Wild plants were the main food and the “survival kit” for our ancestors. But if you find yourself in the wilderness without food or a first aid kit – for whatever reason – can you identify common wild plants that can save your life? Most of us can’t. When you shop it’s easy to pick the veggies and herbs as they are all edible. The same thing when you go to the drugstore and you need to treat an injury.
Some wild plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments, exceptional soil conditions or very harsh climates. Although some types of plants for these reasons exist only within a very limited range (endemism), others can live in diverse areas or by adaptation to different environments. But all the bellow mentioned plants can be found on US territory. Maybe some of you have already used one or two.
Edible Wild Plants
Edible wild plants have much more nutrients than their domestic counterparts – if there is one. Wild plants have survived on their own without the help of modern agricultural practices. Only the strongest wild plants survived, leaving the best, and most nutritious of the line to continue the species. Keep in mind that every domestic plant has it’s beginning from an edible wild plant.
The problem is how to distinguish a wild plant that can save your life from another that is poisonous. Gregory Davenport, author of Wilderness Living suggests you stay away from mushrooms, umbrella shaped flower clusters, bulbs resembling onions or garlic, carrot like leaves/roots, bean and pea like fruits, plants with shiny leaves or fine hairs. Unfortunately, this list also eliminates many very beneficial edible wild plants, but it will help you to avoid some very dangerous poisonous ones as well.
Also these 10 edible wild plants can save your life during a food crisis. There is evidence that during the Holodomor (1932-1933 Ukrainian Famine) many people survived the food crisis by moving to the woods or the wild parts of the country.
There are many wild berries not safe for human consumption. Wild blackberries are 100% edible and easy to recognize. Found all over America. Don’t confuse raspberries with wild blackberries. The blackberry’s stem also come off the branch whilst a raspberry’s doesn’t. Further, blackberries have red branches with long thorns with wide, jagged green leaves. They have white, 5-petaled flowers.
Daylilies have a 6-petal orange flower. Flower lasts a single day. It has a leafless flower stalk. Ensure there are no leaves. Many poisonous species have leaves on the stalk. It has light green leaves which are long and has pointed tips. The root has small tubers. The whole plant can be eaten raw or cooked. Can also cook the tubers. Found all over America.
Plantain can be found in almost any state. Essentially a weed, but can be eaten. Broadleaf plantain has green oval leaves. The leaves have thick stems. Long pointed green flowers grow from the stem. The leaves grow in a rosette and can be from 1-12 inches in length. Pick the green leaves and cook them or eat them raw.
Wild bergamot can be found all over America. It occurs commonly in large clumps. The plants are typically up to 3 feet tall with a few erect branches. The leaves are typically 3 inches long, toothed and pointed. The flowers cluster at the end of the branch. The flowers are typically lavender (or even pink) in color. The leaves and / or are to be eaten raw or cooked. Leaves and / or flowers can also be used for preparing tea.
This is often mistaken for chamomile. Chamomile does not emit a pineapple smell when crushed. Found in sandy locations in the wilderness; the hairless leaves look like feathers and are about 1 inch long. It is a low growing wild plant. The yellow-greenish flowers are cone shaped. Leaves and flowers can be eaten. Leaves can also be used for making tea.
These wild plants that can save your life grow in the wilderness and are delicious. They get 35 – 59 inches tall. They have alternate leaves and very small dense flowers on top. The seeds are brown or black. All parts of the plant are eatable. However, look out for sharp spines on the leaves. You may boil the leaves before eating, but you can eat them raw too. The seeds can turned into flour.
It has a brown cigar shaped head that stands on top of a very long stem. Cattails can grow up 6 feet. The leaves are linear and flat. They are around 3mm wide. They are usually found close to wetlands. The underground rootstock can be boiled or eaten raw. The stem can also be eaten raw or cooked with especially the white part at the bottom being tasty. You can boil the leaves as spinach. The flowers can be roasted and eaten.
These wild plants can be found all over America. Its main characteristic is the leaves that curl around the edges and has a lance shape. It has a long, red stalk that reach up to 3 feet. Flowers are green. The flower is located right on top of the stem. Peel the stems and eat them raw. The leaves must be boiled a few times to get rid of the bitter taste. The root can be used to make a bitter tea. The seeds can be used as a caffeine substitute and thus boiled and used as coffee.
These wild plants are found all over America. The leaves nearly look like a shamrock. The seed pods bends quickly upwards as well as the stalks from the main stalk. It’s a yellow, 5 petal flower that has a straight pistil. The leaves are compound and three heart shaped leaflets on each. The plant grows 3-13 inches high. This plant is a thirst quencher and all parts are edible. The leaves, flowers and seed pots has a sour taste, but really refreshing.
Dandelion is extremely common in the wilderness. These wild plants have a rosette base with lots of flower stems and leaves. The toothy leaves are usually between 2-11 inches long. The flower is easily distinguished with its yellow color and rosette look head. All the parts of this plant are eatable. The mature leaves may taste bitter though, so boil them first. The root should also be boiled first before eaten.
Healing Wild Plants
Before medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, mankind had a long history of using indigenous, or native, plants for a wide variety of medicinal purposes. Some of these methods are being used even today to treat patients. Medicinal plants and their applications are as diverse as the people who use them.
In the wilderness or in a major SHTF situation getting a disease of any type can be crippling or deadly. Infections can strike your immune system and leave you out to dry. If you have no medication you can always turn to wild plants that can save your life. But would you know what plants and natural herbs can cure you?
Before antibiotics there was garlic. Garlic was used to cure almost any kind of infection from dysentery to influenza. This immune system booster contains powerful sulfur compounds that fight infections. The sulfur compounds in garlic act as antibiotics almost as strong as penicillin.
It is a succulent plant species. It has a short stem and a rosette of leaves. It produces yellow flowers on a stick like stem. Aloe vera is used in many remedies. Out in the wild the gel of the leaves can be used as anti-septic for cuts, scrapes and burns. Aloe vera helps eliminate dry skin and sun burn as well. This wild plant that can save your life as a remedy is also edible. However, take caution: eating the wrong part of the Aloe vera plant will result in severe vomiting, loose stool, and painful bowel movements. Avoid the green-yellow part of the plant that can be found at the bottom of the plant’s stalk. Remove the skin and inner layer of juice and you will find a very important, highly coveted gel substance.
This wildflower is 2-4 inches tall and is unbranched. Found in various wild parts of America, this flower has healing properties. Should you be bitten by a spider, take the flower and chew it in your mouth until there is a paste (poultice). Take the paste and rub over affected area. This will draw the poison out.
Commonly found in dry soil, fields and pastures all over America, It has a woody base, yellow flowers and opposite leaves with transparent dots. The plant can grow up to 3 feet. The fresh flowers can be boiled in water and the extract used to put on sunburn, scratches and cuts. This plant has many herbal remedies and the tea can also be drunk for insomnia.
Most people must have been stung by the stinging nettle. It is found all over. It has sharp, stingy hairs and small white flowers. When collecting this plant, please ensure that all exposed skin is covered. It has an itchy, burning sting to it which might last for a couple of hours, even days. Use the leaves and boil them in water when you get bladder infection and can’t urinate whilst hiking or camping. You can boil the roots to increase the effect. Also eatable!
These wild plants are found all over America. In its first year it has a rosette of soft leaves. In its second year Mullein has a long stem with small yellow flowers and soft leaves. The leaves can grow up to 19 inches long. The plant itself can grow over 6 feet high. The leaves can be used as a poultice for back pain. Boil water and place leaves inside. Let it simmer for two minutes, and then apply the leaves directly on pain.
Found throughout America, it has a distinctive purple or white bell shaped flowers. It is a rough, hairy wild plant found close to water. The plant’s leaves can be used to make a tea and applied locally to treat insect bites, stings, burns, irritated skin, inflamed skin or wounds. Do not drink the tea.
These wild plants are found close to rivers and streams. Horsetail has a green leafless stems which is tubular in shape. The plant can get 3 feet high. Take the whole plant and boil. Take the froth and apply it to bleeding wounds. You can drink the tea for stomach pains. This plant can even be used as a tooth brush.
This wild plant has been used for centuries by American Indians and is found across America. It’s multi-trunked and grow up to 15 feet high. The flower is individualistic as it’s fragrant and the petals look crumpled. It has green leaves and a smooth grey bark. Should you pick up eye inflammation, soak a rag or shirt in cold water in which the leaves have been soaked. Place it over your eyes for 10 minutes. The redness will be gone and your eyes refreshed.
It grows throughout America and typically found in fields and meadows. The plant grows up to 3 feet high and has white, clustered flowers on the top of the stalks. The flower can be boiled in water and the extract drank for headaches, diarrhea and flu. The yarrow tea prevents clotting so do not drink it if you have a bleeding wound.
It is an annoying weed with burrs sticking all over your clothes. It has large wavy leaves which are green on top and white at the bottom. The flowers are purple on top of prickly ball. The florets are surrounded by overlapping hooked bracts. The plant grows 3-6 feet high. Take the leaves and make poultice in mouth. Smear paste over insect bites and stings.