Travel

5 Favorite Things {on our FL vacation}

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1. The beach, of course!

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We did a beach day yesterday and everyone absolutely loved it. How could we not? Sure there was sand everywhere and we all got a little burnt. But what is that compared to nature’s loveliness?

Something about the beach soothes my soul in a deep way. Beautiful, beautiful beach. We will miss you!

 

2. Knitting squares.

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In my last post I mentioned that I was just learning to knit. For our vacation I decided to bring my knitting supplies so that I could knit on the long drive. I do have some traveling anxiety and this has been awesome to help with that. Knitting is very therapeutic 😊

 

3. A favorite read.

I’ve been reading quite a few different books on vacation but one of my most favorites has been Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

It is absolutely wonderful the way she combines the beachscape and different kinds of shells with just life and motherhood. It sounds like a simple concept and it is. I just really fell in love with her soothing, yet relevant writing style.

 

4. Local flora.

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Some of you know I love looking at plants and studying them. This one seems to be very common in Florida. It is a weed but I still think it’s lovely.

After a quick bit of research I believe this is Bidens alba, also known as Spanish needles. Wikipedia says that the leaves are edible but I didn’t test that one out.

 

5. This salad.

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This salad was 100% wonderful. We walked down to a produce stand where I bought beet greens and Florida strawberries and oranges, among quite a few other things. So good and way better than anything up north where I live.

I wish I would have taken a picture of the aloe vera leaf (for our sunburns) I bought before I cut it up. It was as long as my arm…and only 90¢!

Wishing you all warm and happy thoughts!

~Rachel

Natural Living, Nature, The Great Outdoors

What’s That Plant? (Symphyotrichum pilosum or Aster pilosus)

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“They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere

When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here…

But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze

Of a crisp and sunny morning of the early autumn days”

-From When the Frost is on the Punkin, by James Whitcomb Riley.

The beautiful month of October is here. In my corner of the globe in the Midwestern US, this means that fall is in full swing.

It is a time of harvest. Of slowing down. Of bidding summer goodbye. Of bonfires and cozy sweaters. Crunchy leaves.

In my mind, I see the green landscape slowly fading from green to autumn hues. Some plants, like my basil, are fading fast as the days and nights grow cool.

And others, like a plant I’ve recently learned about, are still in their prime.

It is a goal of mine to learn more about plant life. I want to know the names of everything. What they look like, where they are found, if they are edible. I want to learn as much as possible about the green world around me.

And so I wanted to share a plant I found that has a few interesting qualities.

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Name

This is frost aster. It’s Latin name is Symphyotrichum pilosum or Aster pilosus. Why 2 names?

Well, Urban Ecology Center explains that:

“As if to keep things fun and interesting botanists have decided to split up the genus Aster and there is now another genus, Symphyotricum. Consequently a newer name for A. pilosus is Symphyotricum pilosum.”

Appearance

Frost aster has alternate, smooth edged leaves that are long, thin and pointed.

It has composite flowers, with yellow disk florets (center) that change to redish-purple or redish-brown and 15-35 white ray florets that surround the disk florets.

This plant is quite tall, at least 4′ before the stems began to lean over. This is a bit taller than what most sources say this plant’s height range is but it’s likely so tall because it is a more mature plant.

Edible?

As far as I can see the answer is no. However, according to sources listed on Common Sense Homesteading, in the past the heath aster (not frost aster, see below) was used by Native Americans in teas, lotions and to “create a herbal steam” in a sweat lodge. Kinda like a herbal sauna. Sounds cool. Always secretly wanted to try the whole sweat lodge experience.

Unique Qualities

Two facts of interest:

  1. Frost aster is aptly named because it continues to bloom into the frosty days and weeks of autumn long after other plants and flowers are spent.
  2. For this reason, many insects rely on this plant for nourishment. I saw quite a few honeybees and bumblebees browsing busily amongst the flowers.

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Same plant, different location.

 

Also Frost Aster?

I found another plant that seemed to be similar to the frost aster. But it was much smaller and looked a bit different.

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I did a bit of research and narrowed it down to 2 kinds of aster.

Was it

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (also called Aster lateriflorus) or calico aster?

or

Symphyotrichum ericoides, (also called Aster ericoides) or heath aster?

I decided it was heath aster because it had:

  • very short, narrow leaves
  • a bushy appearance, very short. It reminded me of rosemary somewhat.
  • no colorful flowers like described for the calico aster.

 

I enjoyed learning more about this unique plant. Isn’t it amazing how much variety and beauty there is in the world?

~Rachel

All photos are my own.

foraging, Natural Living

Summer Nature Walk (Learning to Rest and Gearing Up for Foraging)

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Last weekend I went for a walk. Is that odd? No! But I was blessedly alone. Which is odd. I am never alone.

I’m learning that I do need alone time and relax time to thrive. To be better at well, everything. I’m learning to take charge and implement more time for quiet and reflection. I need more of it in my life.

What better way to spend a blissful cloudy afternoon than on a stroll through nature?

I’m currently reading a good book on foraging by Lisa M. Rose called Midwest Foraging: 115 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Burdock to Wild Peach. So I thought it would be good practice to look over the area where I live and see what plants I could find and name and if they were edible or not.

I didn’t harvest any of these plants. Most of them were near the road (not especially good to harvest from) but others I believe were on private property. So I admired from a distance 🙂 It’s very important to respect private property when foraging.

Below are some pictures of 10 plants I came across along with their name, family, habitat and whether and what parts are edible. Ready? Lets go!

 

Habitat: Yard

 

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Yellow Wood-sorrel (Oxalis dillenii)

Yellow Wood-sorrel is a member of the wood sorrel family and is related to the Wood-shamrock and Pink Wood-sorrel. It is a very common, delicate looking plant.

Edible: leaves, flowers, immature seed pods

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Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

Elderberry is a member of the honeysuckle family. There isn’t a whole lot of it in our yard but I’ve enjoyed watching this one flower and bloom. It appears the birds are loving it so I just let it be.

Edible: flowers and ripe berries only (no stems). The berries are usually cooked and sweetened as they are rather bitter.

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Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Sheep Sorrel is from the buckwheat family. This was the first plant I came across..right underneath my toes on the porch step.

Edible: leaves (tart) and seeds

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Habitat: Roadside/Woods

 

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Pale Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida)

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This plant is from the Touch-me-not family.

Note: this plant is not edible but the crushed roots make a nice poiltuce of sorts that will help relieve itchy skin. I tested this out once and it did indeed soothe my skin.

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Wingstem or Yelow Ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia)

Wingstem is from the sunflower family.  (Asteraceae). This shouldn’t suprise me as the plant was very tall. Finding the name of this plant was quite tall. It wasn’t in any of my books. Finally I was able to find some websites with information. This was definitely one of my favorites.

~~~

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Sulfer Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)

These beautiful cream/yellowish flowers hail from the rose family (Rosaceae). It wasn’t very widespread and it was difficult to get a picture of. Next time I’ll bring my better camera.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

This common plant is a member of the legume (Leguminosae) family and pea subfamily. I’ve always thought it was a cheery little plant and the name is fun to say as it rolls off the tongue.

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Habitat: Damp/Wet Soil, Visible from Roadside

 

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Joe-pye-weed (Eupatoriam purpureum)

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Joe-pye-weed is from the Composite family, Thoroughwort tribe (Eupatorieae). It is very tall and has pretty purplish-pink flowers that were just beginning to open up.

Some of the plants further away appeared to be very popular with the butterflies as I spotted at least 2 yellow Tiger Swallowtail butterflies congregating on the flowers. You can just barely see one in the 3rd photo.

Edible: most parts classified as edible by ediblewildfood.com.

~~~

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Common Cat-Tail (Typha latifoia)

From the cat-tail family. Aren’t you shocked?? This is a very familiar plant that usually is found in ditches and on the outskirts of lakes, creeks, etc.

Edible: certain parts are edible in springtime.

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Towards the end of my walk, I spotted this wild apple tree peeking out from the edge of the woods.

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Tasty looking apples! No idea what kind but I was suprised to see them.

Do you enjoy going for nature walks? Have you seen anything interesting lately?

~Rachel

All photos were taken by me.

~~~

Resources:

1. A Guide to Field Identification: Wildflowers of North America (1984), by Frank D. Venning

2. http://www.ediblewildfood.com

3. http://www.dpughphoto.com

4.https://www.prairiemoon.com/actinomeris-alternifolia-wingstem-prairie-moon-nursery.html