Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics > Primitive Skills & Earth Skills

How to ID Plants / Their Uses

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New to this.  I want to be able to start identifying plants that are around the yard / in the woods on my property in Arkansas along with possible uses.

Are there any good resourses to use?  I've been to Barnes and Noble and I find most of the books inadequate.  You either get a hand-drawn picture of a leaf, or you get a picture of the plant in the spring - and here we are going into the fall.

The internet can be a good resourse, but I'd rather have a good book I can walk in the woods with and compare on the spot.

I'd appreciate any help getting me pointed in the right direction.



The library!!! Over the years I probably have read 150 books on  wild edibles, wild mushrooms, wild dye plants, wild plants for uses for things other than those mentioned.

Maybe start with "Euell Gibbons - Stalking the Wild Asparagus".

I have talked to Sam a few times and he wrote an article or two for the magazine. "The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants". He explains things pretty well.


Start slow, on something you cannot possibly mess up with anything else like a Dandelion.. and if you do get a Hairy Cat's Ear instead, they are used the same and won't kill you or require you to get a new kidney or liver. Too many people mix up Queen Anne's Lace and Poison Hemlock (how, I have no clue as QAL smells like a carrot and PH smells just plain nasty).

Try Stinging Nettle cassserole. Pretty much if you get 'stung' by it, you have the right plant, BUT, you need to eat them when they at about 6" high as when they are older they can possibly irritate your kidneys. But this is one of my fav wild foods besides a few wild mushrooms.

I DID NOT mess with mushrooms until about 20 years after I started to get into wild edibles. Even now I only go out with someone who picked mushrooms professionally for 30+ years (mostly so I can go on his stomping grounds as well as for the company -- in many areas you can get shot [seriously] for 'treading on someones mushroom patch', even if it is public lands.) I only eat 5 that I cannot possibly mess up with anything else. Others fascinate me however and one day I will try something like Lobster mushrooms out.

Study a handful of plants only the first year. Study them in each stage before you start sampling them if you have a chance. Start with a SMALL amount of COOKED wild food first and then wait 20 mins and work your way up from there.


Tool Guy:
What about the old saying "leaves of three, leave it be; leaves of four, eat some more"

pretty simplistic, don't ya think?


Morel mushrooms are pretty easy to identify.  Every spring my wife loves to go gather up some morels, I go to the pond for some bass, and we have a great supper that night.  Fresh morels and fresh fish (never been frozen!)  Life is good!

Morels are the only ones we eat, because they can be easily identified, even by a couple of hillbillies.

There are False Morels, but other than a possible stomach ache, they are not likely to kill you unless you have a reaction. Real Morels are always hollow in the middle.



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