The Days are Getting Longer!

It’s that time of year again-the holidays are over; the days are getting oh so a little longer and I am dreaming of spring. Like a lot of people that live in the northern latitudes, I have been perusing through seed and plant catalogues. The promise of spring is very exciting. Just yesterday I spotted some snowbells coming up in my backyard! Snowbells are perennial bulbs that will grow and bloom in temperatures below freezing. Mine typically bloom in January.

Snowbells emerging 01/08/19
Snowbells 2018

Living in a heavily urbanized area, I am very lucky (and grateful!) to have a small garden. My garden consists of a lot of perennials, herbs, vegetables and fruit. I utilize a lot of the material as food, bouquets and in my body care and medicinal products. Each season I add in new species. I would eventually like to grow all plants that are needed to create my products (as much as the climate I live in will allow of course).
This brings me to the topic of plant ethics. I have talked about this before in a previous entry but think it is an extremely important topic. Due to the popularity of the DIY movement, many people are creating their own herbal products such as teas, tinctures, lotions, etc. If herbs are not readily available, people will often go into a “wild” setting (i.e. forest, fields, etc.) and collect plant material in order to create their products. And for certain herbs, this may be the only technique to obtain the plants. However, the following are some important things to remember:

1. Be Respectful.
Plants are sensitive, some more than others. Always be careful of where you step. Don't over-harvest. If there is a small number of certain plant species, do not harvest at all. Remember they are not ours for the taking, they have a right to exist. Plants hold an important place in the complex web of life.

2. Be Ethical.
When harvesting, remember we want to take as little as possible. We want to ensure healthy and productive plant populations. For example, do not harvest a plant while it is in flower, but wait until it has produced seeds first. You can help some plants by dispersing the seeds as well.

Don't kill the plant by harvesting too much or uprooting the plant. Some may argue that it is fine to dig up roots if the plant is an invasive species. I feel that a decision like that depends on a lot of factors. However, it is important to understand that even digging up a few invasive species can have an impact on the surrounding area.

3. Be Careful!
Know your plant species! You could seriously harm yourself if you misidentify things. For example, many people like to go out into the woods and harvest wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) in the spring. However, the Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) looks very similar to wild leeks which also comes up in the spring but is toxic. Some plants can be fatal. You need to pay attention while harvesting.

Wild leeks (Allium tricoccum)

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

4. Good Intentions.
It is always good to have the right intentions before harvesting. Plants are willing to assist us in healing. It is a nice gesture to ask the plants to share their medicine and thank them as well. While I am harvesting a plant, I often think of the person I intend to help too. I often tell the plant who they are helping with their medicine :-)
Putting good intentions into your plant medicine and being grateful to the plants makes the medicine much more effective, in my opinion.

I live very close to the Milwaukee River and have lived in this area for over 10 years. I have seen some plant populations dwindle along the Milwaukee River corridor due to wildcrafting. It is illegal to harvest plant material along the corridor but unfortunately people still do it. Please be respectful and responsible. If you don’t have access to a garden, please consider visiting Mountain Rose Herb's website to purchase organic and responsibly grown herbs. If you do have access to land and can grow your own garden, Richter’s Herbs offers a wide variety of seeds and plants.
Mountain Rose Herbs:
Offering organic and ethically grown cut herbs.

Richter’s Herbs:
Richter’s offers a wide variety of seeds and plants.


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