Thursday, September 17, 2009

100 Species Challenge

1. Strawberry
2. Black-eyed Susan
3. Rose of Sharon, Althea
4. Potentilla
5. Vinca
6. Grape Hyacinth
7. Tiger Lily
8. Lespedeza

9. Plantain

A few weeks ago Annabeth showed me a couple of itchy bumps on her waistline. "Chiggers," I diagnosed. "Let's see, what can we use on chiggers...." As a connoisseur of chigger bites (if getting chigger bites were a competition I'd be a world-class competitor), I knew fingernail polish doesn't actually work, other than acting as an irritant and distraction. Annabeth is allergic to lavendar oil ... hmm, how about some plantain? I was musing aloud about what to use, and showed her a picture.

"There's some of that growing out next to the playset," she commented.

Whoa, you ain't kiddin' we've got some plantain, also known as Plantago. So, we crushed some up and dabbed it on the bites. I don't know if it gave a miracle cure (probably not), but the herbal lesson was certainly distracting. And she didn't mention the bites again, nor did I notice much scratching.

Other than dabbing crushed plantain leaves on itchy insect bites, plantain can also be eaten. Young leaves can be cooked (for that matter they can be eaten raw -- which is why you can chew up the leaves to crush them to use as a poultice). The seeds can also be foraged; they are the main ingredient in Metamucil, for the record. Really a handy little weed, giving us free food and medicine. And it grows all over suburbia!

Some species are native to North America, but the most common came from Europe. No poisonous look-alikes exist, so it's a fairly safe weed for a beginner forager or medicinal-herb-gatherer. Plus, I always thought the flowers look cool -- check out the picture at the top of this page. We don't have any of this particular species growing around here, but it's one of the first plants I learned as a kid, mostly because I thought it was such a fascinating-looking plant.


Ami said...

But you didn't chew it up and spit it on her, right?


My daughter remembers all the names of all the plants we own. I don't remember them much at all.

We don't chew or spit any of them, though.

Anonymous said...

Cool info – thanks for sharing. I have no idea what most of the weedy stuff is that comprises are lawn. Now I can add plantain to my wealth of lawn weed (not to be confused with any other type) knowledge, which previously consisted of dandelion, poison ivy, and clover.

Bridgett said...

Ooh, thanks for the reminder. I need to do my next set.