Underground Seminary – Plant Identification Project – July 7, 2017
Watershed Discipleship is an apprenticeship to the place we inhabit. Learning about the flora and fauna that live among is an important beginning step. For this assignment, we will look more closely at the plants we encounter on a daily basis, identify and learn the names of at least five of them, and research additional characteristics.
- Find a location with a number of plants growing freely. Silverwood Park is a great location. You could also look at the edge of a forest or in ditches. Try to find a spot that you pass on a regular basis and pick out five or more plants that you would like to learn more about. Record the location. For each plant, take a photograph, make a drawing, and/or press and dry it in a book.
- Use the Wildflowers of Minnesota Field Guide by Stan Tekiela as an aid to identify the plants. Read the introduction to learn some basics of plant identification. Identify the plant and record some of the notes from the book that you find helpful (e.g., bloom, cycle, habitat, Stan’s notes).
- Do some online research for additional information on each plant (see below). The goal is not a scientific description, but a story that helps us learn more about the history, uses, and nature of the plant. Is it edible? If so, what parts? Are there medicinal uses? What location(s) in the world is it native to, and how have humans related to it in that context? If it is not native to Minnesota, how did it get here?
- We will present what we discover to the cohort first thing Monday morning. There will have opportunities to add to this list in the next five weeks.
Online Research Suggestions:
A purple flower found in the back garden lawn of the Finkhaus. It is prevalent throughout the lawn, particularly in full-sun and semi-shade areas towards the back of the lawn and close to the wooded area behind the house. The flower is found throughout the state of Minnesota, usually in wetlands, shady areas, lawns, fields, and along roadsides. Although, it is not a native plant of Minnesota. It is thought to have originated in Europe. Today, it is found throughout Europe, Asia and North America, as well as most temperate climates.
The plant often grows in large patches in lawns, as it does in the Finkhaus back garden lawn. It will adapt to being mowed. This forms a very low growing plant of around 2″ tall, as seen at the Finkhaus. Heal-All propagates both by seed and vegetatively by creeping stems that root at the nodes. Bees will also pollinate the plants.
Heal-All is a member of the Mint family of plants. The plant’s Latin name is Prunella vulgaris. Like most members of the Mint family it has a square stem, opposing leaves, and emits a faint odor when crushed. Heal-All is edible. The yawn leaves and stems can be eaten raw. It’s also called Self-Heal sometimes. The common names Heal-All and Self-Heal refer to the fact that the plant is used as a folk medicine in many cultures throughout the world, most commonly for throat remedies. Little evidence exists that it actually works as a remedy. It can be applied to topically to treat irritated skin. It can also be used as a disinfecting agent for wounds. It is considered by the Chinese to “change the course of a chronic disease”. In fact, it is used as a remedy for almost any affliction, hence it’s common name. In the southern United States they refer to the plant as hog plantain and square weed.
The flowers bloom in spring, summer and the autumn. The flower itself is a cluster-like hood of purple irregular-shaped flowers. The leaves are a simple, lance shape and toothless. The leaves grow opposite each other from the stem. Heal-All was once proclaimed to be a Holy herb and thought to be sent by God to cure all ailments of man or beast, and said to drive away the devil. The root was used to make a tea to drink in ceremonies before going hunting by one Native American tribe to sharpened the powers of observation.
A white and pink flower found in abundance in the back garden lawn of the Finkhaus. It is prevalent throughout the lawn, particularly in areas receiving full sun closer to the house than the shade of the trees in the wooded area. This is the typical habitat of the plant– dry, sun, lawns and fields. It is not native to Minnesota but grow throughout the state. It is native to Europe and Central Asia. It was introduced worldwide as a forage crop. It’s Latin name is Trifolium repens. Repens means creeping. It is a part of the Fabaceae family of plants– Pea and Bean.
The plant can grow to 4″-10″ in height. White clover grows well as a companion plant among turf grasses, grain crops, pasture grasses, and vegetable rows. White clover can optimize livestock production and reduce the risk of bloating in livestock. The plant can tolerate close mowing and grazing, and it can grow on many different types and pHs of soil. It is considered to be a beneficial component of natural or organic pasture management and lawn care due to its ability to fix nitrogen and out-compete weeds. Clovers are a valuable survival food: they are high in proteins and have been used for centuries as additives to salads and other meals consisting of leafy vegetables. They are not easy for humans to digest raw but this is easily fixed by boiling for 5–10 minutes.
White clover is a perennial plant that grows low to the ground, with leaves that classified as compound. Compound leaves have two or more distinct leaves that shoot off from a single stalk. In the case of White Clover 3 leaflets shoot off from the stalk. The three leaflets contribute to its Latin name– Trifolium repens. The leaves are attached to the stem at the base of the plant. The leaves are round in shape with fine teeth, with a dusty white, triangular marking. It spreads by an above-ground stem that roots at the leaf attachment. White Clover is well known for occasionally producing four-leafed clover. The leaves can be used in tea for colds, coughs, and fevers.
The flower is irregular-shaped, white, tinged with pink and is fragrant. It is a round, cluster-type flower that sits atop a single, long stalk. The flowers are attractive to bees and bloom in spring, summer and the autumn. They also attract several species of butterfly, including: skippers, blues, sulphurs, and hairstreaks. The flower heads can be used in tea to treat rheumatism and gout, used as blood cleanser, to clean wounds sores, boils and heal eye ailments. The Celts of Wales kept White Clover around in order to ward away evil spirits.
A white and yellow flower found in the back garden of the Finkhaus. It is prevalent alongside the lawn, next to the dense undergrowth on the west side of the property. During the day the area receives both full sun and shade. The plants’ stems and flowers arch towards where the sun rises in the east. Along with the Field Thistle, the Ox-Eye Daisy is also a part of the Aster (sunflower) family of plants. Both the Field Thistles and the Ox-Eye Daisy grow on the west side of the Finkhaus property, which is the side that gets the most sun during the day. The Ox-Eye Daisy is to be found in areas that are wet or dry, in sun, fields, pastures and along roads. The plant is not native to Minnesota, it was imported from Europe. It is also native in temperate regions of Asia. It’s Latin name is Leucanthemum vulgare
The plant will grow to be 1-3 feet tall. In poor soil the Ox-Eye Daisy will grow to be short and erect. In rich soils it will grow long and tall, which seems to suggest that the soil on the west side of the Finkhaus is rich soil. It has weak stem, hence the bending over of the plant as it grows taller. The Ox-Eye Daisy contains pyrethrum, a chemical that repels insects and is used in organic pesticides. It is a perennial wildflower. The flowers and leaves can be used in salads. The fresh or dried leaves and flowers can also be used to make a tea. Ox Eye Daisies were used in folk medicine for centuries as an antispasmodic, a tonic, to treat whooping cough, asthma, internal wounds and ulcers, amongst other things. Like Chamomile it has a calming effect.
The leaves of the Ox-Eye Daisy are similar to a dandelion’s leaves. They are lobed (creating a unique shape), thick and dark green. The leaves are attached at the base of the plant– basal leaves, and grow out from the stem in an alternating formation. The leaves attach to the stem by clasping to them, i.e. the leaf attached directly to the stalk, without a stem of its own, and grow to be 1-2″ long. The unopened flower buds can be marinated and used in a similar way to capers. The Ox-eye Daisy is a host for several viral diseases affecting crops. It smells like sage and is the only large white daisy that has escaped gardens. The seeds are dispersed by the wind.
The flower heads are 1-2″ wide with up to 20 white petals. The petals are considered to be ‘ray’ flowers, spreading out in a circular pattern from the center. Each white petal is a separate flower. The central yellow disk are also small flowers. The white and yellow flowers make up a seemingly single flower, although each flower head is made up of many flowers. This makes it a composite flower head. The flowers bloom in spring and summer. The open flower heads attract a large range of pollinating insects particularly bees, butterflies and hoverflies. In plant symbolism, the ox-eye daisy represents patience.
A white flower found in the back garden of the Finkhaus. It appears only occasionally in the dense undergrowth located at the edge of the Finkhaus lawn and between the two wooded areas that lie adjacent to a grassy path. The area gets both full sun and shade. White campion grows in most open habitats, particularly wasteland and fields, and is most commonly in neutral to alkaline soils. It prefers sunny areas that have rich and well-drained soil. It is a part of the Pink family of plants and has a Latin name of Silene alba. It is an annual plant that is not native to Minnesota. It is native to most of Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa. The White Campion is thought to have arrived in North America as a component of ship ballast.
The Ojibwe use an infusion of the alba subspecies as a medicinal plant. Plants of the genus Silene have roots that contain the compound saponin, which although a mildly toxic substance has long been used as soap for washing clothes, hair etc. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish. There are also references to some kinds of campion being used to treat snake bites and as a cure for corns and warts.
The White Campion grows to be between 1-3 feet tall. The entire plant is densely hairy. The leaves are simple lance-shaped and 1-4″ long. When young the plant forms a basal rosette of oval leaves, and when they get older they form forked stems with leaves in opposite pairs. This indicates that the plant in the Finkhaus garden is an older plant. Its seeds shake out of its capsule on winter winds.
The flower blooms in the summer months, particularly in the evening. Displays are at their best through June and July. The plant has many regular-shaped white flowers on it, are easy to see at night and therefore attract night-flying insects such as moths. It is also good food for finches and sparrows. Each flower can be 1″ wide and has 5 deeply notched petals (this gives the appearance of the flower having 10 petals). Behind each white flower there is a large, dark-veined, green bladder (calyx). During the day the petals retract back into the bladder. Its male and female flowers on separate plants. The White Campion is also named the Grave Flower or Flower of the Dead in parts of England, as they are seen often growing on grave sites and around tombstones.
A purple flowering thistle, found in the back garden of the Finkhaus. It appears occasionally throughout the dense undergrowth on the border between the Finkahus lawn and the wooded area behind the house. The area gets both full sun and shade. It grows in areas that are dry and sunny, therefore is often found in open fields and along roads. The Field Thistle is a perennial plant that is native to Minnesota and grows throughout the state. It is one of many thistles that can be found in the state. The Field Thistle’s Latin name is Cirsium discolor, and it is a member of the Aster family of plants, which includes sunflowers.
The white “wool” under the plants leaves, and the set of small leaves just beneath each flower, help to identify the Field Thistle. The undersides of the leaves are white with short hairs. Each plant produces many purple flower heads on only a few stalks, as many as 5 to 20 flower heads per plant. The plant will grow to be 3-feet to 5-feet tall. The plant I found in the Finkhaus garden were approximately 5 feet tall, indicating a fully-grown plant.
The plant has a large, green spiny base. The leaves of the Field Thistle are classified as simple, lobed leaves. Lobes give leaves a unique shape. This plant’s leaves can grow to 9″ long and 3″ wide. The Field Thistle is often confused with the Bull Thistle, but the Field Thistle’s leaves are much less prickly than the Bull Thistle’s, and the flower is paler in color. The plant has edible roots, inner stems, young leaves, young inner parts of flower buds and seeds. Native Americans used a paste of the roots for treating wounds, boils, and piles, and also used an infusion of the root for treating stomach ache. Due to the prickly nature of the leaves, grazing animals will avoid grazing the immediate area around thistles. Since thistle tends to grow in over-grazed areas, this naturally allows areas to recover.
The flower, pale purple in color, will bloom during the summer months. The flower itself is a composite of many smaller flowers, with a flower head that is 1.5″ to 2″ in width. The plant is a favorite of bees and wasps who drink its nectar and pollinate the flower. The nectar of the Field Thistle will also attract Tiger Swallowtails and Monarch Butterflies. Many other species will also use other plant parts for food, including the leaves, stems, roots, flower heads and seeds. The seeds are naturally wind dispersed and often fall close to the parent plant. A Field thistle will die after flowering and maturing its seed.