Archive for the ‘Engangered Species’ Category

Meadowsweet – Spirea alba var. latifolia

White Meadowsweet
White Meadowsweet

Through grass, through amber’d cornfields, our slow Stream–
Fringed with its flags and reeds and rushes tall,
And Meadowsweet, the chosen of them all
By wandering children….


By William Allingham (1824-1889)


This perennial shrub of the Rose family is native to Northeastern North America and can be found growing in wet areas such as edges of marshes, bogs and ditches, along streams, and wet prairies. In Kentucky, and Tennessee it is considered Endangered. While in Ohio it is listed as Extripated (locally extinct).  The plant was imported into parts of Europe; Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, United Kingdom. In Belgium and Latvia it is listed as Invasive, and in Lithuania as potentially Invasive!


In herbal medicine of the Ojibwa Indians a tea of leaves and flowers was used to ease childbirth. Early settlers used the inner bark as a pain killer, much like other early aspirin like herbs (willow. etc). Unlike willow or poplar, which also contains Salicylates, the properties and strength of the aspirin like effects is consistent from plant to plant. In minute amounts Meadowsweet can also be used on stomach issues. The Blackfoot Indians used a tea as an enema and a vagina douche to treat infections.


The leaves smell like almonds and have been used to keep linens fresh and nicely scented. The leaves have also been use in making an astringent skin tonic. The leaves have been dried and used as a China tea substitute, supposedly tasting much the same as the original. The early settlers ate the roots.


In magic use this plant and its flowers are used to promote love, balance and harmony. Among the Druids the Meadowsweet, Vervain and Verbena were their three most sacred herbs. The use of fresh flowers on the alter has been frequent when casting a love spell, also use the dried petals in love mixtures. The fresh flowers were often included in wedding bouquets. In Welsh Mythology, Gwydion and Math created a woman out of oak blossom, broom, and meadowsweet and named her Blodeuwedd (“flower face”).

American Marsh Pennywort – Hydrocotyle ranunculoides

American Marsh Pennywort
American Marsh Pennywort



Pattern of primrose and pennywort.

Taking me, taking me,

Take me to meadows of childhood…

By Dic Edwards

This creeping, perennial aquatic herb is native to eastern North America where is grows in moist areas such as marshes, springs, and swamps. Here in the east there are places that it is becoming Endangered…Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. But in Europe it is considered an invasive species because of its tendency to develop large colonies!

Here in Delaware in can be found along the edges of ponds, creeks, and swampy areas. It often keeps its deep green color in winter. The small white flowers form in small clusters or umbrells from the leaf base. The flowers are on short stalks in the umbrell, and have 5 tiny, white petals.

The genus name, Hyddrocotyle, comes from the Greek and means water (hydro) cup (or small drinking vessel – cotyle). It is believed to have similar healing properties to its Asian cousin the Hydocotyle asiatica, which has been used to treat leprosy, itch, scrofula, rheumatism, ulcers, and secondary syphilis.

This member of the Carrot family was used by the Cohuilla Indians for greens.

Brazil Nuts – Bertholletia excels

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts

This evergreen tree is native to the rainforests of South America. At 150-180 ft it towers over all other trees, with its umbrella of branches sprouting above the canopy. This tree is not grown on plantations, but rather these ‘nuts’ are harvested only from wild stands of trees in undisturbed forests. They are considered endangered because their habitat is being threatened.


The fruit of this tree has been for centuries a mainstay of the diets of the tribes of the rainforest. The nuts were once used for trade; much like money would be used for payment.


Those same tribesmen of the Amazonian rainforests have been used to treat stomachaches, and liver problems. The husks of the seed pods, the tree bark, and the nut itself are used in medicine by the folk healers.


The nuts are eaten raw or grated into gruel. This gruel is made up of the grated brazil nuts, grated roots of Socratea palm, and mixed into manioc flour, this gruel is an important source of calories, protein, and fat for many people.


The nuts are so rich they can be substituted for macadamia nuts or coconuts in many recipes! The nut bark was made into a dye for coloring the fishing nets in order to make them less visible to the fish. The nuts have such high oil content that they can be lit and substituted for small candles.


Lastly the rich oil expressed form the nut has been used in hair conditioners, skin creams, and shampoos in South America.

Lizard Tail – Saururus cernuus

Lizard Tail flowers and leaves
Lizard Tail flowers and leaves

This native of eastern North America is also known as water-dragon and American swamp lily. It is considered Endangered in Connecticut and Rhode Island. It prefers to be in light shade or dappled sun with its feet wet in mucky soil. It can reproduce through spreading runners below ground or by germination of its seeds!


The roots and leaves have been used in medicine in the past. The roots used as infusion was used as a treatment for rheumatism by washing the area with the infusion. The Cherokee roasted the root and then mashed it into a poultice to treat sore breasts. An infusion of the leaves was drunk for the treatment of back and breast pain! …The flowers, leaves and roots have a pleasant citrus smell; yet others refer to the scent as sassafras like.

Cinnamon Fern – Osmunda cinnamomea

Cinnamon Fern
Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon fern grows brown fertile fronds
in the center of its tall green vase.
These fertile fronds are segmented tubes
that twist and clasp each other as they grow,
a hundred worms stuck to a central spine
and trying to climb. In the end they become alien
organic cannons filled with spores–
tubes break at the tips, spill BBs into breeze.
I looked at them today. The spores are small
and my eyes grow wonder wide
at my new magnifying eyes—the spheres of life
repeat so many times and ways
it spins my mind. I orbit awe.

By John Caddy


This perennial member of the Royal Fern Family is a native to the Western Hemisphere, it occurs throughout South America, Central America and on through to Minnesota in the north and southern New England in the Northeast. If you are thinking of looking for this fern in the wild search out wet, moist habitats like wet woods, the shore of lakes and rivers and in bogs and swamps. Finding it might be tricky as it is considered Endangered or Vulnerable is some places.


Native Americans used this fern in decoction to treat rheumatism, headaches, chills, colds, and snakebite. The Cherokee used a decoction of the root on warmed hands for treatment of arthritis, as a febrifuge, and the chewed root applied to snakebite.


The Cherokee also used the cooked early fronds in spring as a vegetable. The fiddleheads are edible and reportedly taste like a blend of broccoli, asparagus, and artichoke.


In Florida it is a “Commercially Exploited Species.’ This means it cannot be removed, for any reason, from the wild without permit. It is available legally through many native plant nurseries.

Eastern Prickly Pear- Optunia humifusa

Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus
Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus

This cactus is native of eastern North America from Ontario to Florida west to Montana and New Mexico. It is listed as a species of Special Concern in Connecticut, Endangered in Massachusetts, Vulnerable in New York, and Rare in Pennsylvania.

When we came home from the desert, I was shocked to see prickly pear here in Delaware. I had grown up in Maryland and have no recollection of ever seeing it there at all, but here in Delaware I have been finding it everywhere. The sandy, sea level land is a great habitat apparently! It is amazing to see how much larger it can get here where the rain levels are so much greater than in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.

Just as its western cousins, Eastern Prickly Pear is edible. The pads, fruits, and seeds can be eaten fresh or dried for later use. The spines can be removed through singeing or rolling in the sand (as we learned from Mexican ladies out west). Internationally the tunas (fruit) are so popular that the worldwide production is more than twice strawberries, avocados or apricots!

The sap and pads were used in medicine by the eastern tribes of Native Americans. The sap was a wound dressing, and applied it to warts. The pads (nopales) peeled and used in poultice form on wounds, and sores, snake bites and rheumatism. A tea made from the pads was used for lung ailments.

Lyre Leaf Sage – Salvia lyrata

Lyre Leaf Sage flowers
Lyre Leaf Sage flowers

This native perennial herb of the eastern United States is listed as Endangered in New York State. When I first found this herb, I saw tall stalks, with flowers on the ends waving in the breeze beside the road. It took me ages to find out what it was. But when I did, I suddenly realized I was seeing it everywhere!


Native Americans used the root in salve form for sores, and used the whole plant in tea form as a treatment for colds and coughs. At one time it was believed that the leaves used as an external poultice was a cure for cancer, and a wart remover.


Like its cousin Garden Sage, this form of sage has uses in the kitchen also.  The young leaves have a mild mint flavor and can be used in salads or cooked as a potherb. The entire plant dried or seeds can be used as a tea. And the seeds can be ground and mixed with flour to make breads.


To make an enjoyable bedtime tea take 1 cup of boiling water, 1 tablespoon of dried herb, and steep for ten minutes. Sweeten to taste and drink warm at bedtime.