Boost Your Bushcraft With Urban Botany

by Paul Kirtley

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Dandelions on a wall

Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Urban Bushcraft is a phrase which appears to be gaining popularity.

Certainly, I see and hear it more frequently now than a couple of years ago.

In the UK 80% of the population live in urban areas *.

It’s a similar story in other European countries – 77% in Spain, 74% in Germany, 83% in the Netherlands and 86% in France *.

In the USA the proportion is similar at 82% of the population being urbanised. In Canada it’s 81%. In Australia it’s 89% *.

That’s not to mention those who commute to towns and cities for work.

Yet – probably as a direct result of the above – more and more people want to visit wild places in their leisure time.

* World Bank data.

More and more people are interested in re-connecting with nature.

More and more people want to have adventures.

More and more people want bushcraft skills and knowledge.

Urban Bushcraft

When I first met with the guys who produce the Urban Bushcraft Podcast we talked about all manner of things relating to bushcraft.

The conversation Ray, Mark and I had formed the basis of The Urban Bushcraft Podcast Episode 5.

One of the threads of conversation was about what you can do to improve your bushcraft when you live and/or work in an urban environment.

What can you do to improve your bushcraft for when you head to the backwoods or bush when you spend much of your time in town?

Spend Your Time Wisely

Well, wherever you live – urban or rural – one of the keys to improving your bushcraft skill and knowledge is working on your weaknesses.

This sounds like an obvious point but it actually takes effort.

You first have to be honest.

You have to admit your weaknesses.

We tend to get into comfort ruts, undertaking activities that don’t particularly stretch us. If we’re good at carving and not so good at tracking, the tendency is to spend our time carving spoons and the like rather than banging our head against a lost trail drill.

After all, for most people, bushcraft and survival skills are part of leisure time.

In my experience, however, people who get really good at bushcraft push themselves outside of their comfort zone with their skills and push the boundaries of their knowledge however much it hurts their head.

When people come to me for training – on a bushcraft course or for private tuition – many people lack confidence in their ability to identify trees.

But that’s often what it is – a lack of confidence. Even if you don’t know the names, you probably recognise many of the key features for identification – the colour and texture of the bark, the shape of the leaves, the shape of the tree, it’s fruits or nuts, and so on…

Besides, you can learn the common, useful trees for your locality quite quickly. Most will be quite distinctive and there won’t be too many. Learn the 20 most common trees that you are likely to come into contact with and you’re well on your way.

Plants: A Common Weakness

Paul Kirtley and students on a Frontier Bushcraft course

The author with students during a plant identification class on a Frontier Bushcraft course. Photo: Duane Yates.


An even more common weakness than tree identification is in the area of plant identification.

It’s also a more difficult area of botany than trees.

“Yes, but I like knives, axes and fires, why do I need to learn all about this green stuff?”

Most bushcraft involves observation, identification and use of the natural environment around you. Once you get past the first baby steps of being able to put up a shelter and set fire to some twigs, the bulk of bushcraft involves being able to identify and distinguish between different resources.

If you are making a bow-drill set you need to know not just that the wood is dead but what species it is; if you are collecting bark for tinder or cordage, you need to select the right type; if you are looking for food you need to positively identify everything that passes your lips.

You can’t possibly learn all this at once.

It takes time.

And a key element of the foundation is your ability to identify trees and plants.

Make Plants Part of Your Everyday Life

I can be quite irritating to go on a walk with. I get distracted by trees, plants and signs of animal life.

Even in town I find all manner of interesting stuff.

Wherever you are, there are always plants to spot and identify. Even between the cracks of the pavement.

Dandelion, Daisy and Red Dead-nettle growing in cracked tarmac

There are always plants, even in the pavement cracks. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Look at what grows at the base of trees on your street.

What’s that tree growing outside your office window?

What can you spot on your walk to the station in the morning?

What’s growing in the borders of the car park at the office? What about in the verge around the parking at a motorway service station?

What can you see growing near to the platform on which you wait for your train every morning?

Can you get to a park at lunchtime? Can you get off the tube/metro/subway one stop early on the way home and walk via a park or other green space?

Even in a City as busy as London, there are many green spaces and tree-lined streets.

No Shortage of Diversity

Parks are the obvious place to look at trees and plants in towns and cities. But there are many other worthwhile places too.

Even if you think all you are likely to see are dandelions and dog poo, once you start looking you’ll be surprised by what you find.

I always am.

I had some spare time in London recently, so I went for a walk along an old canal towpath.

Armed with my camera, I thought I would catalogue what I found.

Canal towpath, London

Would I be able to find any plants of interest along an old canal towpath? Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Please note that what follows is not an exhaustive compilation of everything I saw. I’ve concentrated on plants and not included trees or shrubs.

All the species below are quite distinctive but please don’t take this article as a guide to identification. There are other articles on this website which cover the identification of some of them while the field guides at the end of the page make a very worthwhile investment in identification resources.

This article is an illustration. I hope it inspires you to take a closer look at the plants you see everyday and, over time, learn to recognise the ones you don’t know.

Five Easy Ones To Start With

Just to get you warmed up…

Dandelions

Dandelions

Dandelions, ubiquitous and very easy to recognise. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Clover

Clover

Clover. Again very recognisable. School playing fields, parks and lawns are covered in it, so we get familiar at a young age. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Brambles

Bramble patch and graffiti.

Again almost too easy. But I bet no-one picks the fruit here. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Stinging Nettles

Nettle patch

A patch of young nettles. Always more common near to habitation, nettles are a likely find in many places. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Bluebells

Bluebells by canal

More associated with springtime woodlands than urban areas, these native bluebells seemed quite happy in town. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Common In Town and Country

The following plants are common out in the woods and fields of the countryside but they are not uncommon in towns either. You’re likely to see them somewhere near you. All but two are edible and one of these is also edible with the right preparation. It’s worth getting to know them….

Arum

Arum maculatum

Arum maculatum, commonly known as Cuckoo-pint or Lords-and-Ladies, is a common woodland plant. It is packed with needle-shaped oxalate crystals which irritate the skin and mucus membranes. Avoid handling and certainly don’t eat it! Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Broad-leaved Dock

Broad-leaved dock leaves and stems

Broad-leaved dock – new leaves with some old, dead stems still remaining from last year. The leaves are good for wrapping food parcels. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Burdock

Burdock patch of leaves

An area covered in burdock leaves. Burdock is a good wild edible. Learn to recognise the leaves. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Burdock leaves and old flowering stem

New burdock leaves surrounding the base of an old flowering stem. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Celandines

Patch of Celandines

Forming large patches and the scourge of some gardens, Celandines are a common woodland plant that are also found in towns. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Celendines

Like most members of the buttercup family, Celandines contain toxins. The roots can be cooked and eaten but must be collected at the correct time and properly prepared. Don’t mistake the leaves for those of Violets. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Cleavers

Cleavers or goosegrass

Cleavers, also known as Goosegrass and “sticky-willies” is a familiar plant with hooks that stick to your clothing. The young shoot tips are good steamed (to soften the hooks). Photo: Paul Kirtley

Common Chickweed

Common Chickweed

Chickweed growing up amongst other plants in the shade of some shrubs. The star-like white flowers give rise to the ‘Stellaria’ part of the plant’s scientfic name. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Mallow

Mallow, mavla leaves

Common and easily recognised, Mallow has numerous culinary uses. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Red Dead-nettle

Red dead-nettle in an urban setting

Red Dead-nettle is a common plant of hedgerows and waysides, both in town and in the country. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata on a wall in London

Ribwort Plantain is easy to recognise and its names are easy to remember from its appearance – the ribbed, lance-shaped leaves give rise to part of its common name aswell as the scientific name Plantago lanceolata. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherd's Purse and shadow on wall

A member of the same family as cabbages and mustard, Shepherd’s Purse has a distinctive heart-shaped, notched seed pod. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Sow-Thistles

Sonchus oleraceous

Sow-thistles are related to both Dandelions and Thistles and their leaves are somewhere in-between the two. Photo: Paul Kirtley


Sonchus

This Sow-thistle pushing up through nettles has the potential to grow quickly up to around 1 metre tall. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Spear Thistle

Rosette of the spear thistle

A rosette of the Spear Thistle with its distinctive, aggressively-spined leaves. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Wavy Bitter-cress

Wavy bitter-cress

Another relative of cabbage and mustard, this cress and its close relative Hairy Bitter-cress are very commonly found once you start looking. Photo: Paul Kirtley

White Dead-nettle

White Dead-nettle, Lamium album, against a wall

The leaves of the White dead-nettle are much more like Stinging Nettle than Red Dead-nettle, but its white flowers – just forming here – really help to distinguish the plants. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

A Little More Localised

The next six plants are not as geographically widespread as those above. They may still be locally common where they occur.

Alexanders

Alexanders leaves under a wall

A covering of young leaves of Alexanders. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Alexanders leaves detail

Alexanders leaves in more detail. While edible, you do need to be careful. They are a member of the carrot family which also has many poisonous members, some of which look very similar to edible species. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Green Alkanet

Green Alkanet

Green Alkanet is in the Borage family and related to the Forget-Me-Not. Like its other relative, Comfrey, Alkanet contains alkaloids which damage the liver over time. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

London Rocket

London Rocket, Brassica

Related to the Rocket you can buy in the super-market, this is another member of the cabbage/mustard family. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Salad Burnet

Salad Burnet leaves

A member of the rose family, Salad Burnet has quite a distinctive leaf. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Sweet Violet

Sweet violets growing under a tree

The large leaves of Sweet Violets clustered under a tree. Photo: Paul Kirtley.


Viola odorata, Sweet Violet, flowers and leaves

The beautiful deep-purple flowers of Sweet Violet. Their strong aroma gives rise to their scientific name, Viola odorata. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Three-cornered Leek

Three-cornered Leek flower and leaves

The Three-cornered Leek is a member of the onion family and closely related to the Wild Garlic that can be abundant in the woods in Spring. Photo: Paul Kirtley.


Patch of three-cornered leeks

A patch of Three-cornered Leeks. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Urban Bushcraft? Think Urban Botany

While you can’t head out to your local park and light campfires, build shelters or dig gypsy wells, you can certainly head out and work on your tree and plant identification.

You can see from the above examples, you are likely to find a whole host of interesting plants once you start looking. I walked around 1km (0.6 mile) and back along the canal path and the above were amongst the array of species I encountered.

In fact, you may find urban botanising more productive than some areas of the countryside. Some woodland habitats can be really quite sparse when it comes to understory plants.

The boundaries between woods and fields are generally richer, as are wayside verges and hedgerows. Waysides in towns can be just as rich and diverse as those in the country, sometimes more so due to a greater level of disturbance and introduced species.

Wherever you are located, though, I appreciate learning to identify plants can be overwhelming.

My advice is not to bite off more than you can chew. Follow these simple steps to break down the learning process:

  1. First, switch on your ‘plant radar’. Simply look out for plants.
  2. Observe: Check out shapes, sizes, colours, shades, textures, hairs
  3. Become familiar: Don’t try to identify unknown plants at this stage. Just become more familiar.
  4. Reinforce your existing knowledge. While you are becoming familiar with unknown plants, look for the plants you do know amongst those you don’t.
  5. Now choose one of the plants that you don’t know.
  6. Work to identify your chosen plant (there are some recommended field guides at the end of this article).
  7. Make notes, take photographs, press leaves/flowers. Recording your findings can help you to remember how and why you identified the plant as a particular species.
  8. Once you identify a new species, look out for it amongst all the plants you see. You may well see it all over the place once you know it.
  9. Then, choose another unfamiliar plant and repeat the process.

NB Be careful handling unknown plants. Some can cause reactions.

Move The Mountain One Rock At A Time

If, on average, you learn one new plant per week, you’ll learn over 50 new plants per year.

If you push it a bit harder and learn one plant per working day or 5 plants per weekend you’ll learn over 200 plants in a year.

That may seem like a tall order for your memory but the important thing is that you get out there, start taking a harder look at plants and begin to ID a few of those you see around you on an everyday basis. Trust me, some of it will stick.

At first the ones you don’t know will vastly outnumber those that you do know.

Before too long though, if you apply yourself, the balance will tip the other way and you will be surrounded by familiar friends rather than unknown strangers.

Also, remember to enjoy the process. It’s a voyage of discovery and there is pleasure in learning for it’s own sake too.

Urban Botany vs Urban Foraging

So what about gathering some tasty greens? While urban foraging is entirely tenable – at least to supplement your diet – there are a few common-sense considerations you should make.

Wild food is wild food: It doesn’t matter where you harvest it, you still have to be just as mindful of not poisoning yourself if you are collecting in town as you are in the countryside.

Health and hygiene: Urban environments by their very nature tend to be more heavily used than their rural counterparts. An obvious thing to be mindful of is areas where people exercise their dogs. Remember also that people tend to use parks and canal paths to relieve themselves (particularly on their way home after a night in the pub).

Dog poo

Not the best place to be foraging! Photo: Paul Kirtley.

It’s not just domestic animals and humans we have to concern ourselves with. There is plenty of feral urban wildlife too. For example, some of the spots I stopped to take photos smelt strongly of foxes. Some urban areas have a higher density of foxes than rural areas.

Litter is also an issue. This can range from crisp packets to soiled tissues to used needles. Think about where you are putting your hands.

Nettles and litter

Nettles and rubbish. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Perhaps people would care more for their environment if they learned more about the value of the plants that are all around them?

What do you think? Have you studied plants in urban settings? Have you found interesting plants in a town near to where you live or work? Let me and other readers know in the comments.

Plants, The Law and Conservation

You should know the law with respect to picking wild plants and respect people’s private property.

Please read the BSBI’s Code of Conduct for the Conservation and Enjoyment of Wild Plants for guidance on best practice.

A Little Disclaimer

This article is not a complete treatment of all edible plants. Nor is it a complete treatment of all poisonous plants. If you want to learn more about plant identification you should invest in some good field guides. The safest way to learn about wild edibles is for someone who already has the knowledge to show you in person. Any foraging you do on your own is at your own risk.

The most important thing to remember when identifying wild foods is:

IF IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT!

Recommended Field Guides

Some good field guides are as follows. These are the ones use most often:

  

Related Articles on Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

Conopodium majus: Pignuts and How to Forage for them

Brooklime, Veronica beccabunga

Primrose, Primula vulgaris: Wild Food?

Foraging For Spring Greens: Some To Eat, Some To Avoid

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.

 

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve

Excellent article Paul, it’s amazing just how much is out there in the urban environment 🙂

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Steve,

Great to hear from you. I’m repeatedly surprised by what I find growing in unlikely places. It’s well worth keeping your eyes open and a field guide not too far away.

Thanks for your feedback! 🙂

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Mark H

Hi Paul,

Excellent article !

Although I would rather be spending most of my time in a lovely woodland environment- reality kicks in and going to work means spending a lot of time in or near’ industrial estates’ !

Over the last decade they have proven to be a major source of plant diversity for me. If I am honest it is here, where all my plant knowledge (still lots of room for improvement !) has gradually built up- not in the woods !

As you say building the knowledge up season after season, year after year, creates a ‘layering of knowledge’.

After my first Bushcraft course, I felt rather ignorant and almost ashamed of my very poor plant identification skills. I firstly tried to learn from books and do it all overnight- I was so keen to acquire the knowledge ! But like all things in Bushcraft- it takes time , persistence and a little ‘doing’. You just can’t flick a switch and expect to have it at your finger tips- again like many of the skills we use outdoors.

Perhaps in these more ‘modern times’, the urban environment is where man generally feels happiest. Although the idea seems a little bit of a paradox- What a great place to start building up your Bushcraft skills !

Again thank you for yet another thought provoking article……..

Best

Mark

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your comment. As always, it’s good to hear from you.

It’s interesting to read that you have had a this experience of layering knowledge step-by-step as part of your everyday life.

Do you find this learning transfers well to the woods?

Best,

Paul

Reply

Duane Yates

Hi Paul
Fabulous article, well timed too one of my goals for this year is to improve my plant identification. I can identify the common ones but there are so many I don’t know, I would especialy like to increase my repertoir of edible plants.
What you said about plants being everywhere is spot on, whilst I was doing monthly nature photos last year I took many of them in factory and warehouse yards. Even where plant life is obviously abundent if you get down close and look its amazing how many varieties you find that you would otherwise have missed. The same can be said for insects but thats another story 🙂

Take Care
Duane

Reply

Allan McDonald

Outstanding post Paul.

For many of us urban dwellers turning on and staying tuned to the ‘here and now’ radar is the first challenge. This is where the ‘plant radar’ can help by exercising our consciousness to remain focused on the present whilst seeking out plants of interest.

Cheers

Allan McDonald
EQUIPnTRIP

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Alan. “Tuning in” is definitely what it’s about.

Your point about the here-and-now is a very good one. More than in the country, when we are in town we tend to be thinking about other things as we walk along the paved surfaces. Out in the woods, bush or mountains, we tend to be much more switched on.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

sean fagan

great article Paul, along with some sage advice on improving bushcraft skills.

I’m often suprised about the plants I see in urban environments. One thing I like about urban botany is that it makes me think about the resilience of plants – how plants are able to colonise (and thrive in) some pretty tough urban areas.

again, really enjoyed this article, just goes to show – that with a good attitude and an open mind – one can improve their bushcraft skills just about anywhere.

Sean

Reply

Ray H

Great article Paul.

After meeting you to record the podcast I did start working on plant and tree ID, but have been a little lapse in recent months. I will have to start up again and make notes

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Ray,

Good to hear from you mate. If you ever want to get out and do some tree identification, you know where I am….

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Jon Crossfield

Hello Paul,
Another great article! But I have a couple of questions, in the celendine article you say “The roots can be cooked and eaten but must be collected at the correct time and properly prepared. Don’t mistake the leaves for those of Violets”. My questions are , when is the correst time & how do you prepare the roots? (I avoid them while the plant’s flowering as I believe the toxins are higher then), & why do you say not to mistake the leaves for Violets?…I eat the lesser celendine leaves & they’re quite tasty!
Thanks,
Jon.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Jon, good to hear from you. Good questions. Celandines contain the toxin Protoanemonin. So, even though the leaves are rich in vitamin c they are mildly toxic.

This is why I noted that you shouldn’t confuse them for violets, all of which are edible. Celandine leaves do have a similar heart shape to those of violets.

As I wrote in the article, it wasn’t meant as a guide to identification. Nor is it a guide to safely collecting and preparing wild foods.

I think the identification, collection and preparation of the plant deserves a separate article. I’ll add it to my list!

Thanks for the good questions!

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Adrian Royston

Brilliant article Paul,
I’m heading it the woods this week with some of our Bushcraft kids to investigate Stinging Nettles! as it’s ‘Nation be kind to Nettles Week’ so we’ll be making various things with nettles from breads to tea will also be foraging as there is so much out there at the moment, also I introduced Sheri to the taste of wood sorrel last week and tracked Roe and Muntjac deer !! but we’ll see what we can find, but your Blog will be a great recommendation for further reading for the teenagers as most of them live in Lincoln.
If you would like an article about how we engaged and work with youngsters and our Bushcraft club in Lincoln let me know!
all the best
Adrian

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Adrian,

It’s good to hear from you and learn what you’ll be up to with nettles. For those that don’t know them – or at least have only been stung by them – nettles really are an unsung and underutilised resource.

There is currently an abundance of Wood Sorrel at our Frontier Bushcraft course venue in Sussex and it’s wonderful to taste the tangy kick of the leaves again.

It’s great you are engaging a teenage audience with bushcraft and nature. I’d be interested to learn more. Thanks also for recommending my blog as a resource.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Steve Bayley

I enjoyed this article Paul and agree that it’s good to keep ourselves switched on all the while when we’re about our usual business and not just when we’re out in the woods. I remember clearly how after coming back from my first weeklong bushcraft course I was seeing resources, in the form of trees and plans, everywhere that had previously gone under my radar. Getting ‘tuned in’ is a useful part of tracking too of course. I’ve always had a passing interest in natural history and have found that my interest in bushcraft has brought this to the fore in recent years. After all many of us don’t set out to learn bushcraft (however you define it) for its own sake, but rather as a complimentary aspect of other outdoor pursuits. At this time of year (it is spring here in the UK) there is a lot to see and it is changing on an almost daily basis. Last weekend I took a trip into local woodland to collect some ash we’d coppiced earlier to use as bean poles and hop poles on the allotment (I should stress I’m a volunteer warden and have permission to take such things from the wood) and saw lots of violets, burdock, ramsons, jack-by-the-hedge and young nettles growing so I think there will be some nettle soup in the pot this weekend. I always try and remember my camera when I’m out and take photographs of any plants and flowers I see but don’t know to help me identify them when I get home. Thanks for another interesting article Paul.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Steve,

As always, it’s great to hear from you. I’m glad you’ve been able to get out and enjoy the Spring now that it has finally arrived.

The woods are indeed changing day by day and I’ve really enjoyed being out recently. More than usual, everything seems to be progressing at once, particularly the Spring flowers. I’m assuming it’s because so many of them were held back by the cold weather in March and early April.

Here’s to continuing to enjoy the Spring and looking forward to what the summer brings.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Niels

Good article Paul. The new layout looks good too. I hope your having a great spring.
Atb. Niels

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Niels, thanks for your feedback. Glad you like the layout too.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

CHARLIE

Thanks for the great article. It is really easy to forget that bush craft is a way of life and not only when you are out in the bush. This is a great reminder to hone your skills at all times. Thanks again Charlie

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Charlie,

Well said! It is all about how you view the world and making the most of your surroundings to learn and experience as much as possible.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

SBW

P
What a great post, thanks for that. I immediately forwarded it to my friend TNM who live on a canal boat in london. Top Stuff. more please
SBW

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi SBW,

Good to hear from you and thanks for your comment. The article will be perfect for TNM. Glad you liked it too.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

SBW

P
The Northern Monkey’s dream is to live totally off grid on his boat, his nettle consumption is through the roof, this will give him some variety!
SBW

Reply

Mark H

Hi Paul,

In answer to your question, on my earlier post. Does the knowledge transfer well from Industrial landscapes to the woodland environment ?

Early on whilst still very ‘green’ on botanical identification I felt a need to understand any plant that grew in any environment I found myself in. Whether that was the garden , an industrial estate , in town, in the fields or in the woods.

Time is always the issue and it is the major factor in determining how we learn and how we practice Bushcraft in general. I have always chosen to learn what I can, when I can ,wherever I am. I constantly learn something from your blogs in my office !

Reply

Mark H

Sorry more technical issues…………..part 2 !!!

My experience of looking at plants that surround me ‘at work’ and taking that knowledge into the woods has helped me considerably. I am sure your mathematical brain would enjoy some sort of Venn diagram illustrating different UK environments with’ in common’/subset plant species…

It is also very interesting to see how man can cultivate land in such industrial areas and then allowing for light and drainage to see what grows. It is possible then to take that knowledge in to the woods and understand where some species might be more dominant.

The variety of plants and trees that surround me at work are fairly considerable; without them and the layering of knowledge they have afforded me I would be some years behind where I am now. The woods have filled in the gaps !

Go well
Best

Mark

Reply

Terry Halls

Thanks again, Paul-another interesting, inspiring, well illustrated and informative article! This is definitely one of my weak areas, and you have given me the ‘poke’ I needed to do something about it.
Cheers
Terry

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Terry,

Good to hear from you. Thanks for your feedback on the article – much appreciated.

I’m pleased it’s provided some inspiration to get out there and work on your plant knowledge. It’s one of those areas that does take some effort but once you get going with it and start to fill in the gaps, it gets easier to learn new plants as everything begins to be more organised in your head and the new ones slot into place.

Have fun!

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Austin Lill

Hi Paul,
A little while after reading this article I decided that I would compile a list of plant and tree flowers to make up a sizeable entry on my blog this time next year. It will be next year to allow me to take the pictures of early spring flowers I missed.

I am driving my family *insane* on bimbles around the town because of this need to stop and take photos! It has however, made me look even harder than I did before and as a result I’ve found some new plants that I’d previously overlooked, and all within a 10-12 minute walk…I’ll try and hide this blog entry of yours from my family…not sure how long I can hold out 😀

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Austin,

I’m not too sorry I have inflicted this on you and your family 🙂

In fact, I’m really pleased it has inspired you to go out, study and photograph what is in your local area. I’m looking forward to reading your blog post when it is completed. It sounds like it will be quite mammoth!

While I’m happy to take a good amount of the blame for your new bimbling affliction, it might still be best you don’t show this article to them lest your are banned from reading my blog at all!

Happy bimbles,

Paul

Reply

Louise Marsh

I’m the Publicity Officer for the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, and we have lots of useful (free) resources here on our website http://www.bsbi.org.uk/identification.html to help you get started with plant identification. There are also some hepful ID sheets on the Natural History Museum website. Foragers need to know which species they can identify with confidence and when it’s best to check with an expert. The Carrot Family, for example, contains both culinary herbs and some poisonous species, like Conium maculatum (Hemlock) and Oenanthe spp (Water-dropworts) – they can look remarkably similar. So do please check out our free ID resources and stay safe – Paul is right: if in doubt, leave it out!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Louise,

Thanks for your comment, it’s much appreciated. In particular, thanks for sharing the link to your identification resources which I do find very useful. I hope other readers of this blog will too. Thanks also for the heads-up regarding the NHM sheets.

I absolutely concur regarding safe, positive ID for foragers. The carrot family is indeed fraught with dangers and identification difficulties. Elsewhere on this blog, my friend and colleague Ian Lawson has written an article on Conium maculatum, which was growing in various places near to his home in Cambridgeshire.

We have a lot of Oenanthe crocata in parts of one of the estates where I run bushcraft courses. I ask people who are unfamiliar with the plant what they think it is or, what it reminds them of; the answers I get are normally either “flat-leaf parsley”, or “coriander”, which demonstrates perfectly why people have to be careful with Apiaceae.

Thanks again for your comment – useful resources and helpful words of warning.

Warm regards,

Paul

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http://www.biogids.nl

Very good information. Lucky me I recently found your site by accident (stumbleupon).
I’ve book-marked it for later!

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www.xtrememind.com

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Dave Welsby

Great article Paul, looking at alot of these plants and having you put a name to them helps alot. I recognize most of them but would not be able to name them. This will help alot with confidence.
Thanks mate!

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Paul Kirtley

Hey Dave,

Glad you enjoyed this. Some of them will be much less common or even not present in Canada. Some are introductions.

But I hope you can apply the principle of the article in your local area and use every opportunity to learn more about what’s right there.

It’s a great way to learn, chipping away a little every day.

Take care.

Warm regards,

Paul

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Glenn Larsson

Hi Paul.

After becoming interested in the subject, i started to notice some things i never would have thought of, i didn’t even know that Camomile was so abundant where i live, i thought it only grew in the woods and most were daisys – until i learned to tell the difference by looking and smelling. Nearby where i live, while i cannot remember what the plant name is, there are some plants with some dark green “meaty” leaves which i’ve read are edible growing just outside a little park.

On the way to a natural park i’ve visited during the summer (walking distance), i recall seeing some Salix (latin) trees that has bark which IIRC is high in salicylic acid, and as a kid i remember they are good for making bows. Where i live, most urban areas are covered in plants that have edible roots, like Fireweed and Burdock. I find these all the time nearby bicycle lanes along with rose hips which is a popular plant to decorate with or wall off walking areas from houses. If i look in a ditch near a wet area i will almost certainly find Bulrush or reed which both have edible roots too but can be a bit hard to get to.

I am really struggling with translating the names of plants from and to English, my main focus is what they can be used for.

Finally a question: What about nuts as a bushcraft/survival food? It’s rich in some of the protein needed to survive and it’s usually available in high quantities: pine nuts are all over the place and i can also find the occasional oak tree with acorns (which has to be soaked in water for 2 days). Horse chestnuts trees are popular tree in urban areas, while i heard that ones that are roasted taste great, they are not very rich in protein but could still be eaten to fill up against hunger. I’ve only seen one outdoors guy mention them as a foodsource (Ray Mears) but given the availability in the late summer-autumn i think they should be given consideration.

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