It takes a practiced eye to find some of the hidden flowers of the natural world but it is well worth the hunt. There are classes and courses offered through colleges but the cheapest and most effective way to learn about local herbs is to check out the local nature preserve. Most offer walks or workshops for just a few dollars. Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, the nature reserve in my area, usually offers numerous free or low cost walks throughout the month. The variety of experts that lead these walks in my little town alone, range from a published lichenologist to the president of the local mycological society. For the Shoestring Herbalist, even if the tour leader isn’t an herbalist, soaking up their knowledge of the local plants is an opportunity not to be missed.
Mt. Pisgah Arboretum is just inside city limits of Eugene, Oregon which is in the middle of the Willamette Valley. It is arched by Coast Fork of the Willamette River. The river bank grows in the summer and offers a temporary bed for riparian wildflowers. Just up the bank from the river is open space that allows for other late summer plants to bloom. Arboretum staff and volunteers often lead walks to educate the public on wildlife and the botanical diversity that lives within it 209 acres. The wildflowers featured below give only a small taste of the plants that an herbalist can enjoy. Note that some are native, some are exotic. A few are herbal medicine favorites while others have their medicinal properties still held in secret.
This September, staff member, August Jackson lead a walk with the public to explore the late flowering plants and the photos below are a sampling of this adventure. He pointed out plants that even a seasoned herbalist like myself hadn’t noticed before. Walking with the group, I found an expert on insect galls, one on bird songs and another on native plants who generously allowed me to pick their brains as we walked to the next plant. Be sure to contact your local nature preserve to partake in your own botanical treasure hunt. Bring a camera and an inquiring mind. Prepare to be amazed.