Wanna go for a meander?

Come visit with me! I’m going to be out at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site this Sunday, January 22nd talking native plant dyes starting at 10:00am and then afterwards is a beginner knitting class at 1:00pm. I can’t just talk dyes though. Going for a slight little meander down the trails talking about the interesting plants we see. And it’s winter, so there’s all kinds of delicious trail nibbles to be had.

Announcement from Caddo Mounds event posting

Join us for something new. One day, two amazing opportunities!

When: Sunday, January 22, 2017

10:00, join plant enthusiast Brandy McDaniel for a hands-on orientation about native dye plants followed by an informational hike around the mound prairie and through the woods to identify plants used as dyes. No plant hike with Brandy is complete without learning which plants make great trail snacks.

1:00, join Valerie Binning from Yarnia-TX in Nacogdoches, TX for a beginner knitting class. Your class fee includes materials to make a long, beautiful scarf; two hours of instruction; and a $5.00 store credit good for 90 days after the class.

$2.00 program fee; park entrance (good for the entire day)
$10.00 Native plant dyes with Brandy (cash or check at time of class).
$60.00 Knitting, Beginner Scarf Class with Valerie Binning (cash, check, or credit card).

How to register:
Please RSVP to 936-858-3218.

If you wish to take the knitting class, then please let us know a basic yarn color for the yarn you will use to knit your scarf.

Feel free to bring a picnic lunch and stay for the day.dyingpoke-and

Wanna go for a meander?

March 4th is one of my favorite classes. Teaming up with Arrie Tucker, yoga instructor, we go do some very light yoga poses and stretches to get the blood moving and then we get to forage our own salads! You get a real taste of what is growing. A true bowl full of fresh spring greens and flowers.

Come experience the bounty that’s the weeds in your yard. We’ll looks for all kinds of goodies out there. Reservations are required. $25.00 per person.

Please make reservations with Caddo Mounds SHS, 1649 State Hwy 21 west, Alto, Texas. The site is located 6 miles west of Alto, and approximately 30 minutes from Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Jacksonville and Crockett, Texas. Call 936-858-3218 for directions or additional information.

Caddo mounds event listing

A question for my readers…

I don’t know if there’s anybody actually reading this yet, but I have a question for you if you do.

Do you want daily updates? I can set up automatic posts for when I’m not home. So, here’s the question.

A: Daily updates with your “plant of the day” or whatever else is going through my mind in relation to wild foods and medicines and whatnot.

B: Some occasional periods of silence as I’m out and going and doing things.

I’m going to be doing my best to keep up with this and post regularly. And even with living in one of the least biologically diverse areas of Texas, and starting this in the depth of winter, we’re not going to lack for anything to talk about. Right now, I’m working on building a database of pictures so we have not just text, but pictures to help you identify what we see out there and what I’m specifically looking for.


Thank you for reading and sharing my passion. The more readers and the more input I have, the better this becomes. 15027785_10154476973156928_8767750715337629646_n

Passion flower or Maypops.

Another plant with a million common names and a deep history.  I’ve seen passion flower vines growing on railroad tracks and taking over fence rows in the bay area of Houston. I’ve seen them sprawling over poke weed in woods in far east Texas or climbing up our beautiful tall pines, and even along highway 360 here in Arlington just in the ditch. They’re one of our most striking wildflowers, cultivated all over the world for their beauty and fruit. But they’re so unique, so rare, so different, that most people think they’re this alien, tropical, weird thing… not realizing they drive past them every day going to work.

Passion flower vines are a major host plant for some of our most beautiful butterflies, including Gulf Fritillary, Zebra Longwing, Julia, and Variegated Fritillary.

The lore surrounding this plant is very old. Cultivated by native tribes all over north and south America from the Inca and Aztec to the Cherokee in Tennessee, they were “discovered” in Peru in 1569. The 16th century scholar Giacomo Bosio described the passion flower as “La Flor de las cinco Llagas,” meaning the flower with the five wounds. In 1608, Spanish Jesuits formally presented Pope Paul V with a drawing and dried specimens. The five petals and the five sepals are said to represent the 10 faithful apostles. The leaf is the centurion’s spear. The central flower column denotes the pillar of the scourging. The flower’s tendrils resemble the whips used in the flagellation. The corona filaments are compared to Christ’s crown of thorns. The three stigma are called the nails, and the five anthers reflect the five sacred wounds, while the red stains recall the blood of Christ.

They’re “weeds”, which means they want to grow. They’ll laugh at our heat and drought, bloom more in the heat of summer, and can become house eaters taking over the entire area if you don’t clip or let the caterpillars eat them. A hard freeze may knock the plant down to the roots, but come spring, they’ll “pop” right back up, including in places you swore you never planted them.

My family has always loved them. Delicious jelly from the fruit (I still need to get pictures of this) but that’s not just why we love them. Proven help for a wide range of problems a few drops of the tincture under the tongue is treatment for insomnia, anxiety, even narcotic withdrawal. Also for seizures, asthma, hot flashes, …. I can keep going. We’ve made tea from the leaves for menopause related issues, tinctures for anxiety and sleeplessness, root poultices for skin inflammations, root teas to help weaning babies. This was one of our must haves in our garden for a host of issues. And all from a common little weed that grows literally on the side of 360.

A little side note. There’s a memory in my family from about 1918 from when this tea was used.

As I said in the welcome page, my mother was born in 1915. When she was very very little – maybe three or four years old – it was dark out and she could hear the Native Americans singing and dancing very very close. My aunts said you could feel the drums in your bones. Mama was extremely scared and went crying in a panic to my grandmother “Mama they’re gonna kill us! Mama they’re gonna come scalp us! What are we gonna do! They’re going to kill us!!!” My great grandmother picked her up and held her close.. “No, baby girl, they’re just praying. Listen. They’re praying for their families to come back. They’re not gonna hurt you. They’re praying.” A little later, grandmother gave each of the kids passion flower tea to drink, great grandmother Nancy Ann still holding mama and making sure she drained the whole cup and watched as all the children dropped off to sleep. Only my oldest aunt remembered watching my grandmother and great grandmother slipping out the door to go to the dance.


Morel mushrooms.

Yes, I know I said I don’t do mushrooms, but I really do love them. And morels are some of the easiest to identify. Only problem is they’re fairly rare in Texas so finding them can be a little of a pain in the backside. I’m still questing for land owners that will allow me to harvest on their property. Their unique hollow insides, complete lack of gills, and honeycomb caps are striking. They can be found at specialty gourmet stores at $40 per pound and higher.

The clues for hunting them is time of year, temperature, soil, and water.

  1. You find them in the last two weeks of March and first two weeks of April.
  2. Temperatures need to be between 50 and 80 degrees.
  3. They require alkaline soil. Normally loam over limestone. They do not like acidic sand, so they typically aren’t found in east Texas. The exception to this is where there’s been a large burn and a lot of wood ash leached the acid out and makes it alkaline. But typically they’re found in a narrow band from Blanco through Austin to Texoma.
  4. They don’t like wet feet. They’re not in the creek beds, but on north facing slopes above the water table. Look in mixed cedar / oak / elm forests when the dewberries are blooming.

All of that said, BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN  of your identification before harvesting. They must be completely hollow from root to tip. They must have that honeycomb structure for the cap, not ridges or folds. There’s been thousands of dollars in fines from people stealing mushrooms from protected areas. Be smart. Be safe. And always remember the rules and ethics of foraging. This is the hardest mushroom to find in Texas but the easiest to identify.