Walk With Me [5] - Saunter in the Siuslaw National Forest - Part 2

in walkwithme •  7 months ago

A deadly plant, good wild food - and mushrooms! Come with me to explore Oregon's coastal forest in the Siuslaw National Forest.

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Here's the 1st part of my saunter in the Siuslaw National Forest. I made this trip on September 14, 2017. The autumn rains still haven't started, but this part of the Siuslaw National Forest stays green from Pacific Ocean fog all through the dry summer.

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Mystery Plant - Watch Out!

At the end of Part 1 of my Siuslaw National Forest walk, I left you with a mystery. What is this plant? Can you identify this plant just from its leaves? What do you think I will do with this plant?

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Foraging some kinds of plants can be challenging. Some edible plants may look like others that are not worth eating, or even worse -- downright toxic! That's the case with the mystery plant I found in the meadow.

I want to thank @osm0sis and @erikaflynn for their identification of my mystery plant. They make a point about this plant very clearly! @osm0sis thought this plant looked like Borage (Borago officinalis) and @erikaflynn thought it looked like Comfrey (Symphytum spp.). These plants are often confused with the mystery plant, when there are only leaves, but no flowers.

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But when there are flowers, it's easy to identify this plant as Foxglove. People die from eating this plant, even a little bit of it.[1,2] Even contact with the leaves can cause severe skin rashes that last for days. With highly controlled processing, Foxglove provides important medicine for heart conditions. But it is not a plant to mess around with.[3]

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Foxglove flowers are so pretty, though, and a popular garden plant. They have escaped and spread into meadows in the Coast Range and Cascade mountains of Oregon. Hummingbirds and bumblebees like foxglove nectar! Can you imagine a bumblebee working its way into these flowers? Look at those tiny hairs on the lower surface inside the flowers!

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That would be a tight fit for a bumblebee, working its way deep into the center of the flower! You can see how it would get pollen all over its back, to take to the next flower!

So what did I do with this plant? I left it alone!

For trying to identify my mystery plant, @osm0sis and @erikaflynn each get $1 SBD. Check your wallets!

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A Mushroom for Artists!

Walking along the meadow's edge, I saw them... mushrooms! Growing from a dead log, even without any rain for months!

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There are 2 patches of mushrooms on this log. Do you see both of them?

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Did you see this big bracket fungus on the left side of the log?

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I had to work hard to get underneath that bracket fungus to take a picture of the underside! The white part is the area that is actively growing and sending out spores.

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This is the underside of the bracket on the right side of the log. Can you tell what kind of mushroom it is?

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It's the Artist's Conk. They are common bracket fungus in western Oregon. Their underside is so white, with tiny pores. But they will permanently stain brown, any place that white surface is touched. I have to be careful not to make a smudgy mess of this one! There is a lot to appreciate about this great mushroom. Stay tuned for a future post that shows why they are called the Artist's Conk, how to use them for tea, and more!

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Not Every Edible Plant Is Edible All the Time

I continued around the meadow's edge. And came upon a couple plants that I eat. But in the spring, not the fall. These plants are way too old to eat!

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This is Broad-leaf dock. It has a tart, lemony flavor. I like to mix it with other greens, rather than eat it alone. It's good raw or cooked, although it turns a dull olive-green when it's cooked - not exactly an appetizing color!

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What an old, worn-out Western Skunk Cabbage! It is way too old to eat those leaves. Both the Western and Eastern skunk cabbage takes some special preparation. It took me 3 painful failures before I understood how to really appreciate these plants. A lot of books have it all wrong -- and it's one way I tell whether someone who wrote a foraging book actually tried everything they wrote about!

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Of course, I can't let those mushrooms on the log, behind the skunk cabbage, go unnoticed! I don't want to step into the muck by the skunk cabbage to look underneath the mushroom bracket. So I'm not positive what kind it is. Do you see the fresh little brown one below the gnarly old gray one?

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Let's Find A Snack!

I can enjoy a walk without finding something to eat, I swear. But there is a lot of food out there!

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Blackberries! Himalayan blackberries are a noxious, invasive exotic plant in Oregon. They grow in such impenetrable thickets! But at least their berries are good to eat and there is no risk of harvesting too many! They are sweet and flavorful!

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Look! What's that? An old apple tree! With apples on the ground. This group campground was a homestead, long ago. But some of the apple trees are still around. Let's go see if those apples are any good!

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I'm surprised that no deer have eaten the fallen apples, even though they don't look in the best shape.

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They are Yellow Transparent apples. They are old variety, planted a lot in western Oregon as the earliest-ripening variety of apple. My neighbor's Yellow Transparent has ripe apples in early August, but the season is a little later here in the coastal forest.

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Yellow Transparent apples are notorious for being in good eating condition for only about 1/2 hour before they turn soft and mealy. But I found a few that were good. Soft and crumbly inside, but with a nice tart flavor!

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This hard green apple looks a like a Hudson Golden Gem - a variety discovered by chance in Oregon. I have one of these trees in my own yard. They are a late-ripening apple. This one is a long way from being ready to eat! I'll have to come back here!

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One Last Stop

On the way back home, I came across a roadside pull-out with a sign that says "Maximum 5 Gallon Fill". It's a spring!

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I watch a couple folks drive up and fill jugs at the tap. The spring must be higher up the hill.

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Can you see the tap? Next time I come back this way, I'm bringing some big jugs, so I can take home some spring water!

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Thanks for Walking With Me

I'll be continuing my series of travels to parts of western Oregon all through the autumn of 2017. I hope you will join me -- especially if you like mushrooms! Earlier posts in this series are: Escape to the Marine Layer - Part 1 and Part 2. // Saunter in the Siuslaw - Part 1

Thanks to @lyndsaybowes for the #walkwithme tag! And to everyone using that tag! Enjoy your walks!


  • Do you have any Foxglove in gardens around you?
  • Have you ever seen an Artist's Conk mushroom?
  • Have you ever eaten Skunk cabbage?
  • Do you like wild blackberries?
  • Have you ever eaten a Yellow Transparent apple?
  • Do you have any springs near you?

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Plant List

  • Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea - not for eating or handling!
  • Artist's Conk - Ganoderma applanatum
  • Broad-leaf dock - Rumex obtusifolius
  • Western skunk cabbage - Lysichiton americanus - special processing required!
  • Eastern skunk cabbage - Symplocarpus foetidus - special processing required!
  • Himalayan blackberry - Rubus armeniacus
  • Apple - Malus domestica

References:
1 - Fatal cardiac glycoside poisoning due to mistaking foxglove for comfrey. Wu et al., 2017. Clinical Toxicology 55(7):670-673.
2- Acute accidental Digitalis intoxication of a whole family due to mistaking foxglove for borage. Maffe et al., 2009. J Cardiovasc Med 10(9):727-32.
3 - Digitalis poisoning: Historical and forensic aspects. Burchell, 1983. J Am. College Cardiology 1(2):506-516.


Haphazard Homestead

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I have heard skunk cabbage is edible but I do not know how to harvest and eat it. They were an integral part of the first nations diet in the area. Love those blackberries but I prefer the bramble berries that grow closer to the ground. They are harder to find though but a real treat when you do find them. I always take my son berry foraging a time or two in Stanley Park in the Spring and Summer. I know a few hot spots:)

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Those native, low-growing trailing blackberries (Rubus ursinus)have such a wonderful flavor! All that flavor must be concentrated, since it's in such a small berry, lol. How great that you take your son berry picking, too! Some kids really take to foraging. They can pick a lot of berries! ; )

I'll have to make a post about skunk cabbage. They definitely take more effort than berries or many greens. But they have a unique place in foraging. Prepare them wrong, though, and it feels like your throat is getting shredded with little pieces of fiberglass!

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Yikes ... to the fiberglass. You will have to get that post up soon. It can't be more than a month to go. Maybe I will give it a shot. A fun project for us to do:)

Foxglove? Yikes... don't eat the foxglove! Funny how by only looking at the leaves, some plants have a tendency to look confusingly similar, yet are so utterly different once their flowers grow.

That was a tough one, but very happy to know now. Lesson to be learnt: if you don't see the flowers to identify the plant, don't touch it!

Thanks for the prize, you didn't have to... it's very kind of you.

PS: the blackberries we pick here in France (usually August/September) are so abundant - my mom makes endless jars of jam which make great gifts and can be stored to be eaten throughout the cold winter months :)

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With some close looking, it's possible to tell them apart, even without flowers. And Borage leaves have that wonderful cucumber scent! But I can see how there could be mistakes in gardens that have both plants, especially because both plants reseed themselves and move around the garden. And if friends or family helped in the garden, but didn't pay the same attention, there could be issues. I've read article after article in medical journals that document that happening in gardens. Whole families and friends ending up in the hospital, or worse.

At least blackberries are a lot more distinctive! I'm glad you get to enjoy so many -- and all that jam! Blackberry jam is just about the best! And isn't it nice to have extra on hand for gifts. That's a good reason to grow them or go foraging for them, too.

Foxglowes? it is not very widespread in our region. I saw it only once and even made a short post about it 9 month ago

But you know, girls usually look at the flowers, not the leaves:-))))) and that was my mistake.
Of course, when you see the flowers, plant is much easier to identify. But with having only leaves... Yeah, we should be carefull trying to find something edible outside of own garden.
Skunk Cabbage was also quite a new plant for me, I had to make some research in Wiki to find more info about it.

Thank you for the science and for the pleasant gift despite the fact that we both did not guess:)

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That's a great picture of the foxglove flowers, @erikaflynn! Almost all of the articles I've read about cases of foxglove poisoning (and there are a lot of them), happened from plants in gardens, not out in the wild. It's so easy for someone to be too casual about the picking -- or for a friend or family member to help in the garden, but not take the same care in picking. At least Comfrey and Foxglove flowers are a lot different! That's not the case for some other kinds of edible wild plants that get confused with toxic ones. Thanks for being bold enough to answer my mystery question -- and helping me make my point about the Foxglove!

Wow! Foxglove sure does look like comfrey! Sweet find on that spring! To answer one of your question, "Do you have any springs near you?", there are tons of springs here in Western North Carolina, and a handful on the property I purchased and am working towards bringing a home onto! Hopefully we'll have the house there this coming week. Two of the springs are for sure year round and I tapped them a little yes than a year and a half ago after watching them flow through times of drought. The water supply for the house will come from a reservoir that one of the springs feeds into. #lifegoals

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You have a busy week ahead of you! It will be sweet to have those springs all set up for your house! You have so many great plants in your area, too. Enjoy your drinking! ; )

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Thanks! Yes, will be an eventful week for sure! Was doing the preliminary laying of sewer line today. It will be so great! It's gonna be such a blessing to have spring water coming out of the tap! Yes! Many, many great plants! We're blessed to live in one of the most bio-diverse regions here.

Ah! You had an excellent walk in the forest and found many things that can eat. The blackberry is one of my favorite fruits and the apples look delicious! I would say “WOW” if I walk with you and see those apples on the ground…..

The Foxglove is beautiful. It has very sweet color.

Those mushrooms are amazing. They are very big ones. It’s great that you found them and took photos of them for us. Very interesting information!

I’ll join you for the next walk in the forest, for sure! ;)

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There were plenty of blackberries for you to have some, too! ; ) It was such a nice surprise to see those apple trees. You will see them again on my walks, too. They have some surprises! And there will be more mushrooms, too -- of course! ; ) Enjoy all the trees around you, too!

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Ah! That's very kind of you to have some of the blackberries for me. I enjoy the trees around me and look forward to seeing the apple trees again on your walks soon. ;)

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I'm glad you like all the fruit! :D

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That was a interesting walk. You will need lots of buckets to collect what you found but leave the foxglove. :)

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Glad you enjoyed my walk, @karenb54. Sometimes I do have to have buckets for everything I forage, lol! :D

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I can imagine it feels like a shopping trip :)

I have foxglove in the garden and of course, being a flower person, I love it. I DO eat those berries! As many as I can get my hands on.

I grew up with skunk cabbage. I had no idea you could eat it. I am surprised my parents didn't try! Now I am totally intrigued!

I do have springs near me. No faucet, but, what the heck. Thank you again and again. I love perusing over here!

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Thanks, @dswigle! I'm glad you enjoy foxglove -- to look at. They are impressive flowers. You must have some bumblebees that visit them, or maybe hummingbirds. How great that you have some springs in your area, too. They are pretty special.

Now I actually know a few of these. The foxglove I had heard of before. Is that also dangerous to pets? I know here the skunk cabbage is always in the swampy wet parts. I also know if you get in the blackberry bushes too deep, you may end up with chiggers!! I seemed to always get them picking blackberries!

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Knowing a plant is the first step before eating a plant, so you are on your way -- except with the foxglove! Chiggers and blackberries do go together in most places. But the berries are worth the effort, I think. One thing I liked about living in southern Michigan, though, is that it didn't seem like there were that many chiggers -- at least compared to other places. I don't have much problem with them here in Oregon, either. At my parents' in Arkansas, it's a different story. We have to prepare like we're on some sort of high hazard mission!

For the foxglove, I see all kinds of cautions for pets. But I can't find many reports of actual problems. It doesn't seem like dogs or cats are out there trying to eat foxgloves. But there are so many reports, year after year, of people having real trouble from eating foxglove.

I love wild blackberries, my mom always make great pancakes with them :)

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You have a great mom! :D

Siuslaw National Forest is very beautiful landscape for tour and takes photos. I want to have some Foxglove flowers .i have never see Artist's Conk.

wonderful walk. very interesting to know there's alot of edible foods that you can get through your walk.

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Thanks, @paulaepistle. There are so many edible plants all over the place! I hope you have some around you, too.

Foxglove, also called Digitalis purpurea, is a common biennial garden plant that contains digitoxin, digoxin, and other cardiac glycoside. These are chemicals that affect the heart. Digitalis is poisobous; it can be fatal even in small doses. It was the original source of the drug called digitalis.
In present day usage, foxglove is used as an ingredient in a class of heart drugs called digitalis. Digitalis is usually taken orally, as capsules, as an elixir, or as tablets.
It can also be given in an injection.

Artist's conk is exceptionally common in Main growing on older sugar maples and many other hardwood trees usually persisting for years. When they are picked the interior reveales layers of pores that are like rings on a tree in describing age.
Artist use these mushrooms for etched designs when fresh and for landscape and other painting when dried.

Western skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) is a very weird, strangely beautiful plant. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some people find skunk cabbage repellent. Its most distinguishing characteristic is its smell. Its odd smell attracts its pollinators- flies and beetles.

The blackberry is similar in appearance and related to the raspberry. Eat blackberries soon after picking them because the fruit is perishable. The berries are good for you, providing good amounts of antioxidants that protect the body's cells from free-redical damage.

Well known early summer apple, good for drying, freezing, sauce and juice. Transparent pale yellow skin and very sweet flavor.

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You did a lot of work finding that information on the internet, @anayakhan!

wonderful nature photography D:) friend @haphazard-hstead , thank you for sharing this post