If you would like to learn more about plants and plants uses, including the ones featured below, check out our Native Skills Camps, Family Walks, Ancestral Skills Camp Outs, and Weekly Home School Programs.
Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about private classes.
Leaves of three, let it be:
Poison oak is not related to the oak tree, but the leaves look somewhat similar and they grow in similar habitats, hence the name.
The oil of the poison oak plant causes itching. There are many plant remedies to the itching which we teach at Coast Live Oak School.
So called by early American settlers because their mules would eat the leaves of this plant and bloat up!
Mulefat is so abundant in dry, sandy washes and river beds in Southern California that it is one of those plants you might look right past. But it is an extremely helpful plant because its branches naturally grow straight. Among its many benefits, you can use it to make spears, arrow shafts and hand drill fire making tools.
An ancient plant companion of human beings all over the world. Willow grows near water and, like mulefat, it is extremely abundant. Willow has many uses, providing medicine as well as materials for tools and shelter.
Prickly Pear Cactus
The prickly pear cactus (genus Opuntia) has edible fruits and pads.
Like many desert plants, it holds onto its water and produces very nutrient dense fruits that also help you stay hydrated. The prickly pear is native to the Western Hemisphere, but it has been introduced to hot, dry places all over the world. Today is it cultivated around the Mediterranean, and in the Middle East, Africa, and South America.
There is a simple and elegant technique to getting the spines off the prickly pear fruit…
let us know if you would like to learn!
Common Ancestral Connections:
Most of the parts of the elder are poisonous (leaves, stems, branches, bark, seeds, unripe berries) but the flowers and the flesh of the ripe berries are edible and medicinal. Several species of elder grow around the world, and all have small edible berries.
Elderberries and elderflowers have been used throughout Europe and Western Asia for food and medicine for thousands of years. They have also been used for thousands of years here in southern California in many of the same ways.
Yarrow is an important plant to cultures around the world. In China there are many stories and myths that feature the yarrow plant, and yarrow is used in rituals and as herbal medicine.
The Latin (scientific) name for yarrow is Achillea millefolium, which means “Many leaved plant of Achilles”. The Greek hero Achilles learned about this plant from a centaur name Chiron (an interesting story you might hear in a class sometime). Achilles used this plant as an antiseptic for cuts, and to slow bleeding… which is exactly how the local native Tongva and Acjachemen have used it here in Southern California for thousands of years!
Looking for fresh water?
Finding fresh water is one of the most important wilderness skills a person can have. Cattail is one of the plants that shows us where freshwater is. Cattail also has many other very useful aspects.