I love wildcrafting. I’ve shared some of the local medicinal plant information here before. (See Natural Healing) However, I’m extremely limited in what I wildcraft. So as not to poison anyone (especially myself) I have only made concoctions from plants that I can positively identify. Then I go further and double check my identification with locals. And I triple check any possible uses and side effects via med pub. Then, and only then, do I make something from these wild plants.
So when Herbal Academy said they had a new class specifically about wildcrafting, I was so excited! I signed up a full month ahead of time so that I would be able to start the very first day the course was available. Let me tell you, Botany and Wildcrafting was an amazing course! I learned so much!
I was a little concerned before the course that there wouldn’t be much information I could use since Herbal Academy is found in the northeastern US and well, I’m not. Delightfully, that wasn’t the case at all. The course was divided into 3 units and each unit was jam-packed with useful tidbits.
The first section focused on plants as living beings, highlighting the many ways plants reproduce and examining how each plant is an essential part of the larger ecological system. While I was already familiar with the basics, there was so much I didn’t know.
Since I’m in a completely foreign ecosystem, not at all like the quiet river valley I grew up in, plant identification here is frustrating to me. The second section of the course walked me through plant identification methods, plant morphology, taxonomy and using a dichotomous key. Since I obviously won’t be at my computer doing any identifying, the printouts were a wonderful tool to use on my explorations! I don’t have a field guide specifically for Mexico, mostly because there isn’t one, but I have ordered a book about Mexican-American herbal remedies that I hope will aid in my local plant wildcrafting. Herbal Academy offers an illustrated botanical workbook to complement the course, but as the majority of the plants included aren’t found in my area, I opted not to purchase it. It is lovely though.
The final section covered ethical and sustainable wildcrafting, drying herbs, and making tinctures, decoctions, and poultices. I had to think about the sustainable wildcrafting section and my role as wildcrafter for a bit. Up until now, I was the live and let live wildcrafting variety. My collections weren’t pressed flowers but pictures (which you can see on Instagram). But now, as the steward of the earth that I envision myself becoming, I believe it’s time to become more proactive in my defense of the wild plants in La Yacata. As a case in point, when we first moved here, the upper area was covered in rainy season wildflowers. Then came the chicken feather guy and the entire section has been utterly devastated ecologically. I could just kick myself for not gathering at least a few of the bulbs and transplanting them in a more protected area (like my backyard). No more! If that makes me the crazy plant lady wandering around La Yacata, floppy garden hat on my head and trowel in my hand, well, so be it! I am on a mission!
Hopefully, with these plant identification skills I’ve learned in the course, I’ll have some new natural remedies to share in the very near future.