A word on local plants

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Cautionary and common sense questions to ask while foraging.

A word on local plants


Questions to ask oneself while foraging local plant ingredients.


Have I correctly identified this plant?


To properly identify a plant there are certain apps for devices like phones and tablets. 


 The app I use will snap a photo and identify the plant at a later time when I will be online. This can be incredibly useful.


Alongside an app I recommend finding field guides preferably on plants local to you. These can help you learn to identify each part of a plant. The flower heads, leaf shapes, and male and female parts of a plant. 


If one would like to further their plant knowledge I recommend taking into consideration how the plants you identify propagate. This includes locating parts that produce seeds. Staiminas, pods or other areas reproduce in different ways depending on the plant. Some plants do self reproduce. Others need pollinators to help them propagate. 


Is this plant toxic to handle?

Learn if the plant is toxic to handle and if found to be so take proper protective measures. 

Wear thick rubber or vinyl gloves if you can, to protect yourself if the plant irritates you or if it is something which can be highly toxic to handle. Some plants people can be sensitive to, such as bittersweet nightshade can actually cause hallucinations or convulsions merely by handling. This I have seen for myself.

Does this plant have magickal properties and uses? What are they? 

Do they have qualities that can be utilized in magick such as thorns, pods, or fronds?

Further are they sticky?

What are their medicinal properties?

Do they go by other names? What are some of their folk names? Could these indicate magickal uses?

Further, what is their personal folklore and symbolism? Which traditions use these plants and in what way?

What are the care instructions for the plant in case you'd like to grow some or help care for those you find?

Where are the plants commonly found growing? Is this a hedgerow? A field? A roadside?  This indicates the typical plant life you will find in this particular area. Many plants which grow in hedgerows for example will occupy similar space. This can allow one to walk along a roadside and have an idea what plants are likely to be found there.

Are the plants and flowers edible? Importantly which parts of the plant are edible and which are not? Many plants have certain parts that are edible and other parts which should not be ingested. This is important if you plan to ingest an edible part of a plant. If a flower is edible, but the stem should not be ingested, make certain to completely separate the flower and the flower only.

It took over 27 years for me to learn the importance of this, but make no mistake about it, it is important.

Is the plant, flower or wood safe for burning?

Plants which are toxic to ingest or handle tend as well to be toxic for burning. I recommend not burning any plant that is toxic or that you are uncertain of. 

Is the plant toxic in any way to household pets? I do not recommend fragrant products worn on the skin around pets not frequently spoken about in regards to herbal toxicity. These animals include, birds, bunnies, reptiles, ferrets, etc. 

When using skin oils make certain not to use plants toxic to cats or dogs if you own them. Again, I do not recommend wearing plant based perfumed oils around pets you are uncertain of. 

Further if preparing oils for usage on the skin always dilute these with a carrier oil. Both fragrance and essential oils can be either toxic or strong for animals.

Never apply any oil directly to an animal's skin, fur etc. It is important to remember there are numerous chemical compounds in essential oils which are deadly for pets if ingested. Avoid using magickal oils in this manner on household pets or other wildlife. 


Further considerations

It is advisable not to trespass or otherwise infringe while out identifying and harvesting local plants. Follow local laws and keep yourself and others safe.

It isn't the best idea to walk a few feet into the yard with lilacs while the pitbull is out barking. I wouldn't advise it even if he's not.

As well to consider there are reserves in places to protect the land and species in some areas.

There is a reserve in the town of Kennebunk Maine where I highly advise not to disrupt any plant life there. Most definitely, do not harvest from such areas.

When harvesting plants be certain not to harvest all of one thing such as leaves, flowers, etc. This can be detrimental to the further propagation and growth of a plant.

Only harvest a small amount and keep your harvesting impact to a minimum.

Added to on Dec 18, 2023
Part of the Second Sight Library.


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