Mullein

Scientific Name(s): Verbascum thapsus
Abundance: rare
What: leaves, flowers
How: both leaves and flowers as tea and smoked
Where: dry, sunny areas
When: summer, fall
Nutritional Value: medicinal
Other Uses: dried stalks used for fire drills, leaves used as lamp wicks,
Dangers: fine hairs on leaves can be an irritant. Do not consume seeds.

2nd-year Mullein plants.
Mullein

2nd-year Mullein gone to flowering.
mullienplant

1st-year Mullein plant
mullien1

Close-up of flowers
mullienflower

Mullein

Close-up of leaves
mulliencloseup

Mullein root.
MulleinRoot

Dried mullein stalk.
DriedMullein

Close-up of dried mullein flowers/stalk.
mullein

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
MulleinTX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
MulleinNA

Mullein tea is made from the leaves of a 1st-year plant and is considered a good cough suppressant. A similar tea can be made from the root after cleaning, peeling, and dicing. Although the leaves feel soft and fuzzy they do not make good "wild" toilet paper as the small hairs can get stuck in your skin which is very uncomfortable.

The dried leaves were smoked to help with assorted head/chest sickness. The dried flowers has a pleasant flavor.

Reishi Mushrooms

Scientific Name(s): Ganoderma curtisii, Ganoderma sessile, Ganoderma tsugae
Abundance: rare
What: mushroom
How: tea, tincture
Where: woods, pine stumps, oak trees, wood duff
When: spring, summer, fall
Nutritional Value: very medicinal
Dangers: normal mushroom cautions apply

COLLECTING MUSHROOM REQUIRES 100% CERTAINTY. WWW.FORAGINGTEXAS.COM ACCEPTS NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR IDENTIFICATION ERRORS BY ANY READERS.

Reishi mushrooms growing from an oak.
Reishi_1

Fresh topside of a Reishi mushroom. The stem, if present, is always off-center making it look kind of like the saucer-section of the starship Enterprise. ;-)
Mushroom - Reishi

Underside of the same mushroom shown above. Note it has pores instead of gills.
Mushroom - Reishi

Reishi mushrooms harvested from a dead root beneath the forest floor. These are just past the time to harvest and will not have much medicinal value. The lower, left-hand mushroom is upside down to show the bottom which has turned from white to yellowish.
Reishi_2

Young Reishi growing on an oak tree stump under a birdbath (March in Houston).
Mushroom - Reishi

Same Reishi in early April.
Mushroom - Reishi

Same Reishi in late April.
Mushroom - Reishi

Same Reishi in May. The beige powder everywhere is Reishi mushroom spores.
Mushrooms - Reishi

Same Reishi mushrooms in June.
Mushroom - Reishi


The only public lands you can legally harvest mushrooms are National forests and grasslands.

Reishi mushrooms abound throughout the wooded areas of Texas. Most commonly found growing at the base of dead pine tree stumps, they will also be seen poking up through the pine needles and wood duff of forest floors. Dying hardwood trees such as oaks, sweetgums, elms and locusts are also common homes for these shiny, red mushrooms. Spores of Reishi are brown so make spore prints on white paper. These are hard, woody mushrooms. Originally from the tropics, look for them during hot weather though old, dry, unusable ones can be found all year long.

Being polypores, these mushrooms do not have any gills on their underside. Instead, the bottom of fresh Reishi mushrooms will appear white and smooth, but upon closer inspection/magnification many tiny holes/pores will be seen. This mushroom, especially when growing from the forest floor, will often be kidney-shaped with the stem located at the center of the back/non-curved edge of the mushroom. When growing directly from a dead/dying tree Reishi mushrooms will grow flush off the tree bark and be fan shaped, usually with no stem. The topside of Reishi while be a shiny red, looking as if it were coated with a varnish, while the bottom will be white. There may occasionally be layers of red or white in between the top and bottom. The stems, when present, will be the same red as the top of the Reishi.

The medicinal benefits of this mushroom are almost legendary. It contains compounds that function as anti-virals, anti-tumor and anti-cancer, antibiotics, immune system stimulants, respiratory aids, antioxidants, anti-aging and more. The traditional method to consume these mushrooms is to grind dried Reishi into a fine powder which is then used to make a tea or added to coffee. Once dried, these mushrooms are very tough and hard to grind so a good mortar and pestle are needed or a very powerful coffee grinder.

Another way to extract the medicinal properties of these mushrooms is by making an alcohol tincture. Shredded Reishi are soaked in vodka or other 100-proof alcohol. Half-fill a jar with chopped/shredded Reishi then add enough vodka to cover the mushrooms with 1" alcohol above the Reishi. Tightly cap then vigorously shake the bottle. Shake it 1-2 times a day for six weeks then strain out any mushrooms solids. Place the filtered tincture in a colored, stoppered bottle and store in a cool, dark place. Traditionally, 3-5 drops of this tincture would be taken daily, though do not consider this medical advice.

Often the alcohol-extracted mushroom material was then be boiled in water to extract any water-soluble medicinal molecules. Starting with twice as much water (by weight) as mushrooms, this was boiled down to half. The decoction was allowed to cool, solids were strained out, and then added to an equal amount of the alcohol tincture. This gave a solution that was 25% alcohol which was enough to preserve it. The dosage of this solution was still 3-5 drops a day.

A comprehensive review of the medicinal properties, including many scientific journal referneces, of Reishi mushrooms can found in MycoMedicinals.

The only mimic to Reishi mushrooms are Red-Belted Brackets (Fomitopsis pinicola) which are native to Europe. Being polypores, Red-Belted Brackets are non-toxic though care should always be used when trying a new mushroom. These mushrooms produce yellow spores and grow into thick, many-layered "conks".

When identifying mushrooms always cross reference them with several books to achieve the proper level of certainty. I'm not trying to sell you books, I'm trying to help you avoid a mistake.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Scientific Name(s): Trametes versicolor, also called Coriolus versicolor
Abundance: common
What: mushroom
How: tea, tincture
Where: dead trees
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: medicinal
Dangers:

COLLECTING MUSHROOM REQUIRES 100% CERTAINTY. WWW.FORAGINGTEXAS.COM ACCEPTS NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR IDENTIFICATION ERRORS BY ANY READERS.

Turkey Tail mushroom clusters.
TurkeyTail_1

TurkeyTail_4

TurkeyTail_5

Note the thinness of Turkey Tails.
TurkeyTail_2

Close-up of top of Turkey Tail mushroom. This one is slightly larger than a US quarter coin.
TurkeyTail_6

Close-up of bottom of Turkey Tail mushroom. This one is slightly larger than a US quarter coin.
TurkeyTailBottom

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
TurkeyTail

The only public lands you can legally harvest mushrooms are National forests and grasslands.

Turkey Tail mushrooms are one of the most powerful wood decomposers in the forest and can be found on just about any dead tree. When young and fresh they really do look like the multicolored, striped fan-shaped tails of turkeys. They have bands of red, brown, white, and gray as well as yellow and even purple. They often grow in thick, overlapping patches on dead hardwood and softwood trees though the mushrooms themselves are quite thin.They will grow parallel to the ground and have a slight bowl shape with the lowest point being its attachment to the tree. They will be fan-shaped ranging from half-circles to almost full circles. They give white spore prints.

There are several very similar mushrooms so to be sure you have Turkey Tails ALL the following details must be met:
1. They are polypores. Turkey Tails will not have gills on their underside but many tiny pores from which spores are released.
2. These pores are extremely small but still visible to normal eyes, numbering 3-8 per millimeter. A magnifying glass helps see them properly. If only 1-3 pores per millimeter you have some other Trametes species
3. The topside feels velvety/fuzzy due to many tiny hairs. A magnifying glass will also help to see these hairs.
4. Is the top of the mushroom white to grayish? If so, you do NOT have a Turkey Tail but likely the related, Trametes hiruta, species.
5. Do the colored zones blend/run together or do they have sharply-defined boundaries? If not sharply define it is likely you have Trametes pubescens.
6. The mushroom must be flexible yet thin. Stiff mushrooms are probably Tremetes ochracea.

Turkey Tail tea has a lovely mushroomy flavor. Collect five fresh mushrooms about the size of a quarter. Chop these up and boil them in one cup of water for ten minutes. After boiling them ad a bit of cold water to bring the volume back up to one cup. Strain out the mushroom bits (don't eat them) then drink it once it has cooled off enough to imbibe safely.

Scientific studies have shown Turkey Tail mushrooms contain a number of anticancer and antibiotic compounds, though this information is NOT to be considered medical advice.

Tea made from the fresh mushrooms is a traditional method of accessing these medicinal molecules. Also, an alcohol extract of Turkey Tails can be used to access the medicinal properties of these mushrooms. Half-fill a jar with chopped/shredded Turkey Tails then add enough vodka or other 100-proof alcohol to cover the mushrooms with 1" alcohol above the mushrooms. Tightly cap then vigorously shake the bottle. Shake it 1-2 times a day for six weeks then strain out any mushrooms solids. Place the filtered tincture in a colored, stoppered bottle and store in a cool, dark place. Traditionally, 3-5 drops of this tincture would be taken daily, though do NOT consider this medical advice.

Often the alcohol-extracted mushroom material was then be boiled in water to extract any water-soluble medicinal molecules. Starting with twice as much water (by weight) as mushrooms, this was boiled down to half. The decoction was allowed to cool, solids were strained out, and then added to an equal amount of the alcohol tincture. This gave a solution that was 25% alcohol which was enough to preserve it. The dosage of this solution was still 3-5 drops a day.

A comprehensive review of the medicinal properties, including many scientific journal referneces, of Turkey Tails mushrooms can found in MycoMedicinals.

When identifying mushrooms always cross reference them with several books to achieve the proper level of certainty. I'm not trying to sell you books, I'm trying to help you avoid a mistake.

Nanadina

Scientific Name(s): Nandina domestica
Abundance: invasive
What: berries, young leaves
How: boil leaves twice, berries made into jelly
Where: landscaping, woods
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: wood/roots contain berberine and
Dangers: seeds of berries are mildly toxic, leaves must be boiled twice before eating


Nanadina aka "Heavenly Bamboo" is often used in landscaping but it has escaped into the wild.
Nandina5

Nandina8

Leaves are edible after boiling twice. Younger leaves are better than older ones.
Nandina3

Close-up of Nanadina leaf.
Nandina4

Younger portions of the plant stems have a reddish-purple color.
Nandina6

The pulp of Nanadina berries is edible but not overly flavorful. The seeds contain cyanide compounds and must be removed.
Nandina1

Nandian2

The woody trunks and older stems are peeled and whittled into flavorful toothpicks.
Nandina7

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
NanadinaUSDATX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
NanadinaUSDANA

First arriving to the United States in 1804 AD, Nanadina has become a very common landscaping plant in warmer areas due to its evergreen leaves, attractive red berries, ability to thrive in sunny and shady areas as well as not being susceptible to pests or infections. Birds eat the berries...which has led to this plant showing up in many places it hadn't been planted. Nanadina is equally home in a suburban yard or deep Texas woods, both of which are far from its native Asian homeland.

Like Pokeweed, the leaves of Nanadina must be boiled twice before eating. This removes its toxic compounds as well as tenderizes the leaves. However, the end flavor isn't as pleasing as Pokeweed.

There's some debate on the edibility of the berry pulp but the berry seeds are known to be mildly poisonous due to containing cyanide compounds. The pulp has been used to make jelly but other fruits are usually included for improved flavor.

For those of you who like flavored toothpicks, the woody portions of this plant can be whittled into aromatic toothpicks and "chewing sticks".

The yellow roots contain berberine which is a powerful, broad spectrum antibiotic and also used to dye wool. It also contains higenamine which displays a number of medicinal effects.

Nasturtium

Scientific Name(s): Tropaeolum majus
Abundance: common
What: flowers and leaves
How: raw
Where: yards, flower beds
When: spring, summer
Nutritional Value: Vit. C

Nasturtium flower
Nasturium1

Nasturtium plant
nasturium2

Nasturtium flowers have a strong peppery-radish taste which really spices up a salad. They can also be added to assorted pickled foods for extra flavor. Blend some of the flowers into mayonnaise for spicy sandwich spread.

They also make good companion plants for cabbage-family plants as they drive away harmful insects that want to munch on your plants. They will also help protect tomatoes, cucumbers and fruit trees.

Nutsedge

Scientific name: Cyperaceae spp.
Abundance: plentiful
What: tubers, seeds
How: tubers and seeds can be eaten raw or cooked
Where: fields, lawns, marshes, woods, water
When: summer
Nutritional Value: seeds contain protein and carbohydrates, tubers contain starch
Dangers: Thoroughly wash any plants collected from water to remove harmful bacteria.

One type of nutsedge.
Nutsedge

Another type of nutsedge.
nutsedge2.jpg

"Sedges Have Edges" meaning all nutsedges have triangular stalks.
Nutsedge

Nutsedge seeds shaken from head of plant.
SedgeSeeds

Nutsedge "nut" attached to root.
NutsedgeNutRuler

More nutsedge nuts.
NutsedgeNuts


Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
NutsedgeTX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Nutsedge

Sticking up like small palm trees, thick clusters of nutsedges spot the landscape...usually infuriating the landowner. They can range in size from just a few inches tall and as thin as a pencil lead to multiple feet high with stalks thicker than a pencil. All varieties have several things in common: sedges have edges meaning the stalks are always triangular with some being rounded and others have very sharp corners, the stalks are bare of leaves until the very top which makes me think they look like palm trees. They are almost impossible to eradicate from an area. Their habitats range from cracks in parking lots to yards and fields to into shallow water. Once they mature seed clusters will form on short stalks among the leaves at the top of the sedge in a bunch of different shapes.

Nutsedges were originals cultivated in ancient times as both a food and a source of fiber for paper (papyrus). Along with seeds at the top of the plant there are deposits of starch in pea-sized tubers along the roots. These must be carefully dug out of the ground as the "nuts" will tear away from the roots and remain in the ground if the nutsedge is pulled from the soil. Loose, sandy soil will have a large crop of these root nuts while heavy clay soils will have very few. They can be eaten raw or toasted.

The best "nuts" come from the Chufa Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus var. sativus) which came originally from Africa but quickly spread through North America. Part of this spread is due to deer and turkeys loving these underground nuts and so one can buy bags of Chufa at larger hunting supply stores. Do not eat the purchased nuts as they may have been treated with a surface fungicide. These nuts are meant to be planted in late fall or early spring to grow a crop for the animals to eat starting in late summer.

Chufa nuts are also used to make the drink "Horchata de Chufa" by soaking the ground nuts in water. This is similar to almond milk.

Onion - Wild

Scientific name: Allium species
Abundance: plentiful
What: bulbs and young stems/leaves
How: raw or cooked as seasoning
Where: open, sunny areas
When: all year, more common in cool weather.
Nutritional Values: Vitamin C plus small amounts of other vitamins, minerals, some carbohydrates.
Other Uses: juice acts as a weak insect repellent
Dangers: Rain lilies (Zephyranthes stellaris) look identical to wild onions and can be fatal. Crows Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve) plants also look just like wild onion and may cause upset stomaches. Only wild onion smells like onion. If it smells like onion it is safe to eat, if it just smells like grass it's Rain LilY or Crow's Poison.

A thick stand of wild onions. These are 12"-14" tall.
Wild Onion Leaves IGFB22

A few wild onions...with some poison ivy.
Wild Onion Poison Ivy

A bunch of wild onions close to flowering.
WildOnions

A single wild onion plant.
wildonion2.jpg

Wild onion flowers and seeds.
wildonion1.jpg

Close-up of Wild Onion flowers and seeds.
OnionFlower

Another type of wild onions flowering.
Wild Onion Flowers IGFB22

Wild onion on the Texas-New Mexico border.
Wild Onion West Texas

Close-up of west Texas wild onion flower.
Wild Onion West Texas

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
WildOnion-Texas

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
WildOnion-NorthAmerica


Wild onions form large beds of plants which drive out other plants. They are most common in cooler weather. The whole plant can be used same as chives, from the bulb to the tips of the green stems.

Larger wild onion stems can become too tough to eat unless they are boiled or stewed for a long time, but they tough ones can be easily determined when harvesting. If they are tough to cut/break then they'll be tough during eating unless cooked a long time.

The white flowers that they produce can also be eaten and give an interesting appearance to foods when the flowers are left raw. The flowers eventually turn into fairly hard, nut-like seeds that can also be eaten raw or cooked into dishes.

Wild onions can be dried for later use but be warned, if you dry them in a dehydrator your whole house will smell like onions for days.

There is a minimally toxic mimic of wild onion, which is called Crow's Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve). This plant look almost identical to a small wild onion but it lacks the onion/garlic smell when. Crushed Crow's Poison smell like grass whereas the wild onion smells like onion when crushed. The toxins in Crow's Poison are very weak and in a very low amount. You would have to eat a pound of the plant just to get a bad stomach. When dug up, Crow's Poison will have a cluster of attached bulbs underground.

Rain Lily (HIGHLY POISONOUS)
Rain Lily MIMIC IGFB22

Rain Lily flowers (HIGHLY POISONOUS)
Rain Lily Toxic

Rain Lily Toxic

Crow's Poison (MILDLY POISONOUS)
Crow's Poison

Close-up of Crow's Poison flower (SLIGHTLY TOXIC).
CrowsPoisonFlower

Crow's Poison gets its name from the practice of mixing the mashed-up bulbs of this plant with a handful of grain which was then left out for crows to eat. The crows would get sick, some would die, and the other crows would realize they need to leave the grain of this farm alone.

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