external poultice or make a weak decoction (brew).

It strengthens the nerves and eases chronic fatigue.

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Practical

Taesan is the Anglo-Saxon name for ‘cleaning cloth’. Fuller’s Teasel is used to raise nap in freshly-made wool without breaking the cloth.

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Lore

The Bath of Venus is rainwater collecting in cups where the leaves surround the stem. This water is said to be a great cleanser, good as an eye wash, for beautiful skin and getting rid of warts.

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Sources:

Brunton-Seal, Julie, Seal, Mathew. Hedgerow Medicine. (Merlin Unwin Books, 2008)


Rosebay Willowherb

Rosebay Willowherb

Epilobium angustifolium

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Folk Names

Fireweed, ranting widow, apple pie,

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Rosebay Willowherb is an adaptable friend. Most parts of the plant are edible, medicinal and have other fantastic properties. In recent eastern adventures, Ed found it growing in abundance through Southern Siberia all the way to Mongolia. This is a good plant to know.

Rosebay, growing beside fields

Rosebay, growing beside fields

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Food

Its not the best food, but being so abundant can be very useful. In the Springtime the young shoots and leaves can be eaten raw, and as they get older need to be steamed or boiled for 10 minutes. Treat the shoots like asparagus.

The root can be cooked as a vegetable, added to stews.

If you split the stem you can scrape out the sweet pith as a cucumber-like snack, though this can be quite astringent..

The flower stalks when in bud can be snacked upon raw and added to soups for flavour.

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Medicine

Peel the roots, gently pound them and use as a poultice for skin damage such as burns, sores, swellings, boils and other similar hindrances.

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The leaves as a tea act as a tonic for the whole system, helping digestion and inflammation, but don’t drink too much because they’re also a laxative (unless you need loosening).

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Practical

In autumn the downy seed hairs can be used as fast lighting tinder (similar to thistle down), very effective with flint and striker. Make sure you have a secondary tinder ready as the down burns away quickly.

The down was also used to stuff mattresses and mixed with cotton or fur to produce warm clothing.

The pith when dried and powdered can be applied to hands and face for protection against the cold.

The fibre from the outer stem is used as a cordage material.

A very good source of nectar for bees. Bee keepers sometimes move to newly opened forestry land where the plant is quick to colonize.

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Lore

Margaret Baker warns that the Willowherb “will cause the death of the mother of any child who picks it”. So perhaps this is a plant for grown-ups to gather.

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Other Details

Fireweed likes to grow on freshly cleared ground : woodland clearings, at the edge of the wood, waste places (including towns), scree slopes and rubbish tips (though best not to use plants from such places).

Fireweed is tall, pink flowered with willow-like leaves. It does not normally grow alone.

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Sources:

Brown, Tom.Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants. (Berkley Books, 1985)

Launert, Edmund. Edible and Medicinal Plants of Britain and Northern Europe. (Hamlyn, 1981)

Mears, Ray and Hillman, Gordon. Wild Food. (Hodder and Stoughton, 2007)

Baker, Margaret. Discovering the Folklore of Plants. (Shire Publications, 1969)

Hatfield, Gabrielle. Hatfield’s Herbal. (Penguin Books, 2007)


St John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort – Hypericum Perforatum

St John’s wort, St John’s wort
My envy whosoever has thee
I will pluck thee with my right hand
I will preserve thee with my left hand
Whoso findeth thee in the cattle field
Shall never be without kine.

Gaelic Names
Achlasan Chaluimchille (armpit package of Columba)
Allas Muire (image of Mary), lus na Maighdinn Muire (Virgin Mary’s Herb)

Folk Names
Balm of the warrior’s wound, Aaron’s beard

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Medicine
St.John’s Wort brings sunshine to the nerves. Calming anxiety, tension, menstruation, depression and extreme emotional states, it sedates you somewhat and reduces pain by calming the nervous system. Dry out the whole plant above ground and use it in tea.
When you put the plant in oil it turns the liquid bright red. This oil can be used for sunburn, bruises and mild burns. A skin rub is made by adding melted beeswax to the warmed oil. When cold this is applied to wounds, bruises and burns.

HERE is how to make the oil.

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