Goldenrod

The yellow clusters of sweet smelling flowers would wave in the prairie wind, and gravel would crunch under my bike tires. The hot August sun would shine down on the treeless pasture, and clouds moving swiftly by would douse the scene in moments of shade as they passed. My mom, probably on the porch or stretching up from weeding the garden, would comment on their swaying, and she taught me their name. This is how I met Canada Goldenrod as a child.

Until recently, I didn’t know it could be made into tea AND until a few days ago, had never been introduced to its relative, the California Goldenrod.

A monarch butterfly sipping on Canada Goldenrod nectar.
California Goldenrod, with flowers like Woodstock’s hair.

Now that I know they’re related, I can see the resemblance. They have similar lance leaves and the tiny yellow flowers, fluffed up like Woodstock’s hair. The arrangement of their flowers is the main difference between them. California Goldenrod has its flowers in sprays around the stem, while Canada Goldenrod has flower sprays in long plumes extending from the stem.

The leaves and flowers of both can be steeped in boiling water as a tea. All Goldenrods (species Solidago) have antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, analgesic, and diuretic properties.

Source List

1. Peterson Field Guides: Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs

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Juneberry vs. Honeysuckle

This spring, wandering through the local park, I kept seeing this blooming shrub  everywhere.  Flipping through the pages of what resources I have, I became convinced it was Juneberry, which is edible. There are eight species in MN alone, and I was almost certain it was one of the varieties.

It pretty well matches the description in the Peterson field guide on edible plants: “drooping clusters of showy 5-petaled flowers” but didn’t have the “oval, toothed leaves.” I thought this was because of variety differences, and kept an eye out for berries. When they finally appeared, that’s when I knew I’d been very wrong.

The berries showed up in pairs, rather than clusters. They didn’t have that puckered end like they should, but were smooth. 

 Notice both the leaves and berries are in pairs, which is nothing like the drawings from Peterson’s guide.

After a little more research, I learned this was a type of exotic honeysuckle. The Minnesota DNR website describes four exotic varieties, all of which are considered  noxious and invasive plants, and none of which are edible to humans.

So this prolific berry in my neighborhood turns out to be a listed enemy of native species and is not safe for me to eat, which is disappointing. On the upside, I did learn quite a bit about both Honeysuckle and Juneberry while checking and double checking for safety. 

As always in foraging, learning about inedibles is just as important as learning the edibles. 

Have you had any foraging adventures lately? Have anything to add about Juneberry or Honeysuckle?
Sources:

1. MN DNR Noxious Weeds List: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/pestmanagement/weedcontrol/noxiouslist.aspx

2. US Forest Service PDF on Exotic Bush Honeysuckles: https://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/invasive_plants/weeds/bush_honeysuckle.pdf

3. MN DNR Exotic Honeysuckles: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialplants/woody/exotichoneysuckles.html

List of Invasive Species: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialplants/index.html