Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Herb of the Week - Wild herbs

Who says a cell phone cannot take good photos!  This is the view down to the picnic area from the scenic overlook in Eau Galle Recreation Area in Wisconsin where I recently attended a family get together.

I had left my camera in my car which is down in that parking lot you can just bearly see in the photo, so I used my phone to get these shots.  It was only good for that anyway as there was no phone reception here.  That was nice too!

While walking with a couple family members I found several naturally growing herbs and had a great conversation with my nephew about foraging.  If you live in Minneapolis, check out the facebook page Foraging with Friends.  Here is what I found in a short 15 minute treck up the side of an earthen dam.

This is Mullein, it is not yet flowering, but we did see several plants that had shot up the towering yellow spike of flowers that is so indicative of this medicinal herb.

This is a white yarrow or common yarrow (Achillea millefolium).  It is surrounded by purple flowers and  some rue.

Angelica caught my eye as we were driving home from the event and my husband was not thrilled that I made him stop by the side of the road to snap this. 

This one although very unique in shape and flower, has me stumped.  I thought it was Pussy Toes when I first saw it without the flowers open.  However, when I saw the flowers open, then I thought it might be unicorn root.  I could not verify either identification, as I could not find an image, that looked quite like this with the tan striped pods that opens to a 4 petal flower with serrate petals.  If you know what this lovely plant is please let me know so I can improve my mental data base.

It was the season for purple flowers as the thistles, wild asters and astralagus were everywhere.  I took this nice show of astralagus just as we topped the dam.

Astragalus  also known as field milkvetch, purple milkvetch, cock's-head is native to much of western and northern North America from most of Canada to the southwestern United States, as well as eastern Asia. It grows in vernally moist areas such as meadows, and is often found in sagebrush.  It can grow in less than ideal soil, which is probably why it was growing on the steep slope of dam.  With a tap root it can find water and stay anchored on the side of the road or in this case the side of a dam.
This is a perennial herb growing a slender but sturdy stem from an underground caudex. It leans or grows upright to a maximum height near 1 foot. The stem is often roughly hairy. Alternately arranged leaves are up to 4 inches long and made up of several pairs of leaflets up to an inch long each. They are oval to lance-shaped and may have notched tips. The flowers originate in an oval-shaped cluster of purple or pink-tinted to nearly white pealike flowers. Each flower is up to an inch long.
The fruit is an oval-shaped legume pod up to a centimeter long. It is dark colored with white hairs and dries to a papery texture.  The name milkvetch comes from the fact it is used as a grazing crop for milk cows and sheep.  There are many species and some do contain hazardous compounds.

This view made walking up a rather steep earthen dam worth the effort.  The view, like that from the overlook I shared first was such a great bit of Central Wisconsin terrain and vegetation.  It made the effort to find the access road worth, three dead ends! 

By the way those steps were on the water side.  We had to walk up a narrow dirt path from the dry side of the dam!


  1. Hello! I was looking at the plant that you thought was Pussy Toes, and I think that it is a plant called bladder campion. Look it up on Google images. Hope this helps, and have a nice day!

    1. Usually bladder campion has a rounder bell behind the flower. But this is definitely a campion. Can't really tell from the picture which species.


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