Showing posts with label Late Spring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Late Spring. Show all posts


Scientific Name(s): Magnolia grandiflora
Abundance: common
What: flowers, leaves, maybe seeds
How: flowers pickled; leaves as tea;'re on your own!
Where: landscaping, woods
When: spring flowers, fall seeds, leaves all year
Nutritional Value:
Dangers: some sources list the seeds as edible others list them as poisonous

Medicinal Summary:
Seeds - anti-tumor; anti-inflammatory; anti-bacterial; anti-seizure; sedative (tincture)
Leaves - anti-cancer; antibacterial (tisane, tincture)

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are typically arranged alternately along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Simple, large, and broadly ovate leaves, varying in size among species.

Leaf Color: Leaves will be dark green on top and a bronze color underneath. 

Flower Structure: Magnolias are known for their large, showy flowers with multiple petals and protruding center. They give off a sweet, floral scent.

Flower Size: Flower size can be over a foot in diameter.

Flower Color: Colors range from white and cream to faint pink or yellow.

Fruit (Cone): The fruit is a cone-like structure, often reddish or brown when mature, measuring a few inches in length. Dozens of red seeds can be seen peeking out of each cone when mature.

Seed Size: Seeds are typically 1/4"-1/2 ovals, with a hard, red coat and a white/cream interior.

Bark: Mottled gray-brown and somewhat rough/wrinkled, kind of like elephant skin.

Height: Heights of mature magnolia trees can range from 15 to 80 feet, depending on the species.

Hairs: Seed pods and leaf stems are fuzzy.

Magnolia tree. Note the green tops and brown undersides of the leaves.

Magnolia flower buds.

Flower beginning to open which I feel is the best time to pick them for use.

Open flower. Soon after they open the petals begin turning brown. I don't harvest them once several petals have become spotted.

After the flower petals drop away the fuzzy seedhead is revealed.

Come fall, the red seeds begin bursting out of the seedhead. The hard, red shell covers a light-tan interior.

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.

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

Fifty million years ago Magnolia trees dominated the Earth. Today they are found in the southeastern United States and running down into Central and South America. Oh, how the might have fallen! Yet, there's some pleasure in knowing Texas has some of the last northern holdouts of this ancient race. Looking at these trees, with their giant, ambrosial-scented flowers and thick, leathery leaves, it's not surprising they come from the time of Eocene period, when global temperatures were much hotter than today and plant life thrived.

Look for these trees both as landscaping centerpieces as well as wild in the east Texas woods. They keep their large, somewhat oval leaves all year around. Flowers appear in mid-spring followed by the clusters of hard, red seeds in the fall. The bark is relatively smooth and gray with assorted discolorations of lichen. Mature trees can have round crowns forty feet across.

The strong scent of freshly-opened magnolia flowers can be overpowering and so the flowers themselves aren't eaten raw. Shredding the flowers then pickling using the pickled okra recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, produces something similar to pickled seaweed served at sushi joints. A number of bartenders and distilleries have been experimenting with magnolia flower infused gins to create Texas-specific cocktails.

The leaves, after drying, has a long history of herbal medicinal use to fight cancers. Testing by western science has revealed magnolia leaves contain several compounds that reduce the growth of blood vessels to tumors. Lots of work still remains in turning these into an accurate, predictable medicine.

In the fall the trees are covered with clusters of bright red seeds about the size of small jelly beans. Digging through the research on the edibility of these magnolia beans, one find them listed as both poisonous and edible.Being a scientist, I've eaten three of them so far. At the first bite they have a sweet, pleasant flavor but at the second bite my mouth tasted like it was flooded with gasoline. Bleeech! The seeds have the outer, red coat surrounding pale, tan nutmeat. I suspect that the sweet flavor comes from the coat and the gasoline flavor from the nutmeat or perhaps vice-versa. More experimentation with these beans is required.

50 Million year old! Fights cancers!
Link leads to another website.


Scientific Name(s): Conyza canadensis
Abundance: plentiful
What: leaves, seedlings
How: leaves dried or fresh, seasoning; seedlings boiled
Where: fields, borders, disturbed soil
When: spring, summer
Nutritional Value: protein, calcium, zinc
Dangers: contact may cause skin rash in a small number of people.

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are arranged in an alternate pattern along the stem.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are lanceolate to oblong, measuring about 1 to 4 inches in length and 0.1 to 0.5 inches in width.

Leaf Venation: Venation is pinnate, with a central vein and smaller veins branching off.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margins are entire or slightly toothed.

Leaf Color: Leaves are a dull green, sometimes with a slightly paler underside.

Flower Structure: The plant produces numerous small flower heads, each with a central disk of tiny yellow flowers surrounded by a few white to pale pink ray flowers.

Flower Color: Disk flowers are yellow, while ray flowers are white to pale pink.

Fruit: The fruit is a small, dry, one-seeded achene.

Seed: Seeds are tiny, enclosed within the achenes.

Stem: The stem is single, erect, and begins branching near the top. 

Hairs: There are fine hairs on the stems and leaves, giving the plant a slightly rough texture.

Height: The plant typically grows to a height of about 1 to 3 feet.

Mature horseweed, pulled up from the ground.

Close-up of young, top, lesser-toothed leaves.

Close-up of lower, mature, toothed leaves.

Young horseweed.
Horseweed IGFB11


Close-up of young, hairy stem.

Close-up of top but soon to be lower leaves.

Very close-up of lower horseweed leaf.

Horseweed flower cluster.



Close-up of horseweed flower buds.

Horseweed on the left, Goldenrod on the right.
Horseweed Goldenrod

Goldenrod leaf on the left, Horseweed leaf on the right.
Horseweed Goldenrod

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.

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

Commonly found near the similar-looking goldenrod, horseweed is another plentiful, delicious weed. It prefers sunny, non-acidic soil that has already suffered being disturbed by mankind. Horseweed usually appears in late spring after goldenrod but comes to flowering maturity earlier, usually in later summer. The plant itself is tall, thin, with lance-shaped leaves. Horsehide leaves are found opposite one another with each set alternating 90 degrees from the previous two leaves. Leaves start out fairly lanceolate in shape but become more toothed as they mature. The stem and leaves are both hairy, differing them from the smooth, hairless goldenrod. The plant produces hundreds of tiny, white, dandelion-like flowers which splay out less than those of the bright yellow, pyramids of goldenrod flowers.

Taste and flavor-wise, horseweed is worlds apart from goldenrod. The young, tender seedlings are boiled by some as a somewhat spinach-flavored potherb. As it matures the flavor becomes more herb-like, reminding me of oregano-basil mix. At this stage I really like using its leaves to flavor venison roasts as they slow-cook in a crockpot all day. Really, what better seasoning for wild meat than wild herbs?!

Use a sharp pruning shears to snip off the last 3-4 sets of leaves for use as seasoning. While they can be dried by hanging in your house for later use, the slow-cooking process excels at releasing its flavor even from green, fresh leaves. This plant will continue to grow after this pruning, sometimes putting up multiple new shoots from the point of the cut. You'll often be able to get 2-3 harvests from a single plant over the course of the spring/summer.

Tea made from the leaves has long been used to treat diarrhea and dysentery.

Once the flowers appear in July/August/September its use as food has come to an end. A single plant will produce thousands of drifting seeds, many of which will produce new plants the following spring.

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves; Stem - soothes chronic inflammations of gastrointestinal tract; anti-diarrheal; soothes respiratory tract inflammations; soothes sore throat; antimicrobial; stops bleeding (tisane)

Wild Bergamot

Scientific Name(s): Monarda fistulosa
Abundance: uncommon
What: flower
How: tea; flavoring
Where: shady, moist areas
When: late spring, summer, early fall
Nutritional Value: unknown
Dangers: bees love these flowers

Medicinal Summary:
Flowers/Leaves/Stem - soothes irritated skin; antibacterial; relieves indigestion; sweat inducer; stimulant; diuretic; helps pass kidney stones; pain reliever; expectorant; headache reducer; soothes sore throat (poultice, tisane)

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are arranged opposite-alternating along the stem. Two leaves will be directly opposite one another, but the leaf pairs above and below will be rotated 90 degrees around the stem.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are lanceolate to ovate, measuring 2 to 4 inches in length and 0.5 to 2 inches in width.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate venation is observed, with prominent veins running parallel to each other.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margin is toothed, with small serrations along the edges.

Leaf Color: The leaves exhibit a medium green coloration.

Flower Structure: Flowers are tubular in shape and are arranged in dense, terminal, spherical clusters known as inflorescences.

Flower Color: The flowers display lavender to pink-purple coloring.

Fruit: The fruit consists of small nutlets, but it is not often a significant feature for identification.

Seed: Small and irregularly shaped seeds are present but are not typically used for identification.

Stem: The stem is square-shaped and its color can vary from green to purple.

Hairs: Fine hairs can be found on the stem and sometimes on the leaves of this plant.

Height: Monarda fistulosa typically reaches a height of 2 to 4 feet.

Wild Bergamot flowers.



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.

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

Stands of wild bergamot flowers dot the Texas countryside during summer. They prefer shade and moist soil so look for them under trees along drainage ditches and near ponds. What looks like a single big flower is actually a cluster of many long, tubular flowers...usually swarming with bees! Being a mint, they have the mint family's square, hollow stem and opposite-alternating leaves.

The flower makes a great tea with a sweet, herbal flavor similar to its smell. The flowers can be dried for later use but I prefer them fresh off the plant. A tincture (alcohol extract) made from wild bergamot is supposedly an excellent oral treatment for yeast infections. It also is used medicinally in the same manner as other mints. When smoked it SUPPOSEDLY delivers the antibiotics directly to the lungs to fight lung infections but I can't confirm this.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

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