Native Plants and Trees

This page is a month-by-month guide to our native plants and trees, their edible and medicinal uses, and includes seasonal recipes for foods and drinks made from what you can gather in the garden or from the hedgerows. It is also a gardening guide to growing the native plants and trees, based on my own experience and experiments. This has led to my interest in native plant guerilla gardening, also included here. We can all play our part in re-wilding the countryside and our own gardens too by planting native plants and trees. We can then gather them for medicines and food and they will help restore the diverse eco-systems so needed by the bees and other wildlife.

 

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June 2014

Healing Area Archway Glastonbury Festival

 

Travelling between Derbyshire and Glastonbury Festival (where myself, family and friends create the Earth garden in the Healing Fields), I find myself on the M42 and the M5. I am struck by how many wild flowers and native trees I can see and identify growing along those wild edges of the motorways! They have mostly been planted up with native trees, and those that have survived have begun to create copses and thickets. I spot Rowan, Hawthorn, Oak, Elder, Hazel, Crab Apple, Ash, Field Maple, Willow, Birch, Pine.... and in the gaps where they didn't survive, as well as along the verges, the native plants are moving in. At this time of year they are easy to spot as their flowers bring dashes of colour along these motorway Wild Edges. I spot swathes of Cranesbill, Foxgloves, Knapweed and Purple Loosestrife, Oxeye Daisy, Rosebay Willow Herb, Poppies, Yarrow, Agrimony, Toadflax, Self Heal, Dog Roses, Mullein, Purple Vetch and then, just outside Bristol on the M5.... Purple Orchids..... in their hundreds!! While travelling in the spring we were similarly amazed to see the extraordinary amount of Orchids, Primroses and Cowslips to be found blanketing many motorway verges.

So it seems that the motorway verges are becoming wild life and wild plant corridors. Apart from the restrictions of the roads them selves, they are mostly left undisturbed. If only I could stop and get a closer look I imagine there are more species in these roadside mini wildernesses than I can see as we wizz on by.

It heartens me to see the native plants making a come-back. The wetter conditions of the last few years have been very good for them and for our native trees. Many of the now unused quarries here in Derbyshire are also becoming havens for wild life and the native plants are moving in, reclaiming their land, blown in on the wind or scattered by birds, animals and people. They are very good at distribution after all!

 

Mullein ~ Verbascum thapsus

(See July 2012 for Mullein)

Guerrilla Gardening

And while nature is doing a fantastic job of re-wilding at any opportunity it finds, we too can help the process along. There is still time for a little guerrilla gardening, planting out small plants from your garden as you are weeding, (instead of discarding them to the compost heap). I usually dig them up with a little soil and put them in a plastic tub and keep them damp. I then take them out and transplant into new locations, often along roadsides and lanes where they can grow and then seed themselves later in the year. (See April 2014's entry) Like all young plants they need a bit of TLC when you first plant them out. You will need to make sure that they get watered at this time of year if it is endlessly dry. Plant them where you walk often so you can check them from time to time and take a bottle of water with you to give them an extra drink in hot weather.

 

Self Heal ~ Prunella vulgaris

(See July 2012 for Self Heal)

 

Betony Plants - grown from seed and ready for planting out.

 

Betony ~ Stachys officinalis

Betony and Self Heal are two of my favourite native plants. Both have wonderful herbal properties and both are very beautiful native plants that seem to be making a come-back. Last year I collected their seed and grew lots - some for my own garden and some to plant out for a spot of guerrilla gardening. Both grow well in grass and betony, being once a woodland plant is happy in shady damp conditions too.

Make a small slice in the grass with a trowel and pop them in.... and water well. Soon they will be flowering and self seeding.... and you will have helped a new cycle of seed dispersal to begin.....

Betony ~ Stachys officinalis
A native perennial, sometimes known as Wood Betony, it grows in woodland clearings, along hedgerows and the wild edge places. Flowers June - September.
In the Garden: An attractive garden plant with many medicinal uses.
Parts Used: Leaves and flowers
Herbal uses: Betony is a great cure-all, healing and strengthening the whole system, both physically and at a subtle level. It is a nerve tonic and a restoring herb and will help bring peaceful sleep if taken at bed time. Use for anxiety, nervous headaches, to bring clarity and relaxation. It has a beneficial effect on all digestive upsets, soothing and calming the whole of the digestive tract. It improves the memory and is perfect to take in our older years as a general restorer whenever we feel out-of-sorts. It will improve the circulation. Use an infusion or oil made from the leaves for bathing bruises, sprains, haemorrhoids and varicose veins.
DO NOT TAKE IF PREGNANT
Metaphysical Use: To help us become more instinctive and stay grounded. Moving us from our fears to a place of inner peacefulness.
In the Kitchen: Pick to dry for herb teas as it is coming into flower; make into tincture or add to elixirs; make a herbal oil; Make a herb pillow.

 

June 2014.

 

June 2013

 

And the woods turn green again.

 

 

 

Oak at back of greenpeace kids. Summer Solstice 2013

The mighty Oak comes into its full power at this time of year and there are still many ancient oaks to be visited out on the land. They sometimes can be found in unexpected places, like this wonderful huge old Oak that called me in when I was out wandering early one morning at Glastonbury festival . It is to be found right at the back of the Greenpeace field, and is a tangeable presence that fills you up with its stillness.

Oak
Sitting with an Oak tree will bring a great sense of inner peace and stillness and is hugely beneficial to people who are in need of calm reflective time. As a flower essence it can be taken by those who are struggling and fighting strongly and constantly in their daily lives, or desperately trying to overcome an illness. It will bring renewed strength and courage to any situation and restore faith, so that you can go ahead and aim for what you want in life. People needing Oak are usually strong and determined people, hard workers who will not complain and who will work relentlessly without a holiday. Sometimes this can be seen in mothers, who look after the family without a break and never admit to being overworked or under stress. They feel a reluctance to appear week in the eyes of others, and are worried about becoming dependant, and so do anything rather than ask other for help. Taking the Bach flower remedy will soften this attitude and bring new vitality, easing tension and brining a more easy-going element to life.

The juice from crushed Oak leaves can be applied directly onto wounds and the leaves can be soaked in boiling water, allow the liquid to cool and use to relieve tired and inflamed eyes. Use the same lotion for any cuts and burns and as a mouthwash for bleeding gums and for bathing piles (haemorrhoids), varicose veins and as a gargle for sore throats.

Oak galls (formed by the gall wasp larvae) yield a black ink. Steep 8 ounces of galls in 4 pints of boiling water. Steep for 24 hours, strain and add a sweet-smelling essential oil (a few drops). Add one and then a half ounces (45g) of gum Arabic and then stir in 3 ounces (80g) of sulphate or iron (ferrous sulphate).

A coffee substitute can be made form acorn kernels. Chop them up and roast them to a light brown colour, then grind them up and roast them again.

The Druids made a distilled water from the flower buds to cleanse the internal body. They also collected the water found in the hollows of the trunk and used this ritually to cleanse the external body in time for the midsummer festival. It is a very magic thing to find a pool of water hidden within the boughs of the tree, and to know that this pure rainwater has been soaking up all the herbal and spiritual properties of the Oak. It is worth returning to the tree with a jar to collect the water in.

For generations upon generations, people have gone to sit beneath the mighty Oak to gain strength and spiritual renewal. The outside world can be forgotten and the inner world can slip back into perspective. The Oak can help you find a new understanding and vision, gained from your experiences. This in turn will bring strength and courage to face whatever life has to offer you. The Oak tree's mighty presence will help restore faith in ourselves and with this lies the ability to go ahead and aim for what we most want in life. It is well worth finding the time to go and sit with an Oak tree and to receive the qualities it has to offer us. Remember to thank the tree after each communication, not because the tree needs your thanks but to keep open you channels of love and respect for the tree kingdom and all of nature. This will enhance your ability to receive their qualities on the deepest level.

 

 

Sorrel ~ Rumex acetosa

A native perennial found in grassland, in pastures and along roadside. It has distinctive small arrow shaped leaves, which have a sharp lemony flavour. They can be picked as early as February and can still be found in June.

In the Garden: Grow as a vegetable crop. It likes a damp position. Sow the seeds in September or March and thin out as the plants form. Ready to pick in July. Once established in your garden the leaves can be picked from February to June. Prevent from flowering to increase the leaf yields. Cut back frequently to encourage new young shoots for salads. The roots can be divided in the autumn and placed in new positions about a foot a part.

Part Used: Leaves

Herbal Uses: The leaves contain binoxalate of Potash, also present in Rhubarb, which gives its sharp acidy flavour, and should be avoided by those with rheumatic conditions.

In the Kitchen: Add the leaves to salad, or make a green sauce with a sharp lemony flavour, which is traditionally eaten with fish, or sorrel soup. Add to any spinach-type mixtures, to homemade mayonnaise, to add to pies, quiches, stir-fries and risottos.

Sorrel Soup
1) Melt butter in saucepan and add a handful of chopped chives and a handful of chopped sorrel leaves.
2) Cook gently until soft but not brown.
3) Add a large potato sliced thinly and a pint of vegetable stock.
4) Simmer for half an hour and then liquidize.
5) Add seasoning and half a pint of milk and gently warm through.
6) Serve with a swirl of cream.

Sorrel Sauce
This is a classic green sauce, much loved by the French and traditionally eaten with fish, although it is fabulous with absolutely anything!

1) Gently cook a tablespoonful of chopped onion in 2 tablespoons of dry white wine, until the liquid has almost gone.
2) When cool add 3 egg yolks and blend vigorously. Use an electric blender if you have one. Put aside.
3) Cut up 6oz of butter and gently melt in a saucepan. Add 3oz of chopped Sorrel leaves and cook gently for a minute.
4) Remove from the heat and pour in the egg yolks very slowly. Stir vigorously as the sauce thickens. Warm very gently to prevent butter and eggs curdling.
5) Season to taste.

 

 

Wood Sorrel ~ Oxalis acetosella

A native perennial found in woods, hedgerows and shady places. Flowers April to June.

In the Garden: a sweet little plant that will grow in all shady places. The leaves can be eaten from February until it flowers.

Part Used: Leaves

eaten from February until it flowers.

Herbal Uses: The leaves contain binoxalate of Potash, which is also present in Rhubarb, which gives it it’s sharp acidy flavour and should be avoided by those with rheumatic conditions. It is a blood cleanser that will strengthen a weak stomach and produce an appetite. The juice can be used in a gargle for mouth ulcers, to heal wounds and staunch bleeding.

eaten from February until it flowers.

In the Kitchen: add to early salads, and anywhere that calls for its sharp lemony flavour. Mix with common Sorrel for making Sorrel soup or green Sorrel sauce.

 

June 2013.

 

June 2012

 

This is the highest peak of the year's outer growth cycle, with a profusion of flowers, herbs, beauty and perfection. It is a time of high manifestation and fertility, and everywhere plants are coming into flower. It is best to pick herbs just before they come into flower, when their energy is at its peak. June is a busy month of gathering herbs and preserving them for future use.

 

Making Herbal Vinegars

Preserving herbs in vinegar and using them on your food are an excellent way to take medicine without noticing. Cider vinegar has it's own medicinal properties and is the best medium to draw out minerals from the plants. Vinegar is cooling to the skin and can therefore can used for any herbal preparations that this would benefit and this method is ideal for anyone not wishing to use alcohol.

Method
1) Simply fill a dark jar with a herb or combinations of herbs, depending on the use of the mixture, which may be culinary or medicinal, and pour on cider vinegar. Stir gently with a chop-stick to ensure any air bubbles have been removed. Label and date the jar and write up in your herb journal.

2) Leave in a dark cupboard where you won't forget it and shake frequently. Strain off the herb whenever you feel it is completely infused.

3) Strain off the plant matter and pour the vinegar into a clean dark bottle, label and date.

Mint Sauce - the original herbal vinegar traditionally eaten with lamb. The Mint acts as a digestive. Traditionally the Mint is chopped finely, mixed with vinegar and sugar, but try adding some chopped Garlic Mustard or Winter Cress to the mix and using as a salad garnish with rich cheesy dishes.

Flower vinegars

Use for salads. Flower buds can also be used. Great for when you need to prevent the plant from flowering and don't want to waste the flowers.
Try Chives, Elderflowers, Hawthorn, Violets, Lady's Smock, Broom.

 

 

Chives ~ Allium schoenoprasum

 

A native bulb, now rare in the wild, found on limestone.

In the Garden: An attractive plant that does well in containers. Grow from seed or by dividing existing clumps in the spring or autumn. This is an early salad plant that can be used from February onwards. Flowers June to July. Cut and use the flowers to improve the leaves.

Part Used: Leaves and flowers

Herbal Uses: A general tonic and cleanser, rich in iron, use for anaemia and as an antiseptic.

In the Kitchen: Greatly under estimated and under used in the kitchen. The leaves have a delicate onion flavour and the flowers are delicious. Chop up the leaves and use in salads and any egg, cheese or fish dish, in herb butters and dips. Break up the flowers and sprinkle over salads.

Chive Flower Vinegar
At this time of year as the Chive goes into flower, it is good to pick them so the plant gives its energy to its leaves. You will get another flower crop later.

Make in the usual way. After a month strain off the beautiful pink vinegar, rebottle in a dark jar to preserve its colour, label and date. Mix the vinegar soaked flowers with same honey and add to a salad.

 

Rose (Wild) ~ Rosa canina

 

A native shrub that flowers June to July with Rosehips in September.

In the Garden: Let this delightful plant ramble on your wild edges. Trim back every autumn to keep it in check.

Part Used: Petals and Fruit

Herbal Uses: The petals and the Rosehips are an immune system support, diuretic, and cooling to all hot conditions. For colds and flu, sore throats and viral infections and as a heart tonic. A tonic for the female reproductive system, a hormonal balancer.

Metaphysical uses: To help you to love yourself and strengthen your loving heart.

In the Kitchen: Remove the petals so the Rosehips can form and add them to salads, elixirs and honeys.

 

Making Herbal Honeys

Honey draws out the goodness from plants so you can put herbs directly in honey. This make it easy for children to take them. They can be flavoured with more palatable tastes such a Rose petals and poured over other food. These are great to make with children, helping them become active in their own medicine making!

* Never give honey to babies under 12 months *

1) Gather the leaves or petals

2) Gently warm some clear honey in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, until it begins to get a little runnier. (Don't over heat)

3) Lightly fill a dark jar with herbs of choice, tearing the leaves and petals or grinding any seeds. Cover the herbs with the warmed honey.

4) Prod well with a chop stick to remove air bubbles so that it does not oxidise.

5) Let it infuse for 6 weeks, shaking frequently.

6) Remove herb and rebottle in another dark jar. If you are making it with children, make a decorated label and give it a fun name.

Some of the honey soaked herbs can be left in the jar and eaten, such as rose petals, fennel seeds or chamomile.

Peppermint Honey - this honey will add zing to any herb tea and is a calming digestive tonic.

Rose-Petal Honey - This is a princess amongst honeys. No need to strain off the petals, put them straight on your toast and enjoy the taste of Summer.

 

 

Comfrey ~ Symphytum officinale

 

A native perennial found in damp places, in ditches, along streams and river edges. The flowers can vary in colour from mauve, pinks and white. Also known as Knitbone on account of its use as such.

Make sure that you have the true native as there are introduced comfreys that look similar and are high in Pyrrolizidine alkaloid, which is toxic to the liver.

In the Garden: Worth growing in the garden as a fertiliser. Add to compost and lay the leaves under potatoes as you plant them. It can get out of hand but is easy to pull up and compost.

Part Used: Leaves

Herbal Uses: Use the fresh leaves as an infusion or mashed poultice for all swellings, sprains, torn ligaments and to mend broken bones (once they have been set by a professional). This herb will heal in record time so be sure the wound is clean.

In the Kitchen: Add to green spinach mixtures and eat in moderation. Rich in B12. and make Comfrey Oil

 

Making Herbal Oils (Macerations)

When rubbed onto the skin, herbal oils will be absorbed into the bloodstream and the herb will act in its usual way. They are used instead of herbal creams.

Method One
1. Crush the herbs between two stones or bruise with the back of a spoon or in a pestle and mortar. Place them in a clear jar (or you can use dried herbs).

2. Cover with organic cold pressed Olive oil or Sunflower oil.

3. Write up in your Herb Journal, listing ingredients, when and where they were picked and any other relevant information.

3. Prod down with a chopstick or similar to get the air bubbles out.

4. Place in a sunny window for 3 weeks, shaking occasionally. Make sure all the plant matter is submerged.

5. Strain though a piece of clean muslin and store in a dark bottle. Label and date.

Method Two
If you don't have time for this or it is not sunny, then place in a double boiler over a very low heat until the herbal oil is warm and let the herbs steep for an hour or two.

Massage Oil
A cold pressed Almond oil or Grape-seed oil can be used if you want to make a massage oil that will be absorbed more easily into the skin. A few drops of essential oils of Lavender, Chamomile and/or Rose can also be added to lightly scent it and add extra loveliness and relaxation.

Herbal oils are NOT the same as essential oils, which are distilled and much stronger. They are generally not made at home.

Dandelion Flower Oil
Use the last Dandelion flowers to make this gorgeous bright yellow oil.

It can be used as a salad dressing and also rubbed into the skin for tired stiff joints and to loosen tense muscles.

 

 

June 2012.

 


 

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