I tried eating the leaves of Wild Lettuce and wondered why it was named wild lettuce since it didn’t taste like anything you’d want to include in a salad. But because it is pretty easy to recognize, I thought I’d share a photo or two. Then I Googled it. Now I know why Wild Lettuce is called “wild”! Another name for it is Opium Lettuce! Since you’re supposed to swear you are over 18 to get necessary details, I will leave further research to you other than to say I learned that some Indians use the herb to enhance the vividness of dreams. They believe that induced dream states provide more information about reality than the conscious waking state.
It’s a tall, sturdy plant with cool seeds. Both the flowers and the seeds look like they belong on a dandelion. So they must be related.
Garlic mustard is a delicious, critically invasive herb. Before I knew that it was an invasive, I knew it was yummy, raw or cooked. I am embarrassed to admit I planted it in my yard. Even if we all set out to collect and eat it, garlic mustard has the upper hand. It is one of the few non-native plants that can spread rapidly through the forest floor in the spring, greatly reducing the diversity of all species. A single vigorous plant can produce up to 7,900 seeds. Fortunately/unfortunately most only produce about 600 seeds per year. Try it! You’ll like it!
Your difficult job is to save the delicate native Trout Lily by pulling out the dominant Lesser Celandine and its bulblets. Its speckled leaves remind me of fishing for brook trout with my grandfather deep in the Adirondack forests.
This cheerful flower, also known as Fig Buttercup, was brought from Europe as an ornamental. It creates a dense carpet (check out its sturdy, overlapping leaves) that prevents native ephemerals like trout lily, bloodroot and wild ginger from surviving. I know it’s cute but be strong!
They may be called Common Blue Violets but the sight of each violet opening in my yard is exceptional and exciting. The word ‘violet’ comes from the Latin name ‘Viola’, my beloved granddaughter’s name! Violets are native to just about everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere where you would want to live, plus Hawaii, Australia and the Andes in South America. Those sound like fun places to live too. There are 400-500 species of Violets. When I was about 8 years old, I took a shortcut through a neighbor’s backyard to get to my piano teacher’s house. There were WHITE violets growing in the neighbor’s yard. The violets in our yard were all purple. So I took a fork and a paper cup along with my piano book the next week and, without asking permission, I dug up a white violet and transplanted it to my backyard. Thus began my life of crime and fascination with native plants.
Guess what I just found in the neighbor’s yard! Hmmm…
A native species, Honeyvine Milkweed is a Monarch larvae host and it grows where deer can’t eat it. Everyone considers it a terrible pest except me. I was thrilled to discover that there is a milkweed that isn’t decimated by our otherwise wonderful white tail deer. Before the leaves cover everything, go outside and look for milkweed pods flying way up in the air like little kites stuck in your trees. It is also known as bluevine, climbing milkweed, dog’s-collar, Enslen’s vine, peavine, sandvine, smooth anglepod, or smooth swallow-wort. It can produce up to 50 seed pods!
Henbit is an early spring-blooming edible member of the mint family. Members of the mint family have square stems. (Feel them!) The flowers look like fairy orchids. Hens love them. They also provide urgently needed nectar and pollen to early arriving hummingbirds and honeybees. I will get a better photo. They often grow near chickweed and are regularly confused with dead-nettles.
Dead-nettles are also members of the mint family. Their blossoms peak out from under fuzzy, edible leaves. The leaves turn reddish-purple as the season progresses. It’s Greek name, Lamium purpureum, means “the purple monster’. Sometimes they cover a plowed field, turning it completely purple. Watch along the road as you drive through farmland.
No, it’s not a Johnny-Jump-Up! Too early for violets here but not too early for Creeping Charlie. Often called ground-ivy because of the way it covers the ground, this edible member of the mint family has many names: Creeping Charlie, gill-over-the-ground, alehoof, tunhoof, cat’s foot, field balm and run-away-robin. It was among the first herb and edible plants brought to North America by early settlers.