(These are Helen’s notes from an ethnobotany field trip with Ed
Wilbur held at Lake Ozette in July 2004)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and horsetail (Equisetum)
help heal wounds and leave no scar.
Lady fern (Athyrium felix-femina) and bracken fern
(Pteridium aquilinum) can be rubbed on nettle stings to remove
the pain. Lady fern fiddleheads have a watermelon-y nutty flavor.
Eating red huckleberries (Vaccinium parvifolium)
can cause a sharp drop in a person's sugar level - hypoglycemics,
beware. Blueberries are not as bad.
The leaves and flowers of all black berries (Rubus
sp.) are excellent antioxidants.
Giant horsetail stalks (Equisetum telmatiea) can
be squeezed to remove the liquid if water is not available. The stalks
can also be used to stop a bleeding wound and help it heal without a
Red huckleberries are mixed with salmonberries (Rubus
spectabilis) to make a beautiful jelly. The leaves and twigs may be
boiled to make a tea that is good against migraines. It is also
effective as a body wash to soothe burns.
The blond spores on the sword fern (Polystichum
munitum) are also effective at killing the pain of burns.
Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) produces a good
smudge from the needles. Strip the needles from tips of branches and eat
the inner stem to get rid of canker sores. (It seemed to work for me!)
Spruce is also supposed to be a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial. For
a sore throat, gargle with water that's had spruce pitch boiled in it.
Red alder leaves (Alnus rubra) or plantain flower
heads (Plantago major) can be smashed and applied to bug bites to
relieve the itching.
Western redcedar (Thuja plicata) branches
scrunched up can be rubbed on the skin to discourage biting insects.
(Seemed to work for me - the bugs were hanging around but couldn't find
Red elderberry leaves (Sambucus racemosa) are
boiled and applied to eczema.
The root of the licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza)
is high in sugar – a good energy source if you're lost in the woods.
For burns, apply the leaves of the false
lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum dilatatum). The berries, however,
have a really "yucky" oily after-taste that can be neutralized by eating
Salal leaves (Gaultheria shallon) can be cooked in
spaghetti sauce as a substitute for bay leaves. The berries are
excellent with wild game meats.
Bracket fungus (Fomitopsis ganoderma) was used to
carry fire from one camp site to another. Cut to fit a mussel shell, it
was used as a punk. The shell could be tied shut with a piece of twine
made from cedar bark and the resulting fire package safely put into a
Rubbing the leaves of evergreen huckleberries (Vaccinium
ovatum) on chapped hands makes them feel smooth.
The fruit of western crabapple (Malus fusca) is so
high in pectin that it is mixed with other fruits to make jams and
Bunchberries (Cornus canadensis) are also high in
pectin and used to preserve salal berries.
The older leaves of bog Labrador tea (Rhododendron
groenlandicum (Ledum groenlandicum)), with the darker rusty-colored
hairs, make a sweeter tea than the younger leaves at the tip. Be careful
not to pick the leaves of the bog laurel (Kalmia microphylla)
which is poisonous and may grow intertwined with the bog Labrador tea.
The slough sedge (Carex obnupta) produces the blue
white band found on Makah baskets.
The yellow sphagnum moss (Sphagnum angustifolium)
makes a great addition to the garden and encourages the root growth of
plants. It has also been used as a wound dressing, often held in place
with Old man's beard (Usnea longissima). However, red or shaggy
sphagnum moss (Sphagnum squarrosum) can cause burns.
The dried branches of Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus
capitatus) were used for knitting needles. The "j"-shaped branches
on Western redcedar can be quickly made into crab pots.