Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Woodland Wildflowers

As a forager, wild edible plants take top priority. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy non-edibles, either. Wild plants of every type interest me, especially our woodland wildflowers.

I’m not alone in this, either. During my field trips, participants often ask me to identify various plants and many times, the plant is not edible.

Studying wildflowers makes a great and very fulfilling hobby. And since we foragers spend much of our time in the woods, along field edges and along streamsides, we necessarily encounter a host of different wildflowers. Some of these are native, some alien, or introduced. All are interesting.

One wildflower in particular that draws people’s attention is starflower, Trientalis borealis. A member of the primrose family, this 4- to 9-inch plant likes the dappled shade of forest edges. There, it often grows in vast profusion.

Look for two 6- to 7- petaled or pointed star-like flowers (thus the common name) on thin stalks, standing above a whorl of between 5 and 9 long, pointed leaves. Starflowers are blooming now and anyone who goes in shady woodlands ought to locate a stand without any problem.

As with any discipline, it takes time and regular effort to accumulate a personal database. For beginners, this requires a good field guide. My personal favorite, Peterson’s Wildflowers, has it head-and-shoulders above all others simply because of its excellent line drawings. I’ve often said that one good line drawing is worth 1,000 blurry photos.

I also use my Peterson’s guide for pressing flowers. I’ll identify a new flower, pick it and then press it in the book. Right now, my book bulges with pressed and dried specimens. These can last for 100 years or more if properly cared for.

I’ll highlight other wildflowers as time goes on. But for now, starflower is the wildflower of the week.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Tom, I've been trying to id this little gem for some time. Our leaves out here on the west coast are a little less pointed. And I agree with everything you have said in the article. Maybe we can trade books, once mine is finished:)