The Deadliest Plant In North America

In 1992, a 23-year-old man and his 39-year-old brother were foraging for wild ginseng in Maine.  The younger brother harvested several plants from a swampy area and took three bites from the root of one plant.  The older brother took one bite from the same root.

Within three hours, the younger brother died.  The older brother lived, though not without experiencing seizures and delirium.

The offending plant, of course, was not wild ginseng.  It was water hemlock (Cicuta maculata). 

Water hemlock is considered the most toxic plant in North America.  Some sources even consider water hemlock to be the most toxic plant in the Northern Hemisphere.

As it turns out, water hemlock is not a single species.  Water hemlock represents multiple species that all contain a potent toxin.  This toxin disrupts the central nervous system and can lead to death if prompt treatment isn’t given.

I recently spent some time in the presence of two water hemlock species.  If you’re interested in learning how to identify these deadly plants, check out the new video!

Thanks for reading and watching, and thank you for your continued support!

-Adam Haritan

Foraging The Elusive Mayapple

Tropical fruit flavors are not commonly detected in my neck of the woods.  When they are, the experience is unforgettable.

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) is an eastern North American plant whose ripe fruit tastes like a mix between pineapple and Starburst candy.  All other parts of the plant (e.g., rhizomes, leaves, stems, and unripe fruits) are considered toxic.

My first encounter with a ripe mayapple fruit was unforgettable.  I actually smelled the fruit before I saw it.  Within seconds of harvesting, I indulged in what little edible material was available.  The taste was ambrosial — almost too good to be true — and from that day forward I became a devout seeker of ripe mayapple fruits.

As it turns out, conditions this year have been very good for mayapple fruits.  Foragers in many locations have been reporting bountiful harvests.  Because conditions have been fruitful, I decided to film a video in which I discuss key tips for improving your yield. 

If you are interested in becoming a devout seeker of ripe mayapple fruits, check out the video!

Foraging Wild Mushrooms is an online course that is currently open for enrollment until September 2nd.  This go-at-your-own-pace video course is perfect for beginners who are looking to develop their skills.  If you are eager to harvest wild mushrooms but don’t know where to start or where to go, Foraging Wild Mushrooms will equip you with the necessary skills to ensure that your harvests are safe and rewarding.  You can learn more by clicking this link.

Thanks for reading and watching, and thank you for your continued support!

-Adam Haritan

Is This Invasive Plant Killing Wetlands?

Menace.  Monster.  Barbarian.  Scourge.  Thug.  Outlaw.  Killer.

All these terms have been used in one publication or another to describe a single species whose common name is a bit less provocative.

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

This showy plant was introduced to North America from Europe in the early 1800s.  Since then, purple loosestrife has spread itself far and wide across the North American continent.

Today, purple loosestrife is considered a noxious weed throughout many parts of North America.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature even lists purple loosestrife as one of the 100 worst invasive alien species in the world.

But not everyone agrees that this “purple menace” is a serious threat. 

Some researchers think that the problems associated with purple loosestrife invasion are exaggerated.  Some researchers even think that purple loosestrife invasion is associated with positive effects in North America.

Who are we to believe?  How can people be so divided over a single plant?  What does the research really say?  Is purple loosestrife a serious ecological threat or not? 

We explore the topic of purple loosestrife invasion in a brand new video.  If you are interested in learning more about this purported wetland killer, check it out!

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

-Adam Haritan

How To Find Pawpaws In The Wild

Good food is bestowed upon those who scout.

This is especially true when we consider what it takes to harvest pawpaws.

Pawpaws are incredibly delicious fruits that are produced by pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba).  Green and kidney-shaped, these tropical-tasting berries are considered to be the largest edible fruits produced by any native North American tree.

Many people are interested in finding pawpaws for the first time this year.  Some people will wait until the fruits are ripe in September to begin their search.

I would suggest another approach:  begin your search right now. 

Scouting the land in advance is an essential part of harvesting wild food.  When preparatory work has been done ahead of time, successful harvests are much more likely to occur.  Such is the case when we understand what it takes to find pawpaws.

What does preparatory work look like?  How do we begin our search for pawpaws?  What kinds of habitats are worth exploring?

I answer all those questions in a brand new video.  If you are interested in harvesting pawpaws this year, check it out!

I was a recent guest on the Silvercore Podcast hosted by Travis Bader.  In this conversation, we chat about foraging, the importance of learning trees, and why money is necessary to protect land.  You can listen to the interview here.

Click to listen

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

-Adam Haritan

Learn To Identify 100 Trees In All Seasons

Greetings,

I am very excited to announce that registration for my brand new online course will be open on Monday, May 23rd.

Trees In All Seasons is a four-season online video course designed to help you successfully identify over 100 trees in every season — spring, summer, fall, and winter.  Additional topics that are featured in this course include tree ecology, physiology, anatomy, and taxonomy.

This course is presented entirely online and it features over 75 exclusive videos that lay the groundwork for successful tree identification.  If you are interested in identifying trees but are finding it difficult to learn through field guides and apps, consider enrolling as a student in Trees In All Seasons.  

Please note:  Trees In All Seasons will be open for registration for two weeks only from Monday, May 23rd to Monday, June 6th.  Upon registration, you have immediate access to all course content and you can watch the videos at your own pace.

To register for Trees In All Seasons, mark your calendar for Monday, May 23rd and visit this link.

All additional information (including course structure, outline, and cost) will be posted on Monday.

My good friend Aaron Watson recently invited me on to his podcast to discuss my work with Trees In All Seasons and Learn Your Land.  To learn more about the course, as well as my motives in creating the course, check out the recent interview:
Part 1
Part 2

I look forward to seeing you on Monday!
-Adam Haritan

How Do I Deal With Ticks?

Greetings,

Before I share a new video with you, I want to provide some exciting news regarding the upcoming online tree identification course. 

After many years of diligent work, I’m happy to announce that the brand new course — Trees In All Seasons — will be released in May.  This online video course is designed to teach students how to confidently and successfully identify over 100 trees in every season — spring, summer, fall, and winter.  Additional topics that are featured in this course include taxonomy, ecology, physiology, and general natural history.

If you are interested in identifying trees but are finding it difficult to learn through field guides and apps, consider enrolling in Trees In All Seasons this May.  To receive updates regarding the initial release of the course, simply remain a subscriber to this newsletter.

And now on to the brand new video…

It’s no secret that I spend a lot of time in the woods.  It’s also no secret that the woods in which I spend my time harbor some of the most reviled organisms on Earth.

Ticks.

Because I share many of my outdoor adventures on video, and because I live in a state (Pennsylvania) whose Lyme disease cases are extraordinarily high, people naturally want to know how I deal with ticks. 

What precautions do I take?  What repellents do I recommend?  How much duct tape do I wrap around my socks?  What does diet have to do with all of this?

Questions regarding ticks are among the most common questions that I receive.  To compile my thoughts and concerns, I decided to film a video in which I discuss my 6-part strategy.

To learn how I deal with ticks, check out the brand new video!

In addition to harboring ticks, the woods in which I spend my time are home to beautiful wildflowers.  Pictured here are 15 wildflowers that blossom during the early weeks of spring in the northeastern United States.  Have you seen any of these flowers recently?  To view a larger image, check out the latest Instagram post.

Click to view post

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

-Adam Haritan

American Chestnut — Questioning Its Former Status As A Dominant Tree

What did the land look like before you were born?

This is a good question to ponder, but it’s a difficult question to answer unless clarification is provided.

How much land are we talking about?  And what is the time frame in question?

Even with such clarification, answers do not come easy.  The original question often persists and we are prompted to further refine our inquiry.

What did the eastern forests look like 300 years ago?  Which trees were present, and what was the composition of the trees in these earlier forests?

American chestnut, it turns out, can help us answer those questions. 

American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is a tree whose numbers have dwindled over the past 100 years.  A fungal disease known as chestnut blight has been the major culprit, but other factors have contributed to the decline of mature American chestnut trees in eastern forests.

When we study accounts of American chestnut, we routinely hear the same thing:  “American chestnut was a dominant tree in eastern North America prior to the introduction of chestnut blight.” 

We also hear this: “One in every four hardwood trees in eastern North America was an American chestnut.”

Believing both statements to be true, we might imagine an unbroken expanse of chestnut trees in eastern North America.  The proverbial squirrel might have been able to travel from Maine to Florida on chestnut tree limbs without ever touching the ground.

But was that ever the case?  Was American chestnut really the most dominant tree in eastern North America? 

Or, have the claims been exaggerated?  Could it be possible that American chestnut was not so dominant of a tree in these earlier forests?

That’s the topic of this week’s brand new video.  If you are interested in learning what the land might have looked like in the not too distant past, check it out!

Most maples are leafless this time of year in eastern North America. Fortunately, bark features are still available and very useful for proper identification. Check out these side-by-side images of 8 different maple trees to assist you with your winter identification skills.Click to view post

If you are eager to pursue educational opportunities during the winter months, check out Foraging Wild Mushrooms.  This 4-season online course is designed to help you safely, successfully, and confidently forage wild mushrooms from the forest, from the field, and from your own backyard.Click to learn more

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

-Adam Haritan

A Massive White Oak In The Woods

Seeing big trees in the woods is its own reward. 

Nothing really needs to be said.  Nothing more needs to happen.  The fact that such an encounter occurs at all in the 21st century is enough. 

But occasionally something else does happen, and silence is broken not by statements or declarations but by questions and inquiries.

A few years ago, I encountered a massive white oak (Quercus alba) in the woods.  With deeply furrowed bark and a wide-spreading canopy, the tree was certainly the largest forest-dwelling white oak I had ever seen.

Since that first encounter, I have returned to see the massive white oak on numerous occasions.  In every instance, curiosity has prompted my meddling mind to ask questions.

During the most recent encounter, I decided to wonder aloud (and on camera) about Quercus alba — a species that was once regarded as being the most common tree in many forests.  Over the years, however, white oak has slipped in status.  No longer does it hold the title of being the most common tree in many forests.

How did this happen?  And which trees took its place?

If you are interested in seeing a massive old growth white oak, all while learning how an incredibly common tree became less common over time (despite a relative increase in forested land), check out the brand new video!

Conifers display huge variation in bark features.  If you are interested in identifying conifer trees by bark alone, check out these side-by-side images of 15 different conifer trees that grow in eastern North America.Click to view post

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

-Adam Haritan

Old Growth Red Pine — An Uncommon Sight

Among the common, the uncommon exists.  Learning the uncommon among the common helps us see in new ways what has been in front of us all along.

Take red pine, for instance. 

Where I live in western Pennsylvania, red pine (Pinus resinosa) is a common sight.  Many county and state parks contain large tracts of land that host nothing but red pine plantations.  These plantations, believe it or not, are considered by fundamentalists to be “ecological deserts” — a category that also includes parking lots and golf courses.

Red pine, it seems, can’t catch a break.  Because of the bias against its ubiquity and against its purported ecological disservice, it’s no wonder that people rarely take any time to marvel underneath a red pine tree.

But there is something that we should know about red pine.  Among the common, the uncommon exists.

Red pine is not common in every context.  To provide two examples — “natural” stands of red pine are quite uncommon in my home state of Pennsylvania, and across the entire range of red pine, old growth red pine forests occupy less than 1% of their original range. 

What’s more, old growth red pine forests are far from ecological deserts.  Researchers consider these forests to be critical for maintaining biodiversity at stand and landscape levels.

To gain some insight on the matter, I decided to visit a “natural” stand of red pine.  Not too surprisingly, I did not discover an ecological desert.  Instead, I encountered a diverse ecosystem containing red pines that were approximately 250 years old and approaching old growth status.

If you are interested in learning the uncommon among the commoncheck out the brand new video!

Speaking of uncommon (or very common, depending on where you live), I recently encountered this melanistic eastern gray squirrel foraging for acorns.  The presence of melanism across the range of gray squirrels is really low (less than 1%).  In some areas, though, it can be higher than 50%.  To learn more about black squirrels, check out the latest Instagram post!Click to view post

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

-Adam Haritan

12 Mushrooms That Grow In Your Yard

Before I share a brand new video with you, I want to provide a reminder that today — Tuesday, September 28th—  is the last day to register for Foraging Wild Mushrooms

After today, registration will be closed for the season.  If you want to learn the skills involved in safely and successfully harvesting wild mushrooms with confidence, Foraging Wild Mushrooms can help you achieve that goal. 

Click here to learn more.

And now on to this week’s brand new video…

The best mushroom books aren’t always mushroom-related.

Take the Tao Te Ching, for instance.  This piece of Chinese philosophical literature was written approximately 2,500 years ago.  The word “mushroom” is not mentioned anywhere in the text, but the Tao Te Ching might be one of the best mushroom books I have ever read. 

To see what I mean, let’s look at a few words from verse 47.

“The world may be known without leaving the house…
The further you go, the less you know.”

How does this apply to mushrooms? 

Replace world with mushrooms, and we soon realize that we do not have to travel too far to understand the fungal kingdom.

Tropical jungles, alpine bogs, and distant countries might seem like they have what a mushroom hunter needs.  But that’s almost never entirely true.  If we haven’t learned as much as a human is capable of learning at home, then we have work to do… at home.

In other words, if we have not learned the mushrooms that grow in our yards, then it might be a good idea to focus on those particular mushrooms before leaving the house (to use the Taoists’ words).

To inspire you to do this kind of work, I filmed a video that focuses only on yard-dwelling mushrooms.  Some of the mushrooms grow in the grass.  Others grow in your flower beds.  All of the mushrooms can be found at home.  

You can watch the brand new video here.

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

-Adam Haritan