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Identifying wild herbs can be tricky, so make sure you’re prepared
Identifying wild herbs can be a tricky business, so it’s important to be armed with the proper information before you begin.
Collecting your own wild herbs can be very rewarding. It allows you to be one with nature, and to acquire herbs in their purest form. However, identification can be difficult, and there are several things you should know. Having the proper skill and knowledge will help you to be safe and make the most of your herb collecting.
The first thing you need to do is get fully familiar with what herbs grow in your area. Not all herbs grow in all areas of the country. If you know what does and does not grow in your area, you can save yourself some trouble and potential misidentification. Buy a recent copy of Reader’s Digest Guide to North American Wildlife, or another book which has photos and information on herbs that grow in your area.
Next, you need to familiarize yourself with how each herb looks. You can either use books or gather photos from the internet. Be sure you know the defining traits of stem, leaf, flower, root and seed for each plant. The more you know, the more easily you will be able to properly spot the plants you’re after. Some plants change appearance as they mature, so it’s a good idea to also know what the plant looks like during various stages of growth.
To aid in identification, you may want to take clippings of plants that you find and take them home with you. This will give you the ability to research each plant completely. Once you have successfully identified a species, it can be a good idea to press the clippings in a photo album with a label of what it is. Seeing the actual plant in your book can aid with future identification. If you take clippings of something useless or dangerous, document that as well to prevent grabbing it in the future.
Make a map of the areas where you do your herb hunting, and make marks denoting the location of each species of plant. This will help you find them again later. You never want to take all of an herb from an area, since you want it to grow back. For this reason, it’s good to know where you found it so you can return the following year.
If possible, it’s best to take a more experienced person with you when you go herb hunting. Find someone with considerable knowledge about the plant life in your area, and if possible, someone that knows when plants are of use. Having someone with experience in identifying wild herbs can save you a lot of trouble, and help you learn more about them in less time.
Once you have the proper knowledge in identifying wild herbs, collecting them can be a very rewarding experience. Just be sure to learn all that you can about local plant life, and be careful in regards to poisonous plants. Enjoy your herb collecting!