A rose by any other name would taste as sweet

Sugar Pine Sap

Wood Sorrel


Blackberry Plant Uses

Pineapple Weed

Beach Strawberry

Sea Rocket: tasty beach greens

Blue Elderberry Ethnobotany

Loquats, Plums, and Urban Foraging

Elderberry Pipes

Sugar Pine Tree Uses of the California Indians

The Make and Use of Redwood Canoes by the Yurok Tribe

Fried Fiddleheads and Further Functions of Ferns

Yucca Blossom Fritters

Eating Nettles

Soap and Food from Soaproot

Herbal Medicine for Colds / Influenza

Traditional and Modern Methods of Acorn Preparation

MSSF Fungus Fair (gallery of Bay Area mushrooms with ID and habitat tags)

Winter Foraging

Oyster Mushroom Gathering

The Useful California Bay Laurel Tree

Herbal Medicine for Broken Bones

Santa Barbara Sedge Baskets


11062262_1491974861101371_905531689947066153_nA rose by any other name would taste as sweet

Uses of roses for food.

12004923_1491416887823835_8641435798178458629_nSugar Pine Sap

Use as candy or gum and when to gather it.

11951776_1489639744668216_4307338448683607251_nWood Sorrel

A very common and tasty herb for greens and edible flowers.


Traditional blueberry food uses and season.

11896094_1486909188274605_5145723880845610364_nBlackberry Plant Uses

Traditional uses of blackberries for food, medicine, and tools.

11924550_1485463911752466_1606528555414834905_nPineapple Weed

A delicious and common relative of chamomile for edible greens, flowers, and a calming tea.

11137092_1483110005321190_6747419498884042505_nBeach Strawberry

Where to find delicious wild strawberries on the beaches and coasts.

11866224_1481341062164751_3282833811141742345_nSea Rocket: tasty beach greens

A mustard species common on beaches on east and west coasts furnishes plenty good juicy greens.

Blue Elderberry DSCN1434Ethnobotany

Traditional uses of elderberry trees for food, medicine, and tools.

Loquats, Plums, DSCN1209and Urban Foraging

A link to a free crowd-sourced online map of your local edible fruit trees available to pick in urban areas.

Elderberry PElderberry Pipesipes

How to easily make smoking pipes out of elderberry wood using both modern and traditional Indian methods.

Sugar PineMoldy sugar pine cone hanging from my bookshelf. Tree Uses of the California Indians

The uses of sugar pines as food, medicine, and tools.

The Make and Use of Redwood Canoes by the Yurok Tribe

How the Yurok of NW California gathered fallen redwoods, burned and worked them into canoes, their care, and uses for traveling rivers and the sea for freight and fishing.

Fried FDSCN0953iddleheads and Further Functions of Ferns

How to eat ferns plus medicinal and technological uses of various common fern species.

Yucca BlosImagesom Fritters

A delicious, simple recipe for eating yucca flowers with notes on other uses of Yucca spp.

Eating NettlesImage

Collection methods, cooking technique, and recipe ideas for stinging nettle (Urtica diotica) plus notes on its other uses.

Soap and FoodImage from Soaproot

How to use soaproot (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) for soap, food, and its many other uses for California Indians.

Herbal MedicinFeatured Image -- 255e for Colds / Influenza

A list and description of the many plant medicines used by California Indians to combat the grippe / colds / flu / upper respiratory infections.

acornTraditional and Modern Methods of Acorn Preparation

Bay Nature article by my fiance Emily about how the California Indians managed oak trees and gathered, stored, processed, and cooked acorns of various oak species for their most important food.

MSSF Fungus FaiIMG_3087r (gallery of Bay Area mushrooms with ID and habitat tags)

Gallery of photos from the Mycological Society of San Francisco annual fair. Shows all the mushrooms displayed with their species names and habitat information.

Winter ForagingImage

About a winter day’s foraging trip in the SF Bay Area, what all I found (toyon berries, buckeye seeds, bay nuts, soaproot, oak gall, mushrooms, mint leaves) and how to use them.

Oyster MDry pan fried oyster mushrooms with a pat of butter and dash of salt added at the endushroom Gathering

A story about a day’s foray to gather mushrooms, garnering a huge pile of oyster mushrooms that I cook up, and some other interesting species.

The Useful  Umbellularia californicaCalifornia Bay Laurel Tree

About the many and varied uses of the California Bay Laurel, a tree very common in the SF Bay Area and found throughout coastal CA, Sierras foothills, and southern coastal Oregon.

Herbalyarrow Medicine for Broken Bones

Various herbs that will help healing of broken bones, used by California Indians or recommended in herbalism books for North America.

Santa Barbara Sedge Baskets

How to find, gather, process, and use the Santa Barbara sedge (Carex barbarae), like it’s many sedge relatives, to make very high quality baskets that can be waterproof and good for cooking.


Ethnobotany, the study of people-plant (plus algae, lichens, and fungi) relationships, has been practiced since ancient times, generally in the form of reports of uses of plants from travelers to distant areas (e.g. Herodotus’ Histories). A first modern ethnobotanical work was on California by Stephen Powers (1877), who called the field “aboriginal botany,” just before Harshberger (1896) coined the term ethnobotany (Anderson 2011).

In the 1950′s, the new ethnographical approach of using analysis of the plant naming systems to understand the point of view of the natives, who usually name plants very descriptively (Anderson 2011). Ethically, ethnobotanists are expected to gain permission from the local group before beginning research, have the research fully understood by the local group, work in the local language, and express plants in the local language in addition to scientific names (Anderson 2011).

Distinct studies range from basketry, textiles, dyes, medicines, hallucinogens, and food (Anderson 2011). Paleoethnobotany is studied with sieving, flotation, pollen identification, DNA analysis, and other methods to determine plants and their uses by paleoindians at archeological sites (Anderson 2011).

Ethnobotany is practiced especially by botanists, anthropologists, archeologists, American Indians, and botanical gardens (Anderson 2011). Ethnobotanists work at universities, with communities, government, international agencies, and non-governmental organizations (Nolan and Turner 2011).

The Journal of Economic Botany has historically been a venue for ethnobotanical publications, and now a variety of professional ethnobotanical organizations and journals exist. The Society of Ethnobiology publishes the Journal of Ethnobiology, and is probably just behind the Society of Economic Botany in terms of amount of research about ethnobotany.

Related fields include taxonomy, ecology, plant chemistry, medicine, sustainability, and conservation (Nolan and Turner 2011).

Many ethnobotanists want to help traditional cultures preserve their ethnobotanical knowledge, and protect them from the many modern influences shifting ways of living, but the variety of approaches and goals of ethnobotanists is wide (Nolan and Turner 2011).

Bioprospecting is the searching for medicinal or useful plants by ethnobotanists to report back to their institution the most profitable species (Nolan and Turner 2011). Depending on the motivation, this may be a good or bad thing, considering examples like the rubber tree exploitation of the Amazon and the discovery of the cancer-curing rosy periwinkle.

An important recent synthetic finding of Ethnobotanists is that regions of high biological diversity strongly correlate with regions of highest linguistic and cultural diversity (Carlson and Maffi 2004, Nolan and Turner 2011).


Anderson, E. N. Ethnobiology: overview of a growing field. In Anderson, E. N., D. M. Pearsall, E. S. Hunn, and N. J. Turner (eds.). 2011. Ethnobiology. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ.

Carlson, T. and L. Maffi (eds.). 2004. Ethnobotany and conservation of biocultural diversity. Advances in economic botany Vol. 15. Botanical Garden Press, New York, NY.

Harshberger, J. W. 1896. The purposes of ethno-botany. Botanical Gazette 21(3): 146-154.

Nolan, J. M. and N. J. Turner. Ethnobotany: the study of people-plant relationships. In Anderson, E. N., D. M. Pearsall, E. S. Hunn, and N. J. Turner (eds.). 2011. Ethnobiology. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ.

Powers, S. 1877. Tribes of California. Government Printing Office, Washington.

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