Looking For Poison In All The Wet Places

Greetings,

Swampy wetlands can be unforgiving places during the summer months.  The vegetation is thick, the mosquitoes are hungry, and the lack of tree cover forbids any kind of refuge from the mid-day sun.

Strange as it may seem, I still find myself drawn to these soggy habitats in search of organisms that are not commonly encountered elsewhere.  Wet feet and insect bites are small prices to pay in exchange for opportunities to observe and learn new species.

During a recent trip to one of these remote wetlands in western Pennsylvania, I experienced quite a spectacle: the flowers of swamp rose; the immature fruits of winterberry; and the thread-like stems of dodder intimately engaging with every herbaceous plant in sight.

Amongst this activity, I couldn’t help but notice a shrubby plant inhabiting the margins.  Insects were crawling up and down its branches and birds were singing in its canopy, but I knew that any physical contact between the plant and my skin could result in serious consequences.

This plant, which is known as poison sumac, can lead to painful rashes in over 85% of humans.  Susceptible individuals experience symptoms similar to (and reportedly worse than) the reactions caused by poison ivy.

Instead of avoiding the plant, I decided to film a video in which I discuss not only the unique ability of poison sumac to cause skin irritations in humans, but also its ecological value in supporting the health of other organisms.

If you are interested in learning more, check out the new video!

I was a recent guest on the Wild Fed Podcast hosted by Daniel Vitalis.  We covered lots of topics in this interview including plant and fungal interactions, the sustainability of gathering food from the land, the importance of learning non-edible species, and lots more.  You can listen to the conversation here.

Speaking of plant and fungal interactions, did you know that wild blueberries depend on fungi for sustenance?  Without these inter-kingdom relationships, far fewer blueberry shrubs would probably exist.  Check out a recent Instagram post to learn more.

Thanks for reading and watching, and thanks for your continued support!

-Adam Haritan

Medicinal Herb Gardening for Beginners

Written and Photographed by Mary Plantwalker

I love herbal medicine but I’ve never grown herbs—how do I begin an herb garden?


Have you or someone you know been asking this question lately? Then read on for inspirational and empowering steps for growing medicinal herbs at home—we give even the brownest thumb enough fertilizer to succeed in medicinal herb gardening! We’ll help feed the roots for a DIY herb garden that will leave both you and your plants grounded. If you want more tips, see Juliet’s article on growing the herb garden of your dreams.

The Time Is Now to Start Your First Herb Garden

I’ve grown vegetables, flowers, fruit trees, berries, and ornamentals, but my favorite thing across the board is growing medicinal herbs. They are so satisfying—once you have them established they will generously give you medicine year after year after year. When you are able to fill your own apothecary, you’ll feel a sense of sovereignty that can’t be bought. Take this opportunity to get your own medicine growing now as the harvest doesn’t happen overnight! You will also be able to better apply the in-depth knowledge found in Juliet’s forthcoming book, The Healing Garden: Cultivating & Handcrafting Herbal Remedies.

In this present time of COVID-19, and the food and herb shortages we have already experienced, growing your own medicine becomes even more essential.

Read original article at: Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine ~ Medicinal Herb Gardening for Beginners