Trillions of trilliums and other adventures in the understory

 In earth tracks, edible plants, Edibles, foraging, gathering, harvest, Herbal Products, herbalism, Herbalogy, medicinal plants, Medicinals, Mentoring, naturalist, nature connection, nature education, Plants
Story of the Day for Sunday May 17

 After a beautiful Saturday night potluck full of wild foods, and a beautiful fire, our plants group got up on Sunday morning with a transplanting mission. In the long grasses under some pine trees, tiny sugar maple seedlings were trying to grow. Before the mower could reach them, it was our plan to plant some of these maples elsewhere.

Mixing the native soil with some of the potting soil so that the young plants would not be shocked, we each took turns digging out two seedlings and potting them up for our trees and stewardship weekend in June.

We then got into vehicles, and headed to an established hardwood forest on the Niagara Escarpment. Moments after being on the trail, there were little bunches of white flowers and single magenta-pink blossoms lining the way. What were some of the differences between the various types of native cherry we wondered? Choke, Pin and Black Cherry. . . and what (if anything) can be done with their blossoms?

Past honeysuckles, wild strawberries and endless amounts of deer browse, we climbed. Stopping at a Hop Hornbeam, a member of the Birch family, we found out that it has edible seeds that hang in a cluster similar to hops. The maple and ash trees nearby also have edible seeds, which are more palatable before maturing, as the older, the more bitter they seem to get.

Hiking up the slope, we encountered many, many trilliums, varying in colour from bright white to dark maroon, some with a distinctive ripe smell that attracts some of the pollinators (tricked into thinking they will get a carrion meal). There were also some examples of both false and true Solomon’s seal, which can be differentiated by the way they flower.

Many spectacular orchids were found, including the Yellow Lady Slipper, whose flower smelled of mango! , and a beautiful patch of pink and white Showy Orchis. After a lunch atop the mountain, we listened to birds and even saw a beautiful Rose-Breasted Grosbeak.

Traversing down the slope, on our way to refill our water bottles from a natural aquifer, we passed the Coffee Plant – a cool find with plenty of further research about how to get that delectable brew from it!

Visiting the “supermarket” of the lowlands, a name Euell Gibbons imparted upon Cattail, we tasted some young shoots and discussed survival uses and foods from all seasons that could be made from this plant. Even the mucous/slime that lines the inner cattail can be useful as a bit of natural topical painkiller.

As we headed back to our starting point, before closing our circle with porcupine browsed poplar buds, we encountered our final member of the Solomon Seal family – Star flowered – with some very young and delectably edible shoots. Our last edible find – a morel! To more  adventures next time!

Written by:  Lee Earl – 2nd Year Plants Apprentice

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