Ethnobotany Field Trip Notes
Helen Hepp


(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 scar. 

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 me.) 

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 red huckleberries. 

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 canoe, etc. 

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 jellies set.

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.