Showing posts with label Water. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Water. Show all posts

Allegheny Chinkapin

Scientific Name(s): Castanea pumila
Abundance: rare
What: nuts
How: raw or roasted
Where: sandy, shaded areas near water
When: fall
Nutritional Value: calories, protein
Dangers: nut husks are very prickly

Leaf Arrangement: The Chinkapin tree typically exhibits alternate leaf arrangement along the branches.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are generally long, narrow, and sharply toothed, with lengths ranging from 3 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 multiple-trunked. Exact measurements can vary, but diameters may range from 0.5 to 2 inches.

Flower Spike: In the spring, the tree produces long clusters of small, tan-yellow flowers, adding visual appeal. Flowers can be around 0.2 to 0.4 inches in size.

Flower Structure: Individual flowers are small and lack showy petals. Colors can include tan-yellow.

Seed Head: The Chinkapin tree forms sharp, spikey pods containing small acorn-like nuts in the fall. The length of the seed head can range from 2 to 4 inches.

Seed Characteristics: Nuts are small, round, and lack tannins, providing a sweet, nutty flavor. Diameter may range from 0.5 to 1 inch. Colors can include brown.

Height: The Chinkapin tree typically ranges in height from 10 to 20 feet, with variations based on age and growing conditions.

Hairs: Some Chinkapin tree varieties may have fine hairs on the undersides of leaves. Inspect the leaves for pubescence.

Nuts: The nuts consists of spiky husks protecting the small acorn-like nuts. Colors of the husks may include green, turning brown as they mature.

Bark: The bark is textured, contributing to the tree's resilience. The color can vary but often includes shades of gray or brown.

Allegheny Chinkapin leaves.

Close-up of leaves.

Nut pods in the fall, having dropped some of the nuts.

Close-up of pods with and without nuts.

Close-up of shelled nuts. This picture was taken a month after they had ripened and so they've begun to dry out but are still edible.
Allegheny Chinquapin

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.

To stumble upon a stand of Allegheny Chinkapins is to stumble upon treasure. These large, usually multi-trunked bushes/small trees suffered from Chestnut Blight leading to reduced numbers across much of North America. A rare stand can still be found growing under larger trees in the sandy soil of tall banks overlooking water. The sandy soil gives them the drainage they need to avoid root-rot while the larger trees partially protects them from the fierce Texas sun. The long, narrow, sharply-toothed leaves, deep green on top and pale underneath, are arranged in an alternate pattern along the branches. In the spring long clusters of small, tan-yellow flowers hang from the tree. By fall these clusters have been replaced with sharp, spikey pods, each containing what looks like a small acorn.

Harvesting these nuts takes some work as they cling to the tree and are protected by the sharp, spiny remains of their outer husks. One usually has to carefully pick nuts off the shrub/tree one by one. You are likely to find some of the nuts have already germinated while still attached to the tree. Don't eat these but instead carefully plant them nearby.

Allegheny Chinkapin nuts lack tannins or other bitter compounds and so have a sweet, nutty flavor when eaten raw. Being so rare, limit yourself to just a nut or three. Take a few more to plant in similar locations so as to try and bring back this amazingly delicious treat. Animals love these nuts so getting them before squirrels, raccoons, possums and the such is tricky.

Like chestnuts, Allegheny Chinkapin nuts can be roasted to give almost a chocolatey sort of flavor. Place the uncracked nuts on a cookie sheet in an oven at 350F. After five minutes pull out a nut, crack it open and taste it. The roasting time is a personal preference but if the nuts' shells begin cracking it's definitely time to pull them out.

If you do over-roast the nuts they can still be used to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Grind the shelled nuts in a coffee grinder then either use them as is or combine them with real coffee to make a pot of brown, somewhat bitter fluid.

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.

Alligator Weed

Scientific Name(s): Alternanthera philoxeroides
Abundance: plentiful
What: stems, leaves
How: cooked
Where: shallow water, full sun
When: spring, summer, fall
Nutritional Value: extremely high in minerals, contains fair amount of protein
Dangers: accumulates toxic minerals if present in the water or soil.

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves of Alternanthera philoxeroides are arranged opposite-alternating along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are typically simple, lanceolate to ovate, measuring approximately 1 to 2 inches in length.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate venation, with prominent veins running from the base to the tip of each leaf.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margin is entire (no teeth/serrations).

Leaf Color: The leaves are usually green but can turn reddish or purplish under certain conditions.

Flower Structure: Alligator Weed produces round clusters of small, spiked flowers at the terminal ends of stems.

Flower Color: Flowers are typically white or pale pink.

Fruit: The fruit is a small, spherical capsule containing seeds.

Seed: Inside the capsule are small, brown seeds.

Stem: The stem is typically prostrate and can form dense mats on the water's surface.

Hairs: Leaves and stems are hairless.

Height: Forms dense floating mats on water bodies, protruding up from the water's surface 4"-8".

Bed of alligator weeds.

Close-up of alligator weed stems, leaves, and flowers.


Close-up of alligator weed leaves.

Close-up of alligator weed flower.

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.

Forming thick mats along the shores of shallow water, the invasive, foreign alligator weed has become an all too common sight on Texas shorelines and river banks. The vine-like plants start on shore and creep out to cover the surface of the water.

Cooked alligator weed has a mild, pleasant taste and is a wonderful source of minerals. Treat it like spinach but do not eat it raw. It must be cooked to kill any aquatic parasites. The stems are best chopped up so as to minimize any toughness they might have. The newest growth will be the most tender.

Warning: The water and mud in which it is growing must be free of any harmful minerals or heavy metals as the plant will gather and concentrate these toxic compounds. This accumulating power has been harnessed for bio-remediation of highly contaminated locations.

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(s): Maranta spp. and Sagittaria spp.
Abundance: uncommon
What: tubers, young leaves, young flower stalks
How: boiled, roasted
Where: marshes, water
When: tubers all year, best in late fall and early winter; young leaves in early summer; flower stalks well before flower buds have opened.
Nutritional Value: carbohydrates
Dangers: Beware the similar-looking arrow arum, (Peltandra virginica) plant which has an arrowhead-shaped leaf and produces tubers same as Sagittaria species.

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are alternately arranged along the stem, typically emerging from the water or mud.

Leaf Shape: Arrowhead-shaped (sagittate), measuring 4 to 12 inches long and 2 to 6 inches wide.

Leaf Venation: Venation is palmate, looking like a spider, starting at where the stalk meets the leaf and branching out to the edges of the leaf.

Leaf Margin: Margins are smooth and entire.

Leaf Color: The leaves are generally a glossy green, sometimes with a slightly bluish hue.

Flower Structure: The flowers are arranged in whorls on a spike, with each flower having three white petals and three green sepals.

Flower Color: White, often with a yellowish center.

Fruit: Produces small, round, green fruits that turn brown as they mature.

Seed: Seeds are small, numerous, and contained within the fruit.

Stem: Stems are long, thick, and can be either submerged or emergent, depending on the water level.

Hairs: There are no hairs; both the stems and leaves are smooth.

Height: The emergent stems and leaves can reach 2 to 3 feet in height above the water surface.

Arrowroot tuber (photo courtesy of Samuel Thayer).
Arrowhead Tubers ST IGFB25

Arrowroot plants have many long veins radiating outwards from the center (palmate).

Arrowroot leaf and flower stalk with white flowers and unopened buds.

Note the spider-like (palmate) pattern of veins in the arrowhead-shaped leaves.

A stand of wapato plants.

Close-up of wapato flowers.

Arrowroot seedpods in the fall. One pod forms for each flower.

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.

Found in marshes, rivers, lakes and ponds, the arrowhead plant’s distinctive leaf and flowers are easy to spot. Most arrowhead plants have three-pointed leaves shape like an arrowhead, with either the top point bigger and broader than or the same as the two downward pointing points. The vein pattern in the leaves of Sagittaria species is palmate, which means the leaves have numerous thick veins running from the stem out to the tips and sides. This pamate venation is important to distinguish the edible Sagittaria from toxic Arum species.

Traditionally arrowroot tubers are freed from the mud by tearing them from the roots while walking barefoot in the water. The tubers float to the surface where the can be collected. They are prepared for eating by first peeling the bitter outer skin, followed by cooking any way you would cook a potato. The young leaves are harvested and boiled before they've had a chance to unroll/unfurl. The flower stalk is cooked like asparagus but it must be harvested before its flower buds have opened. Note, any plants harvested from water must be cooked to avoid imbibing any toxic pathogens.

Note that arrowhead tubers do not store very well, unlike traditional potatoes. If you want to keep them make sure you are storing only perfect, undamaged tubers and place them in moist, clean sand in a cool, dark place.

Young, still curled leaves that are either above or below the surface of the water make an excellent cooked green. Treat them like spinach. The young flower stalk before the flower buds appear can be used in the same manner as the leaves.

Arrow arum plants (Peltandra virginica) grow in wetlands, and have a leaves-with the same arrowhead-shape as the edible Sagittaria, as well as similar tubers. All parts of the arum plants are filled with calcium oxalate which will cause painful burning sensations in the lips, mouth, and throat if eaten. To tell the difference between arrowhead plants and Arum arrowhead plants look at the pattern of veins in the leaves. Toxic arrow Arum leaves have only three main veins, one each running out from the center out to the points of its leaf. From these three main veins branch out smaller veins, much like you see in a "normal" leaf of other plants. The edible arrowhead leaf has many veins radiating out from the center of the leaf where it connects to the stem, making it kind of look like a spider. These veins meet up again at the tips/points of the Sagittaria leaf.

Toxic Arrow Arum 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.

Bamboo/River Cane

Scientific name: Arundinaria gigantea
Abundance: uncommon
What: seeds, young shoots
How: cooked/steamed
Where: river banks above high-water level
When: early spring through summer
Nutritional Value: small amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and vitamin C
Other uses: fishing poles, lattice structures, blow guns
Dangers: beware of deadly purple Ergot fungus.

Leaf Arrangement: Alternate, with each leaf spaced out along the culm (stem), which is characteristic of many grass species.

Leaf Shape: Lanceolate and elongated, typically 8 to 12 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide.

Leaf Venation: Parallel venation is prominent, running the length of the leaf from base to tip.

Leaf Margin: Margins are serrulate, with fine teeth along the edge that are perceptible to touch.

Leaf Color: The foliage is a deep green, often turning yellow-green in fall.

Flower Structure: Inflorescences are panicles, branched and open, appearing terminal on the culms.

Flower Color: The small, individual flowers within the panicles are not showy, usually green or brownish.

Fruit: Produces a caryopsis, a grain typical of the Poaceae family, though fruiting is infrequent.

Seed: Seeds are small, enclosed within the dry fruit, and not commonly harvested or seen.

Stem: Known as culms in grasses, they are hollow, erect, and can reach heights of up to 25 feet. Interior is hollow between leaf nodes. Young sections of the culm will be green whereas older parts will be yellowish or brown.

Hairs: Young shoots may have a coating of fine hairs, which becomes less noticeable as the plant matures.

Height: Mature stands can range from 10 to 25 feet in height.


River Cane IGFB


Closeup of stem.

Edible tips (peel off and discard the leaves).
River Cane

River Cane

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.

Once thick canebrakes used to be found along many Texas streams where they formed their own distinctive ecosystems. Over-grazing by cattle, who love the leaves, along with other habitat destruction has greatly reduced these canebrakes, leading to the loss of certain species of warblers which nested exclusively in the safety of these bamboo stands. Their scientific name suggests that this bamboo can grow to gigantic sizes but in truth they rarely get over ¾” thick and more than 9’ tall.

Tender river cane shoots of any size can be eaten raw or used in stir-fries and other Asian-style dishes. Firmly grab the top of the cane and pull. Usually whatever comes off is tender enough to eat but nibble the bottom end to make sure it isn’t too hard or fibrous. Peel off and discard the leaves or use them to weave tiny baskets. I like the youngest shoots, less than three inches tall growing from what looks like clumps of grass.

River cane makes excellent fishing poles. They were also used by Native Americans to make baskets, arrows and blowguns. Some of you more mature plants probably received a whack or two from a rivercane after misbehaving.

River cane is slightly susceptible to ergot fungal infections. Closely examine any river cane for signs of a purple powdery substance before harvesting, especially during rainy summers following very cold winters. Ergot poisoning can lead to hallucinations followed by death. I have yet to find any river cane infected with ergot, but I still keep an eye out for this fungus.

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.

Box Elder

Scientific Name: Acer negundo
Abundance: common
What: sap, seeds, young sprout, inner bark
How: sap is boiled to syrup; young sprouts raw or cooked; inner bark boiled; seeds are roasted
Where: lowland & moist areas; often along water; windbreaks
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: carbohydrates, protein, fiber
Dangers: none, though young seedlings may look like Poison Ivy

Medicinal Summary:
Inner Bark - vomit inducer

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are opposite-alternating, meaning they are arranged in pairs along the stems but each pair is shifted 90 degrees from the pairs above and below it.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are compound, typically with three to seven leaflets, each leaflet measuring 2 to 4 inches in length.

Leaf Venation: The leaflets have prominent veins.

Leaf Margin: Leaflet margins are serrated, featuring small teeth.

Flower Structure: Box elder trees produce small, inconspicuous flowers in clusters, typically appearing in early spring.

Flower Color: Flowers are typically yellowish-green.

Seed: The seeds are paired, winged samaras, each measuring about 1 to 2 inches in length.

Bark: The bark is smooth and light gray on younger trees, becoming rougher with age, displaying furrows and ridges.

Height: Box elder trees can grow to be 30 to 50 feet tall.

Hairs: None on leaves or other surfaces.

Color of Seeds: The seeds, or samaras, start green when young and then mature to a light brown with a papery wing.

A young Box Elder tree.
Box Elder

Close-up of young Box Elder bark. When mature the ridges and furrows will be much larger and craggier.

Unripe Box Elder "helicopters". The seeds will be opposite the "fin". They'll be twice this size, dry, and tan when ripe.

Mature seeds.
Box Elder IGFB

Box Elder compound leaf (top). They have five leaflets.

Box Elder compound leaf (bottom). The top section may look tri-lobed in this picture but it is three separate leaflets.

The trunk of a Box Elder sapling. Note the rich, green color.
Box Elder

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.

A large part of my childhood was spent up among the branches of the giant Box Elder tree in our backyard. Well, it seemed like a giant tree when I was a kid. These amazingly fast-growing trees max out around 70 feet tall and 30 feet wide. The wood is weak and any big winds will cause branches to drop including those greater than one foot in diameter. Never park under a Box Elder in a storm! These damaged areas quickly lead to the inner heartwood rotting away, making it popular with assorted birds, mammals, and bugs. They do not handle the full Texas sun well, preferring to grow in the partial shade of other trees. They fairly common in East Texas, much less common in the Hill Country and North Texas, and rare to non-existent in West Texas

Box Elders have thick, coarse bark when mature and compound leaves. Both these features hide the fact that they are in the maple (Acer) family. Being maples, they can be tapped for sugary sap in the late winter. Complete directions for tapping maples for syrup can be found here: Making Maple Syrup & Sugar.

Come the warmth of spring, many Box Elder seedlings will sprout up. These are tasty treats to deer, rabbits, and humans! Get them when they are still tender and under eight inches tall. It will have a green, smooth bark and three-part leaves. Actually, the young seedlings look a bit like Poison Ivy to the untrained eye so make sure you know what you are eating. The first set of side leaves of Box Elder are symmetrical whereas Poison Ivy side leaves are asymmetrical with "thumbs" pointing away from the center leaf. The second set of Box Elder leaves will have asymmetrical "thumbs", similar to Poison Ivy.

The inner bark of these trees, like other maples, are edible and contain a fair amount of carbohydrates. Finely chop this inner bark then boil it. Be sure to drink the water to get all the calories. This boiled bark will be a bit sweeter than most other non-maple barks but a flavoring agent will help improve its taste. This inner bark is available all year long though its sugar-content will be highest in the later winter when the sap is flowing.

Box Elder seeds are, in my opinion, the best part of the tree. They grow in "helicopter" shells with two joined together at the stem. Come fall, the ripe shells will break apart and fall spinning to the ground. This fluttering motion will send them a small distance from the mother tree. Treat these seeds like pumpkin seeds except they must be freed from their helicopter shell before boiling them for ten minutes in salt water then salting and roasting them at 400F for 10-20 minutes. Cooking time depends on how crisp you want the final product.

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.

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