Showing posts with label Rare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rare. Show all posts


Scientific Name(s): Agave spp.
Abundance: rare
What: flowers, stalks, leaves, body/root, sap
How: flowers are cooked; flower stalks are roasted; sap is fermented (woo hoo!); leaves are cooked; body/root is slow roasted.
Where: dry areas, landscaping
When: all year
Nutritional Value: Calories
Dangers: Raw agave juice can cause long-lasting burns to skin, eyes, and other sensitive tissues. Be careful when cutting this plant so as not to splatter this juice on you. These plants also contain large quantities of saponins (soap).

Medicinal Summary:
Leaf Pulp - antibacterial; anti-inflammatory; wound-healing (poultice)

Leaf Arrangement: Rosette formation, with leaves emerging from a central point at the plant’s base.

Leaf Shape: Lanceolate, thick, and fleshy, typically ranging from 2 to 6 feet in length.

Leaf Venation: Leaves display parallel venation, typical of monocots.

Leaf Margin: Margins are often armed with sharp spines or teeth.

Leaf Color: Varies from green to blue-green, sometimes with variegation or lighter markings.

Flower Structure: Produces a tall, branched inflorescence, with numerous small flowers on each branch; the flowering stalk can be up to 30 feet tall.

Flower Color: The flowers are usually yellow or white, depending on the species.

Fruit: The fruit is a capsule or occasionally a berry, containing black or brown seeds.

Seed: Seeds are flat, black, and oval, varying in size but generally small.

Stem: The stem is short and thick, primarily serving as the base for the leaf rosette; elongates significantly when flowering.

Hairs: Leaves are generally smooth, without significant hair presence.

Height: Leaf rosettes typically reach 2 to 5 feet in height, with flower stalks growing up to 30 feet during blooming.



Agave flower stalk.

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.

Looking like a cross between a cactus and a squid, slow-growing agave plants are found wild the arid Southwest but also as a decorative landscaping plant all over Texas and the South. Mature agave can stretch up to 16’ across and send flower stalks 10’ or more into the sky.

Agave plants are a regular smorgasbord of food, though all parts of the plant except for the sap must be cooked in some manner to make them sweet and destroy their bitter-tasting saponins. Unlike most wild edible plants, when harvesting agave you want to find the biggest, oldest plants as these will have the most sugar. Traditionally the flowers and leaves were boiled or roasted. After removing the leaves the body & root should be slow roasted, often for two days, to release its sugars. The sweet flesh is chewed off the fibrous body/root. Flower stalks are also roasted, but for shorter time as they are smaller. Note that removing the flower stalk will kill the plant. After roasting the food can be dried and stored for later use.

If the top of the agave plant is removed but the root left in the ground sap will flow up for hours. Collect and ferment this sap to form a weak tequila. A sweet syrup can also be pressed from the roasted body & root of agave. This syrup forms the basis for mescal alcohol. The seeds can be toasted then ground into a flour.

Uncooked roots contain high levels of saponins, a soap-like compound which will lather in soft water and can be used for washing. This soap was also used by natives to kill fish by tossing pounded globs of root into small ponds. The soap screws up the functioning of fishes' gills, causing them suffocate and float to the surface.

Fibers in the leaves can be used for cordage. Pound the fleshy leaves between two logs to separate the fibers from pulp, then braid into rope.

Warning: The moist, fleshy interior of the leaves is somewhat acidic and can cause permanent eye damage.

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.


Scientific name: Tilia americana
Abundance: rare
What: flowers, leaves, buds, inner bark
How: leaves raw in salad, buds to nibble, flowers for tea, cambium (inner bark) raw or boiled for calories
Where: Sunny edges of woods
When: buds in late winter, young leaves spring/summer, flowers summer, cambium all year
Nutritional Value: Leaves contain vitamins and minerals, inner bark has carbohydrates
Other uses: cordage from bark, not a good firewood

Leaf Arrangement: Basswood trees typically have alternate leaf arrangement along the branches.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are generally large, heart-shaped, with lengths ranging from 4 to 6 inches.

Leaf Venation: Prominent veins are visible on the leaves, contributing to their overall structure.

Stem Characteristics: The stems are usually slender, and the trunk can reach diameters of 2 to 4 feet.

Flower Cluster: Basswood trees produce fragrant, pendulous clusters of small, pale-yellow to cream-colored flowers in late spring or early summer.

Flower Structure: Individual flowers are small and have five petals. Flowers can be around 0.2 to 0.3 inches in size.

Seed: The seed is enclosed in a papery wing, forming a structure known as a samara. The wings can measure around 1 to 2 inches in length, looking like a leaf. A several seed capsule pairs, all branching from a single stem, dangle down from the leaf-like wing.

Seed Characteristics: Seeds are small and brown, typically located at the center of the samara.

Height: Basswood trees can reach heights of 60 to 80 feet, with variations based on age and growing conditions.

Bark: The bark of young trees is smooth and light gray, becoming more furrowed and darker with age. Bark color can range from light gray to dark gray-brown.

Hairs: Young shoots and leaves may have fine hairs, but mature leaves are generally smooth. Inspect young shoots and leaf undersides for pubescence.

Fruit: The fruit consists of the winged samaras, which are produced in clusters as described above, and become tan to light brown as they mature.

Basswood tree used in urban landscaping.

Basswood leaf and flower/nut bract (long, narrow leaf-like thing).

Basswood flower cluster and flower bract.

Close-up of Basswood flowers.

Basswood leaves and seedpods.



Basswood leaves.

Almost-ripe Basswood nuts in the fall.

Ripe Basswood nuts.

Basswood bark.

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.

Stately basswood trees range from 60 to 120 feet tall with shallowly-furrowed, somewhat greyish bark and round crowns. There are thirty species in North America with Tilia Americana and Tilia caroliniana being the most common in Texas. Basswoods prefer loose, well-drained soil with access to moisture, in particular river flood-plains and in low areas of woods.

The sweet sap, running in the spring before the leaf buds open, can be boiled down into a syrup or just drank as-is. Be sure to sterilize your tools before using them to cut or drill into the tree to collect sap or inner bark. This reduces the chance of a fungal infection striking the basswood.

A very delicious, spicy tea is made from the small flowers of basswood trees, which appear in the spring. The flowers can also be eaten raw. Bees love these flowers and often the tree can be found just by listening for the buzz of the hundreds of bees collecting its nectar. The resulting honey has a flavor imparted from the basswood nectar.

The young leaf buds and leaves can be eaten raw and have a slightly sweet flavor similar to the flowers. These parts can also be cooked like pot-herbs.

In the fall the nuts make a good trailside nibble while hiking, but only eat the inner meat, not the nuts’ outer shells.

The calorie-rich cambium layer, just under the bark, is stripped, finely diced, and boiled into a porridge-like mush to eat any time of the year. In Europe towards the end of World War II basswood sawdust was added to bread to try and produce enough loaves to fill everyone’s belly.

This cambium layer can be used to make strong fibers that can be woven into rope, containers and crude cloth. This inner bark must be soaked for up to two weeks to rot away the majority of the plant’s cells, leaving behind just the fibers. The wood itself is great for carving and for making the body of guitars.

Buy my book! Idiots Guide 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.
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.


Scientific name: Arctium minus, Arctium lappa
Abundance: rare
What: young leaves, flower stalks, 1st year root
How: young leaves raw, as tea, stir-fried, or boiled in 2-3 changes of water; peel green skin of plant stalks to reveal inner white core which is eaten raw or cooked; root of 1st-year plants less than 1" in diameter and must be peeled then boiled in two changes of water until tender; roasted roots for coffee
Where: open fields, sunny areas, woods
When: leaves in spring, flower stalks in summer, roots summer and fall
Nutritional Value: Roots contain some minerals, vitamins C & B6, and some calories. Leaves contain many vitamins and phytochemicals
Other uses: you can stick a bunch of the burrs together to make a crown, but that usually ends badly
Dangers: burrs are clingy, do not confuse with toxic Cocklebur (Xanthium pennsylvanicum)

Medicinal Summary:
Root - liver protective and accelerator; anti-inflammatory (tisane, tincture)

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are arranged alternately along the stem.

Leaf Shape: The basal leaves are large, broad, and heart-shaped.

Leaf Venation: They exhibit pinnate venation, with a prominent central vein from which smaller veins branch out.

Leaf Margin: The margins of the leaves are wavy and slightly toothed.

Leaf Color: They are dark green on the upper surface and lighter, often gray-green, and woolly underneath.

Flower Structure: Burdock has globular flower heads, clustered at the ends of branches.

Flower Color: The flowers are primarily purple or pinkish.

Fruits: The fruits are burrs, which are prickly and hook-like, aiding in seed dispersal by clinging to animals and clothing.

Seeds: Seeds are small, enclosed within the burrs.

Stems: Stems are stout, ridged, and can reach significant heights.

Roots: Long, slender taproot approximately 1.5" in diameter at the upper, thickest part and growing over 3 feet in length. Outer skin of roots is brown and inner flesh is white to off-white in color.

Hairs: The undersides of leaves and the stems may have fine hairs.

Plant Height: It typically grows about 3 to 4 feet in the first year and can reach over 6 feet in the second year.

Burdock plant. Note the large, wavey-edged leaves.



Mature Burdock plant with flowers and immature seed bur. Leaves towards top of plant are much smaller than those at base.

Close-up of Burdock flower and seed bur.

Burdock stem.

Burdock root (partial).

More burdock roots. These are up to 32 inches long.

Close-up of dried Burdock bur. Not the roundish shape and long, thin hooks.

Close-up of cluster of Burdock burs.

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

Burdocks prefer moist areas such as along stream banks and shady, wooded areas that stay wet. These biennial (live two years) plants produces large leaves the first year followed by flower stalks, flowers, smaller leaves, and clingy burs the second year. Both the Common Burdock (Arctium minus) and the Great Burdock (Arctium lappa) are edible. The outer rind of both the roots and plant stalks is very bitter and must be removed. If the root still has some bitterness boiling with changes of water will remove it. I find the peeled roots have a delicious sweet/savory flavor and a texture similar to bamboo shoots.

The peeled roots can also be used to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Dice the roots then roast them to your preferred level of darkness in an oven at 400F. Grind these roasted roots in a coffee grinder than either use as-is or mix with regular coffee grounds.

The roots are also excellent when pickled using the Ball Book of Canning recipe for pickling okra.

Cocklebur (Xanthium pennsylvanicum), which are toxic, also produce clingy burs. However, the burs of Cocklebur are much more oblong/cigar shaped than Burdock burs. Also, Cocklebur leaves are sharply toothed whereas the Burdock leaves have a wavy edge.

Cocklebur plant. Toxic, do not eat!

Close-up of the toxic Cocklebur leaf.

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.

Corn Salad

Scientific Name(s): Valerianella olitoria, V. locusta, & other Vealerianella species
Abundance: rare
What: leaves
How: raw or cooked when young before flowers appear
Where: moist shaded yards, borders, and woods
When: fall, winter (in Houston), spring
Nutritional Value: Vitamins A,Bs,C
Dangers: Beware the inedible, similar-looking Cudweed.

Leaf Arrangement: Forms a basal rosette.

Leaf Shape:  Club-shaped (oblanceolate to spatulate) with a broader base narrowing towards the tip. 

Venation: Pinnate, with a central vein more pronounced than the lateral ones.

Margin: Entire, with smooth edges.

Leaf Color: Dark green, with a slightly glossy appearance.

Flower Structure: Tiny flowers grouped in loose cymes at the top of the stem.

Flower Color: Pale blue to white, sometimes with a hint of pink.

Fruit: A small, dry nutlet, less than 1/8" in diameter, slightly lobed.

Seeds: Typically one seed per fruit, small and enclosed within the nutlet.

Stem: Grows in a fractal pattern - one stem coming out of the ground which branches into two stems, and each of those may branch into another two, and each of those may branch again into two before ending with the flowers at the tips.

Hairs: Generally lacks hairs, presenting a smooth surface.

Plant Height: Ranges from 6 to 20 inches in height.

Young corn salad, ready for picking.

Mature Corn Salad (doesn't taste good at this point)

Close-up of Corn Salad flowers

Close-up of the Corn Salad stem. Note how the stem leaves encircle the stem itself.
Corn Salad

Texas distribution, attributed to U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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

I have found it in Harris & Montgomery counties as well as assorted places in East Texas, from Dallas to the Louisiana border.

Quickly sprouting up in late spring, Corn salad appears in sandy, shaded soil. It's delicate club-shaped leaves grow in an alternating opposite arrangement and that is when you want to eat it. In just a few weeks the plant's single stem will split into two stalks and then each of those will split into two more. Where the stem splits the leaves fuse into a single, pointy leaf surrounding the stem. At the top of the stalks a small cluster of white flowers appear, followed quickly by it going to seed. This plant grows and dies in just a few weeks.

Corn salad is not native to North America but came over with French settlers. It is a common, domestic salad vegetable in France. It has escape French gardens and can now be found in growing in thin stands in sandy, well-drained soil but needs a fair amount of moisture.

Be careful not to mistake Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium species) for Corn Salad. Picture below is the inedible (but medicinal and smokable) Cudweed. Note it has many more leaves than corn salad and the underside of the leaves are gray.

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.

Cow Parsnip

Scientific name: Heracleum maximum
Abundance: rare
What: young leaves, stem, roots, seeds
How: leaves-raw/cooked; stem and roots-peel then boil; seeds-dry then add to soups and stews
Where: shade, borders, woods, marsh
When: spring, summer, fall
Nutritional Value: sugars/calories in stem and roots
Dangers: WARNING: Similar-looking to deadly, foul-smelling hemlock! Also, juice and hairs of cow parsnip can irritate skin and contains suspected cancer-causing chemicals.

Leaf Arrangement: Alternate, with leaves large and deeply lobed.

Leaf Shape: Broadly ovate, with deep lobes and a serrated or toothed margin. Mature leaves can be over 16" across at their widest.

Venation: Palmate, with a prominent central vein and visible lateral veins branching off in each lobe.

Margin: Serrated or toothed, particularly towards the leaf tip.

Leaf Color: Bright to dark green, with a slightly coarse texture.

Flower Structure: Compound umbels, large and flat-topped, with numerous tiny flowers in each umbel.

Flower Color: White, sometimes with a slight pinkish hue.

Fruit: Flat, oval, two-seeded schizocarps.

Seeds: Small, flat, and attached in pairs.

Stem: Tall, stout, and hollow, often with purplish or reddish blotches.

Hairs: Generally hairless, but the stem may have fine bristles.

Height: Typically grows between 4 to 10 feet tall.

Cow parsnip plant (almost seven feet tall).

Closeup of flowers.

Another view of flowers.

Mature seedhead of cow Parsnip.
Cow Parsnip

Leaves of cow parsnips are huge, well over twelve inches across.

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

Look for Cow Parsnips in partially shady areas where water (usually a stream) meets woods. They seem to prefer hardwood forests to pine.

While not quite on par with Pokeweed, Cow Parsnips do require caution when harvesting and preparing the young shoots. Like Pokeweed, harvest the shoots when they're under 9" tall but you'll also want to take the cow parsnip's root. Wear gloves and arm guards while collecting them so the furanocoumarin chemical in the sap and surface needles can't adhere to your skin. If this chemical does get on you it'll make those areas of skin super-sensitive to sunlight, resulting in patches of 2nd degree sunburns.

Still the plant is quite tasty. Saute the diced-up leaves, stem, and roots in butter, oil, or bacon grease along with onions or garlic for a few minutes. They'll shrink a little but not disappearing like spinach. Hit them with a dash of cedar-infused apple cider vinegar and have at them!

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.

Cucumber Weed

Scientific Name: Parietaria pensylvanica
Abundance: rare
What: leaves
How: raw, steamed
Where: shade, moist areas, yards
When: spring
Nutritional Value: potassium
Dangers: a small percentage of people are allergic to this plant and break out in hives if they eat it

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves/Stem - diuretic, in particular to help flush out kidney stones (tisane)

Leaf Arrangement: Alternate, with leaves spaced somewhat evenly along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Lanceolate to ovate, with a length typically ranging from 1 to 2.5 inches.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate, with a prominent midvein and several less prominent lateral veins branching off.

Leaf Margin: Entire, meaning the edges of the leaves are smooth without teeth or serrations.

Leaf Color: Bright green to yellow-green, often with a slightly paler underside.

Flower Structure: Small and inconspicuous, clustered in groups along the stem near the leaf axils (leaf-stem junction).

Flower Color: Green, blending with the foliage.

Fruit: Not commonly observed, but when present, are small, dry, and one-seeded.

Seeds: Tiny, with a hard outer coating.

Stem: Erect to ascending, typically ranging from 6 to 18 inches in height, with a green to reddish-green color.

Hairs: Covered with short, soft hairs, giving the plant a slightly fuzzy texture.

Height: Usually between 6 to 18 inches tall.

Young cucumber weed seedlings (November in Houston).

A lone, multi-stem Cucumber Weed hanging out next to a very old barn.
Cucumber Weed

Close-up of single stem. Note flowers are directly attached to stem and leaves "zig-zag" up it.
Cucumber Weed

Close-up of stem showing how flowers appear at the base of leaves.
Cucumber Weed

Close-up of Cucumber Weed flowers. Like the leaves, they are green and hairy.
Cucumber Weed

Close-up of mature leaf. It's edges are smooth, without any bumps/teeth.
Cucumber Weed Parietaria pensylvanica

Even closer close-up of leaf. Note the hairs, especially along the leaf's edge.
Cucumber Weed Parietaria pensylvanica

TOXIC MIMIC - Don't mistake members of the Acalypha genus for Cucumber Weed. They look similar in size, shape, and habitat but their actually easy to tell apart.

Acalypha leaves (picture below) lack hairs and have toothed edges unlike the smooth, hairy edge of Cucumber Weeds.

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.

While not listed by the USDA as found in Harris and Montgomery counties of Texas, I find it in those locations quite often.

"Cool as a cucumber" is a good way to remember when to hunt Cucumber Weed. These small, delicious weeds appear in the cooler days of late fall through early spring, usually in moist, shady areas that see a lot of human traffic and the resulting soil damage. The particularly seem to like growing along cement foundations of buildings which suggests to me they prefer somewhat alkaline soils. They'll often be intermingled with other edible and non-edible weeds.

Cucumber Weed leaves zig-zag up the stem, alternating from side to side but since the square stem twists as it grows the leaves end up in a spiral. Along the upper portion of the stem two hairy, green flowers grow at the base of each leaf. These flowers are attached directly to the stem on either side of the leaf.

Use this cucumber-flavored plant raw in salads or smoothies. Supposedly it's good steamed then mixed with pasta in a white sauce, having a much milder flavor than spinach.

A number of members of the Acalypha resemble Cucumber Weed. Remember, if the leaf has teeth/bumps along its edge and isn't hairy you have a toxic Acalypha and NOT an edible Cucumber Weed.

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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