Stalking the Wild Toothwort

 In Apprenticeship, earth tracks, edible plants

Written by 2nd year apprentice, Tamara Anderson 

 

The 2017 plants apprenticeship group met for the first time on Saturday, April 29th for a wander southwest, along a section of the Bruce Trail off Dunby Road, near Orangeville.

 After a discussion on plant foraging ethics and good pruning techniques, Alexis trimmed a branch of a nearby Black Cherry Tree so that everyone could make some cough syrup.  We scored the branch, peeled off the bark and harvested the cambium layer in preparation for making a medicinal syrup at home.

 

 What are the differences between a young Black Cherry, Pin Cherry and Chokecherry?  Does the Black Knot fungus only grow on Choke Cherry?

 The Black Cherry branch was adorned with a bluish green lichen.  Tamara shared a story to help remember that lichens are a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae: “Anne algae met Freddy fungus.  They took a lichen to one another.  Annie fixes the food and Freddy gives moisture and support. Now their relationship is on the rocks.” (story originally shared by Elise, a naturalist and guide in Churchill, Manitoba).

 What species of lichen was growing on the Cherry Tree?

 Next, we visited a Manitoba Maple and compared its drooping flowers to the nearby Sugar Maple.  Lee pointed out that the wind-pollinated flowers take advantage of the leafless branches in the springtime so that the pollen can be carried further. We admired the tiny maple keys of the Manitoba Maple.

 Alexis brought everyone’s attention to the neighboring White Pine tree.  He shared a cool fact that pine trees have 5x more Vitamin C than the same amount of orange juice.  Wow!  He also reminded everyone to steep the pine needles in already-boiled water to keep the vitamins intact.  Alexis also recommended eating pine seeds raw or adding them to oatmeal and/or cookie recipes. 

Checking out the new growth on this Tamarack tree

 What is Alexis’s recipe for dandelion cookies sprinkled with pine seeds?

 We practiced using Newcomb’s Wildflower Identification guide to key out dandelion and learned that the seeds are antibacterial.

 Are children at risk of an allergic reaction to the latex in dandelion and other similar plants?

 What does Cat’s Ear look like?  Where does it grow?  Is it a poisonous look-a-like to dandelion?

 After identifying Coltsfoot with the Newcomb’s key, we observed and sampled some wild mint.

 Was it spearmint, water mint or peppermint?

 The afternoon wrapped up with a viewing of a Trout Lily corm, a sampling of wild leek leaves, a taste of garlic mustard roots and toothwort root.  The toothwort root tasted like horseradish.  During a sit-spot on an ephemeral-covered hillside, we heard the “kek, kek, kek” of a bird of prey (a Cooper’s hawk or maybe a Goshawk).  The chickadees alarmed.  Shortly afterward, a Broad-winged Hawk gave a higher pitched sound which did not cause a bird alarm.

 Do Broad-winged hawks only eat small mammals?  If yes, does this mean that they do not cause bird alarms?

Harvesting Toothwort. There is a way to take only a piece of the root so that the plant lives on.

 We followed the creek up to a spring and wandered up through a cedar forest to the trailhead.  It was a tree-mendous day.

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