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Archive for December, 2010

In 2011 I will be sharing with you why you need to respect and bring native plants into your life.  I will be doing this in a pragmatic way. First I am going to take up the post-a-week challenge made by WordPress and will be updating my blog weekly. 

 I will share with you why it is so imperative that humans stop destroying their natural environment.  I will share with you the science behind why native plants are so important.  I will teach you to identify native plants so that you can start visiting them in the wild places and start bringing them back into your health and wellness regimes, your yards, your cities and biomes.

I will be listing more activities found in Cascadia (the area from British Columbia to Northern California) that will help you connect with the both native plants and those who can teach you what you need to know.

You can help me.

Tell me what is going on in your area of the world that inspires others to protect native plants.  Share inspired comments to this website (skillshare).  Tell others about this website and this project.

I will be learning more about the technology offered by WordPress and available on this website.  I promise to learn how to tweet, digg, RSS, etc. I know I can do it, I know I can do it…

I will be publishing my book as an e-book during 2011.  It will include illustrations and watercolors that I have completed of native plants, plant identification charts, maps, and other useful information.  This book has 18 chapters.  Here is preview of the chapters.

Table of Contents

Introduction: finding our way back, reconnecting with the plant world. 1

Chapter 1. Plant Community, human community (White Oak) 5

Chapter 2. Learning the lay of the land (Oregon Grape) 11

Chapter 3. How to identify and “key” native plants (Miner’s lettuce) 19

Chapter 4. Building shelters from plants (Willow) 27

Chapter 5. Growing your own fibers: Grasses, sedges, tules and fiber plants (Cat-tail) 29

Chapter 6. Seeds and wild plants. What is valuable?. 31

Chapter 7. The great harvest (Wapato) 33

Chapter 8. Digging in the dirt- exploring earthworms and mycelium.. 35

Chapter 9. Using native plants as medicine (Pacific Ninebarks) 37

Chapter 10. Spring plants in Cascadia (Nettles and the potherb) 39

Chapter 11. Stalking the wild plant – Tools, geography, maps (Horsetail) 41

Chapter 12. Fermenting the bounty (Red and Blue Elderberry) 43

Chapter 13. Bringing the native plant and pollinators home. 45

Chapter 14. Twenty important native plants you need to know.. 46

Chapter 15.Place where the spirit dwells- First Nations- the ethnobotany of native plants  47

Chapter 16. Generational Injustice (St. John’s Wort) 49

Chapter 17. Bringing Native plants back into our mechanized world (Cats Claw) 53

Chapter 18.  Resources and Tools: books, gear, online resources. 57

WordPress will not allow me to publish the ebook or link to the ebook on this website so I am looking for other avenues to let you know how to support the Radical Botany project.  I will find a way to let others purchase the book and support this project to educate others about native plants .  I will continue to update this blog weekly and continue to teach what I know and what I am learning. 

  I am looking into starting a non-profit education project.  I hope to locate to a more rural area in Cascadia where I can have a greenhouse and native plant nursery and school.  I want to live next to the forest.

So those are my resolutions for 2011.  I hope that you will contribute in a positive way.

See you in the deep woods – Let us begin…

Happy New Year! 

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Today I went for a walk in the Cascadian coast range.  I was looking for greens to make a yule wreath for my front door.  It is a ritual I do each year to thank the earth for giving me sustance.  I do not cut the greens but instead I walk in the forest and whatever appears before me on the ground, I forage.  Today as I walked along a came upon a beautiful waterfall, bursting at the seams after heavy rains.  The wild birds twittered around me as they jumped from branch to branch.  I was gifted with many beautiful plants.  Recent heavy winds had pruned the gifted plants.  They lay on the ground before my feet.  Whatever is before me, is what I am to use. 

My wreath will consist of long boughs of a red cedar, pollen cones intact.  Shorter fuller boughs of the douglas fir, salal, Oregon grape, and pearly everlasting.  I also picked up some cones of the douglas fir.  It was a wonderful day.  I was quite high up in the coast range so the rain started to turn to snow and I hiked through the woods. The mountain kept asking me “when will you live here?”  “Someday” is my answer.

I do not cut down Christmas trees anymore.  I make my wreath of earth gifted plants and I decorate a large Jade Plant that lives in my home with small ornaments of dried flowers, cones, stones, shells.  It all works for me. Others have other traditions. It all works.

On December 22 the days will start being longer.  Winter will begin to turn to spring.  Thank you earth.  Thank you sky.

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Mistletoe and the Garry Oak Tree

At this time of the year in many western and European countries you will see mistletoe put up as a holiday decoration.  Is it a native plant in the Cascadian bioregion?  Yes.  It is called a hemi-parasitic plant.  That is it lives in a symbiotic relationship with other plants and is also considered a parasite to trees.

There are many myths about the power of mistletoe to bring humans together.  Thus it is the custom of many to place mistletoe above a door and encouraging people to kiss.  In one custom men have the privilege of kissing a woman under it- plucking each time a berry from the stem.  When all the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.

But mistletoe has other important uses to the forest ecosystem.

There are actually three types of mistletoe located in our bioregion. Two live in conifers.  The Douglas dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium douglasii) lives in the Douglas fir.  And the Western dwarf mistletoe (arceuthobium campylopodum) is most often found in the Western Hemlock but can also be found on pine, juniper, and other conifer trees.  And last, the most popular type of mistletoe is found in the Garry or White Oak located in oak savannahs throughout the region.

Garry Oak mistletoe (Phoradendro flavescens) is the type popular during our Solstice/Christmas season.  It was long thought to be purely parasitic and might even kill the host tree.  Now, after years of study the plant is actually known to be part of a unique ecosystem that encouraged oak tree propagation.

For instance the name Mistletoe is attributed to old German and old English language and means twig dung.  Because birds eat the seeds and the seeds are deposited in their dung and fertilized. The same birds eat other cone seeds, and acorn’s and carries them to other sites to be planted and fertilized.   The acorn of the Oak is picked up by squirrels that also come to the oak for the berries of the mistletoe.

The mistletoe found in conifers is very unique.  It causes the tree to produced odd shaped branches that grow closely together in a thatch.  This is called a “witches broom”. This type of mistletoe is often overlooked because it occurs high up in the conifer.  This thatch makes a wonderful nesting site for some very vulnerable birds in our region such as the Northern Spotted Owl and the Marbled Murrelet.  A wide range of animals depend on mistletoe for food, consuming leaves, young shoots, transferring pollen between plants and dispersing it’s seeds.

Medicinal aspects of Mistletoe

First peoples and people who live in Western and Northern Europe used Mistletoe to cure aliments of the circulatory and respiratory system.  A tincture or infusion was prepared and the solution was used sparingly.  The overuse of the plant parts can cause gastric problems that can lead to diarrhea or worse. It is not uncommon for a teacher to tell children that the berries are poisonous.

According to the book “A Modern Herbal” by Mrs. M Grieve, mistletoe was traditionally used as an effective treatment for convulsive disorders such as epilepsy. Mistletoe has also been used as an experimental treatment for cancer, though scientific evidence of its effectiveness as a cancer cure is limited. Medicinal forms of mistletoe include teas, tinctures and injections. Mistletoe extracts that are depleted of lectins, one of the toxins in mistletoe, are less likely to produce adverse reactions.

IS Mistletoe poisonous?

Mistletoe can make cats and dogs and children quite ill if ingested in high enough doses. It is best to keep mistletoe up high while decorating.  Young children may think the berries are eatable.  But it is like most powerful healing plants, a very useful plant if used correctly.

In modern times mistletoe has been studied to see if it can treat cancer. It was found to stimulate the immune system increasing the amount of white cells that attack the malignant cells. Much more investigation needs to be done to understand how this happens.  And a homeopathic does of mistletoe was formulated by Rudolph Steiner as he believed that mistletoe diluted (homeopathic) could treat a faltering of the body’s spiritual defenses.    Again it is best to contact a qualified herbalist, naturopath or physician. 

For more about native plants used in celebrations check out this excellent article on Wikipedia called “Festive Ecology

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