Pale Corydalis in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Pale Corydalis in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Pale Corydalis, Corydalis sempervirens, is a native plant found in the northeastern half of Minnesota. This pink and yellow flower can be found in the BWCA, as this one was. This photo was taken in late July of 2012. During late summer, thin green seedpods are produced, which later turn brown and release seeds. In the photo below you can see that the seedpod has turned a light brown, but has not yet released seeds.   Pale Corydalis, also called Rock Harlequin, blooms in the spring and summer from May – September. It is a member of the Fumitory family (Fumariaceae), a family that also includes the charming plant Dutchman’s Breeches. This plant is not edible. It contains a narcotic alkaloid and can have a hallucinogenic effect when digested that can result in a slowed heart rate. Corydalis plants have been used historically as a sedative and painkiller, but this is not a recommended practice. It is best to just consider it a toxic plant. Pale Corydalis Habitat This plant can be found in dry, sunny areas and rocky, sandy soil. It prefers the cooler habitat of boreal forests and lake shores and is often found in rock outcroppings....

Bloodroot Uses and Interesting Facts

Bloodroot Uses and Interesting Facts

Bloodroot Facts Bloodroot is a member of the Poppy family (Papaveraceae) This is often one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring, and are also one of the largest early flowers at 1.5 – 2 inches The flowers only bloom for a day or two Bloodroot flowers do not have nectar The seeds of the plant contain an elaiosome, which is a fleshy organ that attracts ants. The ants carry the seeds to their nest and eat the elaiosomes. The seeds remain in the nest debris, which usually makes an excellent growing medium. The process of the seeds of plants being spread by ants is called myrmecochory. Uses of Bloodroot Plants The reddish sap of the plant can be used as a natural dye. Native Americans used is as a dye for baskets, clothing, and war paint. Native Americans also used the sap from the rhizomes as insect repellant. Sanguinarine, a toxic extract from bloodroot, kills animal cells. Many published pre-clinical In Vitro and In Vivo studies recommend development of Sanguinarine as a potential treatment for cancer. Bloodroot was traditionally used by many Native Americans to treat fever and rheumatism. Is is, however, poisonous and is not recommended to be taken internally. An overdose of bloodroot extract can cause vomiting and loss of consciousness. Contact poison control if accidentally ingested (1-800-222-1222) It has been used commercially in toothpaste and mouthwash to fight plaque (please, do not try this on your own with bloodroot extract). Bloodroot extract is being studied as a dissolving agent for warts, and is currently used in the mole remover Dermatend. However, do not attempt to use bloodroot extract on your own for this purpose; it could disfigure your skin and the underlying tissue, as well as cause...

Round-lobed Hepatica Facts and Uses

Round-lobed Hepatica Facts and Uses

I came across this little three-lobed leaf while out bowhunting this past weekend. It’s bright green color stood out to me amidst the brown fallen leaves. Round-lobed hepatica, also commonly called liverleaf or roundleaf hepatica, is a member of the buttercup family and is known for retaining its green color throughout the cold winters in Minnesota.  In spring and early summer this plant has a beautiful flower, which can be pinkish, lavender-blue, or white. Round-lobed Hepatica Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa (Hepatica americana, Hepatica triloba) Round-lobed Hepatica Facts This member of the buttercup family grows well in a habitat of dry, rocky, shaded woods. This plant prefers semi-rich, well-drained soils. It is one of the first plants to flower in early spring. Hepatica leaves are poisonous in large doses. Round-lobed Hepatica Uses Due to the liver-like shape of its leaves, this plant and the closely related sharp-lobed hepatica were formerly used to treat liver disorders. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning did not yield effective results. Native Americans used hepatica in tea form to treat coughs, sore throats, achey muscles, and fevers (as well as liver complaints). The leaves and flowers of hepatica may be used as an astringent; which can shrink or constrict bodily tissues. Witch hazel is an example of another plant used for this purpose. Externally applied astringents can dry and harden body tissue, and are often used after face washing. Hepatica also possesses diuretic properties. Diuretics increase the rate of urination. Hepatica leaves can be used as a demulcent. An example of a demulcent in use is honey used for a sore throat; it acts as a soothing balm over a mucous...

Pin Cherry Tree Uses and Interesting Facts

Pin Cherry Tree Uses and Interesting Facts

Pin Cherry Tree Facts Pin cherry, Prunus pensylvanica, is a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae). It is also known by the name of fire cherry, due to its tendency to colonize areas after a fire, making it a valuable pioneer species. Pin cherry trees are shade intolerant, so they grow well in open areas such as fields and in dry soils. This tree species grows quickly, provides shade for seedlings of other species during its short life span of 20 – 40 years. The height of pin cherry trees usually does not exceed 30 feet.   Interesting Facts Pin cherry is also called “bird cherry” due to the fact that birds often eat the cherries that grow on pin cherry trees The fruit (seed) of the pin cherry tree is called a drupe. Other species that produce drupes include coffee, mango, olives, peaches, and plums. Wild cherries are high in vitamin C. Although generally cherry wood is expensive and desired, pin cherry wood is not commercially valuable due to its softness and porosity When the bark of any cherry tree is scraped, a cough-syrup-like scent is released. Pin cherry stones (the hard center of the cherry) and leaves of the tree contain cyanide, but the flesh is edible. Pin cherry leaves are less toxic than those of most other cherry species. Birds regurgitate the cherry stones after consuming the flesh. Cattle have been known to get sick and even die by eating wilted cherry leaves, because they are a source of hydrocyanic acid. Wilted leaves are more toxic than fresh because the concentration of cyanide is higher. Uses of Pin Cherry     Due to its ability to grow quickly, pin cherry reduces the chances of soil erosion and minimizes loss of soil nutrients. The pitted fruits can be used in jellies, jams, juice, tea, breakfast syrup, and desserts. Pin cherry trees provide food for many species of animals, including Ruffed Grouse, white-tailed deer, at least 25 species of non-game birds, and many species of Lepidoptera. This makes it an excellent species to watch if you are looking for wildlife. A recipe for cough syrup can be created using the juice of pin cherries. The flesh of pin cherries can be used as a flavoring for whiskey or brandy. If you can gather enough of the little drupes, a delicious wilderness pin cherry wine can be...

Poison Ivy in Minnesota – a Plant that can Cause an Itchy Painful Rash

Poison Ivy in Minnesota – a Plant that can Cause an Itchy Painful Rash

Even if learning how to identify plants is not high on your priority list, it will pay off to learn this one. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is (as the name suggests) poisonous and can cause an itchy and/or painful rash in those that come in contact with the sap of the plant. Poison Ivy in Minnesota It is found throughout Minnesota, most commonly in wooded areas; it grows particularly well in moist, shaded areas. Along stream banks, on the sides of roads, along paths, and along fences are all common places poison ivy can be found. I often see it while walking on trails through the woods. The phrase “leaves of three, let it be” is useful to remember, however, many plants have leaves in clusters of three. Poison ivy is actually not an ivy at all, but a member of the Cashew (Anacardiaceae) family. The leaves are alternate and consist of three leaflets, which can vary in size and are noticeably shiny. It can grow as a vine or as a shrub. All parts of the plant contain a poisonous oil, called urushiol, that can cause an allergic reaction (urushiol is an allergen). The skin rash caused by poison ivy is called allergic contact dermatitis, and can look red, streaky, and include raised areas (hives), or fluid-filled blisters. The reaction can occur when part of your skin comes in contact with the oil, whether it came directly from the plant or not. This can occur through touching objects or clothing that has been in contact with the oil from poison ivy (careful doing laundry!), or even petting your dog after he has romped through a patch. The rash itself is not contagious, it can only be developed from touching the urushiol or something that has come in contact with urushiol. The rash usually occurs between 8 – 48 hours after coming in contact with the urushiol, but it may take up to 15 days to make an appearance, according to AC Gladman in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. Repeated contact with the plant over time may cause rashes to develop more quickly. Some people may be “immune” to the urushiol and not develop a reaction at all. I personally have come in contact with poison ivy many times, and have never had a reaction – but it’s always possible that I could react to it in the future. The rash can be initially treated by washing in cool water. Calamine lotion and antihistamines may help relieve the rash. Jewelweed, a plant commonly found in Minnesota, can be used to help sooth the itching as well – crush the stem or leaves and apply the juice to help relieve the itch. Severe cases may require treatment by a doctor. The absolute best way to avoid getting a rash from poison ivy is to have the ability to recognize it and avoid the plant itself. If you can’t avoid the plants, wear long pants, and socks and shoes. Be sure to handle any clothing or items that have come in contact with the plants with care...

From Bear to Tiger – Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar to Isabella Tiger Moth

From Bear to Tiger – Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar to Isabella Tiger Moth

Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillars Similar to many children, I’m sure, this was the first caterpillar I was able to identify by name. I can recall my delight at finding one on the sidewalk on my way home from school, and carrying them home with me so they could live on a stick in a jar. Banded woolly bear caterpillars can be identified by their fuzzy appearance and large coppery brown stripe in the center of their bodies. These caterpillars overwinter in their caterpillar form and pupate in the spring, emerging as the Isabella tiger moth, Pyrrharctia isabella. The adult moths probably do not catch one’s attention the way the caterpillars do – they are a dull yellow with a sprinkling of small black spots. Their thorax is quite fluffy, but generally I think the reality of the appearance of the Isabella tiger moth falls somewhat short of it’s majestic name! The banded woolly bear caterpillars are not picky eaters, and will feed on most types of plants that they come across – this is known as being a generalist feeder. If disturbed, (say by a young child, picking it up) the caterpillar will curl up and play dead. Some claim that the hairs on the body of the caterpillar will irritate your skin if you pick one up, but I have never experienced this. The name “woolly bear” is also given to other caterpillars in the Arctiinae family that have dense coats of...