Medicinal Plant Guide

1260

The grounds at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung contain the remains of a large oak prairie savannah that once stretched along Manidoo Ziibi. This mesic prairie vegetation was common in the area until it was cleared for agriculture in the 1800s. The Ojibway communities living near Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung during this time began conducting yearly burns to preserve the now unique habitat.



A globally significant oak savannah prairie is nestled between the Long Sault Rapids and mixed woodland habitats at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung. This unique plant community is home to many of Ontario’s rare plants, including Oval Leafed Milkweed, Hoary Puccoon, and Wild Licorice.

Today, preservation of this site is ensured through the stewardship efforts of the Rainy River First Nations. The prairie is burned each spring to mimic the traditional yearly burns. These burns facilitate the growth of native prairie plants while inhibiting the encroachment of invasive species.

Organization of this Guide

This website can be used as a resource guide to the plants found at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung. These plants are found scattered along the trails, and have been included within this guide due to their traditional, medicinal, or interesting properties.


Jerusalem Artichoke


Ojibway: Ashkibwaan
Latin: Helianthus tuberosus L.
Common Names: Girasole

Description
Stout, rough, and branching stems with large golden-yellow flower heads.

Flowers
Heads 7.5 cm (3 inches) wide with 10-20 ray flowers; narrow and spreading bracts beneath heads. Common from August to October.

Leaves
Ovate to lanceolate in shape, 10-25 cm (4-10 inches) long. Thick, rough, and toothed in opposite and alternative patterns. Winged stalks and three main veins.

Height
1.5-3.0 m (5-10 feet) tall.

Habitat
Moist soil.

Range
Throughout eastern Canada, excluding far north. Northwestern United States.

Discussion
Tuber is edible and highly nutritious. Unlike potatoes, it is made of simple sugars (carbohydrates) which more easily metabolize into natural sugars. They are said to be delicious when boiled or roasted like their starchier cousin. They have a sweet, nut-like taste and are high in iron. It is ideal for diabetics as it does not increase glucose levels when ingested.

Common Dandelion


Ojibway: Doodooshaboojiibik
Latin: Taraxacum officinale Weber
Common Names: Dandelion, Blow-ball, Piss-weed

Description
Herbaceous perennial plant with well-known yellow-flower heads that become round balls of silver tufts that disperse easily in the wind.

Flowers
Solitary flower heads with numerous yellow ray flowers. The stalk is leafless and hollow and grows from a rosette of toothed leaves. Stem juice is milky.

Leaves
Long, lanceolate leaves, broadest near tips, with jagged and backward-pointed lobes or teeth.

Height
5-50 cm (2-20 inches) tall.

Habitat
Lawns, pastures, fields, and roadsides.

Range
Throughout North America; rare in extreme southeastern United States.

Traditional Uses
Dandelion originates from dent de lion, French for ‘lion’s teeth,’ referring to the teeth on the leaves. This plant has many uses in both nutritional and medicinal contexts. The leaves, roots, and flowers can be eaten and are extremely nutritious. Young to just-matured leaves are edible raw in salads or sandwiches, while the crown can be eaten as a separate hot vegetable. It should be steamed or boiled to decrease the bitter taste. The roots are commonly roasted to make non-caffeinated coffee. Medicinally, it can be used as an herbal remedy for both internal and external ailments. It can be used in the treatment of gall bladder and urinary disorders, gallstones, jaundice, cirrhosis, dyspepsia with constipation, diseases associated with high blood pressure and heart weakness, chronic joint and skin complaints, gout, eczema, and acne.

Seneca Snakeroot


Ojibway: Ginebigo-ojiibik
Latin: Polygala senega L.
Common Names: Milkwort, Mountain flax, Rattlesnake root

Description
Perennial plant with several stems rising from the root. Stems are green in color, can be slightly red-tinged, and are ringed with dense spikes of white or pinkish flowers. Leaves are numerous, alternate, and linear-shaped. Seeds are produced in capsules.

Flowers
Grown in spikes that are 2 cm (⅛ inch)long. Leaves can be several inches in length. Common from April to July.

Leaves
Alternate, lance to oblong-shaped, 2.5-5.0 cm (1-2 inches) long. Thin in texture and stemless.

Height
15-60 cm (½-2 feet) tall.

Habitat
Dry woods, limestone or rocky soils, higher altitudes.

Range
From Minnesota to New Brunswick and western New England; along the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the Allegheny Mountains (North Carolina), and in Missouri.

Traditional Uses
Traditionally used to treat snakebites. Also used for earaches, toothaches, sore throats, croup, and colds. Its main use today is as an expectorant in cough syrups, teas, and lozenges, as well as a gargle for sore throats. It has been used as an emetic and cathartic in larger doses.

Yellow Lady's Slipper


Ojibway: Makizin
Latin: Cypripedium calceolus L.
Common Names: Squirrel’s shoes

Description
Three to five broad, parallel and veined leaves along the stem. Yellow flower with distinctive pouch-shape.

Flowers
Yellow lip petal in pouch form, similar in appearance to a slipper or moccasin, 2.5-5.0 cm (1-2 inches) long. Common from May to June.

Leaves
Three to five bright green oval leaves with strong ribbing.

Height
15-80 cm (5 ½-31 ¼ inches) tall.

Habitat
Rich deciduous woods. Boggy and swampy areas further north. Rarely found in clay-rich soils and has preference for limestone-rich areas.

Range
Minnesota to Nova Scotia and New England. Along the mountains to Georgia, as well as Alabama, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Traditional Uses
Insects enter through the moccasin-shaped pouch but can only exit through the rear, collecting pollen to distribute in the process. The nerve root is reputed to have effects on the nervous system, and is pungently bitter-sweet with an unpleasant odor. It is antispasmodic and diaphoretic, and has been used as both a sedative and tonic. Taken internally it has been used in the treatment of anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, depression, and tension headaches. It is best taken as a tincture as the active ingredients are not water soluble. The plant is said to be a less powerful equivalent of Valerian (Veleriana officinalis) in its effect as a nervine and sedative. Roots are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. For conservation purposes is best not to use this herb unless you can be positive that it was obtained from a cultivated source.

An Ojibway legend tells of a little Ojibway girl lost outside during a bitterly cold winter. Searchers found a Lady’s Slipper blooming in the snow, where the little girl was last seen. The Lady's Slipper has become the model for the Ojibway Moccasin based on this legend.

Wild Rice


Ojibway: Manomin
Latin: Zizania palustris L.
Common Names: Annual wildrice, Indian wild rice, Chiang ts’ao

Description
Robust, large aquatic grass. Produces submerged, floating, and aerial leaves. Sturdy, woody stem with tall spike emerging from grass stalk.

Flowers
Heads are small and yellowish-green, turning a dark purple thick with seeds as they mature. They are monoecious and pollinated by the wind. Flowers from July to September; seeds ripen from September to October.

Height
Up to 3.5 m (10-12 feet).

Habitat
Shallow waters and lakes with slow-moving currents. Sandy, loamy, or clay-rich soils with neutral pH levels are preferred (although slightly acidic or basic soils will still produce plants).

Range
Eastern North America, particulary from Manitoba to New Brunswick, and from Texas to Florida.

Traditional Uses
Wild rice is a staple food of the First Nations and is used in the same ways as other rice. The seed is cooked and eaten, and is sometimes added to rice dishes for flavoring. It can be ground into a meal and used in making bread or thickening soups, and is a rich source of riboflavin and niacin. The base of the culms is used as a vegetable. While this plant is not found at the Mounds, it remains a highly important plant for sustenance in the area.

Hoary Puccoon


Ojibway: Mayagi Mashkiki
Latin: Lithospermum canscens (michx.) Lehm
Common Names: Indian-paint, Gromwell

Description
Herbaceous, early blooming prairie plant which has a tendency to sprawl across the ground. Stems are covered with long white hairs. Leaves have sparse white hairs on their upper sides, ciliate hairs along their margins, and a white pubescence on their undersides. The flowers occur in showy clusters at the ends of major stems, and are bright yellow to yellowish orange. The root system consists of a central taproot.

Flowers
Heads are up to 1.3 cm (½ inch) wide. Lower half is fused into a tube, hiding the stamen. Flowers arranged in a flat-top cluster with no noticeable floral scent. Common from April to June.

Leaves
Alternate, up to 6 cm (2 ¼ inches) in length. Leaves are narrow and hairy with prominent central veins and an absence of serration along the margins. Oblong with rounded tips.

Height
15-45 cm (6-18 inches) tall.

Habitat
Dry open woods, thickets, and glades. Virgin prairie remnants preferred. Rare or absent in all other habitats.

Range
Saskatchewan to southern Ontario, primarily in the Mississippi Valley. Also present in Georgia and Texas.

Traditional Uses
‘Puccoon’ is a Native American term applied to several plants which are used for making reddish pigment. The long taproot and seeds of this plant look like small pieces of bone or ivory, and can be used in rattles.

Big Bluestem


Ojibway: Mayagi Mashkosiw
Latin: Andropogon gerardii Vitm.
Common Names: Gerard’s bluestem, Hall’s beard grass, Turkey foot

Description
Flowering stalks that grow in three finger-like structures. Deep roots help the plant survive droughts, and can reach up to 3.6 m (12 feet) in depth. Reproduces primarily through rhizomes and are found growing in clumps.

Flowers
Purplish flowers are at the top of the stalks, usually in 3-4 tight clusters from a central point. Common August through September.

Leaves
Flat, 30-60 cm (6 to 24 inches) long, 6.6-17.0 mm (⅕ - ½ inch) wide, usually glabrous on the underside and scabrous (rough) above, with rough margins, and hairy at the collar.

Habitat
Deep, fertile, and dry prairie soils are preferred. More frequent in lowland prairies, but can also be seen on shallow, gravelly ridges during wetter periods.

Height
60-180 cm (2-6 feet) tall.

Range
Common from Oklahoma in the United States up to Canada.

Traditional Uses
Used to treat digestive problems and fevers.

Canada Thistle


Ojibway: Mazaanaatig
Latin: Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.
Common Names: Creeping thistle, Noxious thistle

Description
Numerous pale magenta to lavender flower heads top this high-branched, smooth-stemmed plant. Very fragrant.

Flowers
Heads 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide, all disk type petals. Surrounded by spine-tipped bracts. Common from June to October.

Leaves
Spiny and lanceolate in shape, long and grey-green with matted hair. 12.5-20.0 cm (5-8 inches) in length, wavy-edged, and mostly stalkless.

Height
30-150 cm (1-5 feet) tall.

Habitat
Pastures, roadsides, disturbed ground.

Range
Throughout North America, excluding the far north of Canada and the southeastern United States.

Traditional Uses
Introduced by Europeans. Distinguished from bull thistle (C. vulgare) by smaller flowering heads and non-spiny stems. Thistle roots have been used as tonics, diuretics, astringents, and hepatics. It has also been chewed for treating toothaches, and the seed fluff is useful as tinder for starting fires.

Bloodroot


Ojibway: Meskojiibikak
Latin: Sanguinaria canadensis L.
Common Names: Puccoon-root, Red puccoon

Description
Waxy-white blossom; one of the first spring flowers to bloom, appearing shortly after the snowmelt wrapped in a grayish-green leaf. Perennial plant with thick, horizontal rootstock. A single leaf and flower are produced, the undersides of which are paler and show prominent veins. Blood-red juice is within the stem and root.

Flowers
Hermaphroditic flowers, 2.5 cm (1 inch) across. Blooms in April.

Leaves
Palmate with five to nine lobes. Lobes cleft at the apex or along the wavy margin. Leaf stems measure 12.5-35.0 cm (5-14 inches) long. Leaves continue to grow after flowering to a maximum of 10.0-17.5 cm (4-7 inches) long and 15-30 cm (6-12 inches) broad.

Height
20-30 cm (6 inches) tall.

Habitat
Woodland habitats with variable degrees of shade.

Range
Eastern North America.

Traditional Uses
Traditional remedy in the treatment of fevers, blood disorders, and rheumatism. Used to induce vomiting and as an element in divination. In modern herbalism is it chiefly used as an expectorant, promoting coughing and the clearing of mucus from the respiratory tract. Externally, the root is used in the treatment of skin diseases, warts, nasal polyps, benign skin tumors, and sore throats. It is also used as a natural dye.

Warning
The root is toxic and contains a number of opium-like alkaloids that are also found in other members of this family. An excessive dose depresses the central nervous system and causes nausea and vomiting which may become fatal. This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant or lactating women. Fresh or dried sap can cause intense irritation to the mucous membranes.

Bur Oak


Ojibway: Mitigomizh
Latin: Ouercus macrocarpa Michx.
Common Names: Burr oak, Mossycup oak

Description
Large oak tree with fiddle-shaped leathery leaves and very large, fringed acorns. Deeply ridged bark and thick to corky twigs.

Flowers
Monoecious; male flowers are yellow-green with long, slender catkins 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) in length. Female flowers are green tinged with red and appear as single, short spikes. Both appear shortly after the leaves.

Leaves
Alternate, simple, 15-30 cm (6-12 inches) long. Roughly obovate in shape with many lobes. The two middle sinuses nearly reach the midrib and divide the leaves nearly in half. The lobes near the tip resemble a crown, and are green above and paler and fuzzy below.

Fruit
Acorns are 2 cm long (1 ½ inches) and half enclosed in a warty cap that has a long-fringed margin. They mature in a single growing season in later summer to fall.

Height
Often reaches over 30 m (100 feet) tall with a long, clear bole. In open areas it becomes a very wide, spreading tree.

Habitat
Dry uplands on sandy and loamy soils.

Range
Widely distributed throughout the eastern United States and across the Great Plains. It ranges from southern New Brunswick, central Maine, Vermont and southern Quebec; west through Ontario to southern Manitoba and extreme southeastern Saskatchewan; south to North Dakota, extreme southeastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming, South Dakota, central Nebraska, western Oklahoma, and southeastern Texas; then northeast to Arkansas, central Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. It also grows in Louisiana and Alabama.

Traditional Use
Oaks have a variety of uses. The bark can be brewed into a tea for diarrhea, and the scraped and dried inner bark can be made into a tea to relieve heart symptoms. It was also used to make red and black dye. The nut meat can be ground for use in grits or meal, or pounded into a paste. It has also been known to help heal open wounds.

Wild Ginger


Ojibway: Namepine
Latin: Asarum canadense L.
Common Names: Canadian wild ginger, Indian ginger

Description
Grows at ground level between two leafstalks; single dark reddish-brown to green-brown flower.

Flowers
Cup-shaped with three pointed lobes. 3.8 cm (1 ½ inch) wide.

Leaves
Paired; large, hairy, and heart-shaped. Each leaf is 7.5-15.0 cm (3-6 inches) wide and they overshadow the flower.

Height
15-30 cm (6-12 inches).

Habitat
Rich woods.

Range
Quebec to New Brunswick in Canada; south to South Carolina, west through Kentucky to Missouri, and north to Minnesota.

Traditional Uses
A very important and useful plant. The root of the spring flower has a strong ginger-like odour, and candy can be made by simmering the rootstalks in sugar. Medicinally, it has been used to treat whooping cough, dress wounds, settle the stomach, and ease childbirth. When the Rainy River was heavily populated with sturgeon, fishermen would chew wild ginger to keep the sturgeon away from the boats and prevent them from tipping them over.

Warning
Touching this plant can cause skin irritation in some people.

Closed Gentian


Ojibway: Niibaa’obag
Latin: Gentiana andrewssi (L.)
Common Names: Closed bottle gentian

Description
Lavender, purple, or white cup-shaped flowers; solitary or in few-flowered terminal clusters.

Flowers
Consists of five regular parts and are up to 4 cm (1 ½ inches) long. Ranges from blue to violet in color. The corolla appears completely closed but can be open at the top. Common from August to September.

Leaves
Opposite arrangement, lanceolate shape. Leaves up to 10 cm (4 inches) in length and are stemless.

Height
61 cm (24 inches) tall.

Habitat
Moist fields or open woods.

Range
From Quebec to Tennessee and North Carolina

Traditional Uses
The bitter root has long been used as a tonic and is known to be an appetite stimulant. It was also used as a cathartic and laxative as well as to treat weak stomachs and, oddly, hysterical affections.

Yarrow


Ojibway: Nookwezigan
Latin: Achillea millefolium L.
Common Names: Common yarrow

Description
Flat-topped clusters of small, whitish flowers at the top of a gray-green, leafy, hair-covered stem.

Flowers
Flower heads are approximately 6 mm (¼ inch) across. Four to six small flowers surround a tiny central disk. Common from June to September.

Leaves
Lanceolate in shape and aromatic. Approximately 15 cm (6 inches) in length, fern-like and stalkless. Basal leaves are longer.

Height
30-90 cm (1-3 feet) tall.

Habitat
Disturbed patches of land, i.e. grown-over fields or ditches.

Range
Most of temperate North America.

Traditional Uses
Yarrow has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes including the treatment of fever, headaches, hemorrhaging and rashes. When steeped, the leaves can ease stomach discomfort. It was often used in combination with other plants, and the foliage has a pleasant smell when crushed.

Wild Strawberry


Ojibway: Ode’iminidjiibik
Latin: Fragaria virginiana Miller
Common Names: Virginia strawberry, Heart berry, Scarlet strawberry

Description
Long, thin stems (runners), small white flowers, long stalks, and 3-parted basal leaves help identify this plant prior to the formation of its very identifiable berries.

Flowers
2 cm (¾ inch) wide with five sepals, five petals, and numerous pistils on a dome-like structure. Common from April to June.

Leaves
Small leaflets 2.5-3.8 cm (1-1 ½ inches) long with toothed appearance and hairy stalks.

Fruit
Dry and seed-like with an enlarged, fleshy cone (commonly known as a strawberry).

Height
7.5-15.0 cm (3-6 inches) tall.

Habitat
Open fields and along the edge of woodlands.

Range
Throughout North America.

Traditional Uses
The edible portion of the strawberry is actually the central portion of the flower. The fruit enlarges with maturity and is covered with small embedded seeds. Cultivated strawberries are hybrids developed from multiple native species from North and South America. Tea made from the leaves may stimulate the appetite, and it has also been used to treat cholera. Traditionally, unripe strawberries were picked at the beginning of a women’s fast. The fast would take place for ten days and the strawberries would be eaten upon completion to replenish their bodies. Strawberries are the first summer fruit and signify the new season.

Pale Touch Me Not


Ojibway: Omakakiibag
Latin: Impatiens pallida Nutt.
Common Names: Jewelweed, Snapweed

Description
Tall, leafy plant with translucent stems. Pale yellow flowers hang from the stems and occasionally haves reddish-brown markings.

Flowers
Typically 4 cm (1 ½ inches) long with a long calyx tube ending in a short hooked spur. Common from June to October.

Leaves
Long, thin leaves with ovate shape and toothed edges. 2.5-10.0 cm (1-4 inches) in length.

Fruit
Very fragile with swollen appearance. Elliptical capsule explodes at maturity, expelling seeds.

Height
90-180 cm (3-6 feet) tall.

Habitat
Wet woods, meadows, and shaded rocky areas.

Range
Ontario to Nova Scotia in Canada, and between Oklahoma, Georgia, and North Dakota in the United States.

Traditional Uses
All parts of the plant are diuretic, emetic, and purgative. While the leaves and seeds can be cooked and eaten in some Asian dishes, caution is advised. Sap from the plant has been used to treat nettle stings and poison ivy rash. It has also been used in the treatment of warts, corns, ringworm, and hemorrhoids.

Warning
Regular ingestion of large quantities of this plant can be dangerous due to the high content of calcium oxalate (microscopic needle-like crystals). These are harmful when raw but can be destroyed by thoroughly cooking or drying the plant. Those with rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones, or hyperacidity should take special care if including this plant in their diet.

Common Tansy


Ojibway: Oshkiniikwebagoons
Latin: Tanacetum vulgare L.
Common Names: Chamomile, Tansy

Description
Erect perennial with flat-topped clusters of bright orange-yellow button-like flower heads.

Flowers
Heads are approximately 1.3 cm (½ inch) wide and are composed entirely of disk flowers. Ray-like extensions develop from marginal flowers. Common from July to September.

Leaves
Divided into linear, toothed segments measuring 10-20 cm (4-8 inches) long. Strongly aromatic.

Height
60-90 cm (2-3 feet) tall.

Habitat
Roadsides and the edges of fields.

Range
Common throughout North America excluding the southernmost and northernmost regions.

Traditional Uses
Young leaves and flowers have been used as a substitute for sage in cooking when fresh, however given the potential toxicity of this plant, ingesting it is not recommended. It has been used for sore throats, women’s diseases, fevers, and earaches. Extracts from the plant can be used as a natural pesticide to keep insects from vegetables. Tansy is very invasive at the Mounds and can out-compete other plants.

Warning
Tansy and its herbal extracts can be poisonous, even fatal, to humans. It has been used for centuries to medically induce abortions with occasionally fatal results. The bitter tasting leaves and stems contain tanacetum, an oil which is toxic to humans and animals.

Kentucky Bluegrass

Ojibway: Ozhaawashwa-mashkosiwan
Latin: Poa pratensis L.
Common Names: Junegrass, Speargrass

Description
Densely tufted grass with smooth, erect stems topped with pyramidal clusters of ovoid, green spikelets. Branches are thread-like, spreading, or ascending.

Flowers
Very small, petal-less flowers with six stamens and two styles. The flowers are enclosed in scales which are grouped into spikelets at the ends of branches. Form in clusters up to 15 cm (6 inches) long. Common from May to August.

Leaves
Wide leaves on basal portions of the stem; up to 20 cm (8 inches) long and 6 mm (⅙ inch) wide.

Height
30-90 cm (1-3 feet) tall.

Habitat
Moist or dry soils, meadows, and fields.

Range
Common across North America.

Traditional Uses
Often cultivated as a lawn or pasture. Different species of grass (Poa) are often difficult to distinguish from one another by the untrained eye. This grass is common at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung and tends to out-compete other species, reducing biodiversity.

Wild Bergamot


Ojibway: Sasapkwanins
Latin: Monarda fistulosa L.
Common Names: Wild bergamot, Wild horsemint

Description
Herbaceous perennial plant with fragrant leaves and purple to lavender, two-lipped tubular flowers.

Flowers
4 cm (1 ½ inches) long. Very attractive to bees and hummingbirds. Common from July to August.

Leaves
Lance-shaped and toothed. Approximately 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) in length.

Height
60-120 cm (2-4 feet) tall.

Habitat
Dry soils; usually in dry woods, thickets, and forest clearings.

Range
Common east of the Rockies in North America

Traditional Uses
When steeped, the leaves of the plant have been used to make a strong mint-flavoured tea with a number of medicinal qualities (1 teaspoon dried leaves to 8 ounces boiling water). It was often used for insect repellent, as well as for treating burns and digestive problems. Fresh leaves can be added in small quantities to salads, desserts, and beverages.

Wild Sarsaparilla


Ojibway: Wabos’odji’bik
Latin: Aralia nudicaulis L.
Common Names: False sarsaparilla, Shot bush, Small spikenard, Rabbit root, Wild liquorice

Description
Herbaceous perennial plant with a stout woody stem topped by a single leaf above the flower stalk.

Flowers
Two to seven (average of three) umbrella or ball-shaped clusters on top of a leafless stalk. Individual flowers are very small with five greenish-white petals. Common from May to June.

Leaves
Single leaf comprised of three to five leaflets. Leaflets are elongated lance or egg-shaped and are finely toothed along the margins.

Fruit
Berries are nearly black when ripe and are found in clusters. They are edible, but not very palatable, and ripen during mid-summer.

Height
50 cm (19 inches) tall.

Habitat
Broad range of soil and site conditions; most common in dry to moist hardwood or mixed wood forests.

Range
Common from British Columbia to Newfoundland in Canada, and from North Carolina to the Intermountain West in the United States.

Traditional Uses
The rhizome of the plant was traditionally used as both food and medicine. It was used in the treatment of a variety of ailments including shingles, recent wounds, coughs, and ulcers. The berries were used by European settlers to make wine, and an early form of root beer was made from the rhizome. The plant was used as a popular spring tonic in the 1800’s.

Canada Goldenrod


Ojibway: Wezaawinagak
Latin: Solidago canadensis L.
Common Names: Meadow goldenrod, Tall goldenrod, Rock goldenrod

Description
Tall, leafy stem with fine hairs and tiny yellow flower heads at the ends of arching branches in long or flat-topped clusters.

Flowers
Flower heads 3 mm (⅛ inch) in length and have three short rays. Common from May to September.

Leaves
Lanceolate in shape, 5.0-12.5 cm (1-5 inches) long. Covered with fine hair and prominent veins.

Height
30-150 cm (1-5 feet) tall.

Habitat
Meadows and open forests.

Range
Across Canada and throughout the United States.

Traditional Uses
Although this plant is often blamed for hay fever, the discomfort is usually the result of pollen from Ragweed (Ambrosia spp.) which are smaller plants with green flowers that bloom at the same time. Poultices made from the flowers or the moistened, crushed root have been used to treat ulcers, burns, and boils, respectively. It has also been used in the treatment of some cancers, and the leaves are a source of latex and rubber.

White Birch


Ojibway: Wiigwaas
Latin: Betula papyrifera Marsh.
Common Names: Alaska paper birch, Alaska white birch

Description
Small to medium-sized, broad-leaved hardwood with small, open crowns of spreading and ascending branches. Branchlets are slender and reddy-brown in color. Trunk bark of young trees is reddish-brown but turns to its characteristic white color as the tree matures.

Flowers
Staminate flowers are preformed in catkins 2.0-2.5 cm (¾ to 1 inch) long at the ends of twigs and lateral shoots in the late summer. These mature and grow in length to 4-10 cm (1 ½-4 inches) the following spring.

Leaves
Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, and ovate with acute tips and rounded bases. Petiole is slender.

Height
Averaging 16 m (54 feet) tall.

Habitat
Most common in well-drained sandy soils, but can tolerate a wide range of soil textures ranging from gravel and silt to organic bogs or peat soils.

Range
Common across Canada and southern Alaska, as well as most of the northern United States. Small paper birch populations are found in Colorado, Montana, the Eastern Cascades, the Great Lakes states, and North Carolina.

Traditional Uses
Paper birch has been used as a food source, a wood source, and a medicinal source. Sap from the tree can be boiled down to make a sweet syrup, and has been collected to make wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks, and health tonics. In an emergency, the tender inner bark can be eaten for sustenance. The outer bark was fashioned into baskets, storage containers, mats, baby carriers, moose and bird calls, torches, household utensils, and canoes. The strong yet flexible wood was often worked into weapons such as spears, bows, and arrows. Birch bark resin has disinfectant properties and slightly energizing effects, and is sometimes chewed for these reasons. It can also be used to alleviate stomach pains.

Warning
Please use caution when preparing or eating any part of a plant. Identification of the species and knowledge of a plant’s toxicity are both essential before using any plant species medicinally or otherwise. Please consult with a health professional before attempting to treat any ailment.

Panicled Aster


Ojibway: Wiinizikens
Latin: Aster lanceolatus Willd. (Aster simplex Willd.)
Common Names: Lance-leaved aster, Tall white aster

Description
Tall stem bearing a panicle of flower heads with numerous white rays (sometimes tinged violet).

Flowers
Heads 2.0-2.5 cm (¾-1 inch) wide. Central disk yellowish to pinkish; bracts narrow and green-tipped. Flowers are spread out, but not on one side of the stem. Common from August to September.

Leaves
Lanceolate, sharply pointed, and sometimes toothed. Short-stalked. Lower leaves 7.5-15.0 cm (3-6 inches) long, upper leaves slightly smaller.

Height
1.2-1.5 m (4-5 feet) tall.

Habitat
Damp roadside ditches and thickets.

Range
Throughout much of North America, excluding the far north.

Traditional Uses
An infusion of panicled aster combined with other plants has been used to treat fever. A decoction of the plant has been used to dress wounds, and when dried and powdered it has been used as a salve on abrasions. Smoke from the crushed blossoms has been inhaled in the treatment of nosebleeds.

Wild Licorice Root


Ojibway: Wiishkobanijiibik
Latin: Glycyrrhiza lepidota Nutt. ex Pursh
Common Names: American licorice, Sweet root

Description
Tall plant with a sticky, hair-covered stem. Brown fruits with hooked spines on the branches.

Flowers
Cream-colored, similar to alfalfa, crowded on the terminal spike. Common from June to July.

Leaves
Opposite and on long stems.

Height
30-90 cm (1-3 feet) tall.

Habitat
Prairies, stream valleys, roadsides; moist and sandy areas.

Range
British Columbia to western Ontario; southern to northwestern Missouri, north Arkansas, Texas, Mexico, and California.

Traditional Uses
The root can be eaten raw or cooked, and contains 6% glycyrrhizin, a substance that is 50x sweeter than sugar. It is sweet and fleshy, and when slow roasted is said to taste like sweet potatoes. Tender young shoots can be eaten raw in the spring. Despite the name, wild licorice root is not used for the production of commercial licorice. The plant has been used as a birthing aid, as well as for foot care, toothaches, and the treatment of skin sores.

Indian Hemp


Ojibway: Zesabiins
Latin: Apocynum cannabinum L.
Common Names: Hemp dogbane, Clasping-leaved Indian hemp

Description
Sturdy, erect, purplish stem with ascending branches in the upper region. Long oval leaves with white coating or bloom similar to plums. Small cream-colored flowers are clustered at the ends of branches or on stalks from the leaf axils. Tufted seeds form spindle-shaped pods.

Flowers
Small, white to greenish-white, and produced in terminal clusters (cymes). The flower size is 1 cm (¼ inch) wide. Pollinated by small insects including wasps and flies. Common from May to August.

Leaves
Ovate or elliptical margins, 5-12 cm (2-5 inches) long and 1-4 cm (½ to 1 ½ inches) wide. Opposite pattern. Short petioles (stems) on leaves with no hairs underneath. Lower leaves are stemmed, upper leaves are not. Leaves turn yellow and drop in the fall.

Height
1.0-1.2 m (3-4 feet) tall.

Habitat
Roadsides, thickets, fields, lakeshores, waterways; disturbed areas.

Range
Throughout the United States and scattered across Canada.

Traditional Uses
Cordage and twine made from this plant were extremely useful and frequently used prior to the widespread use of cotton. Twine was particularly excellent for making fishing lines and nets because it kept its strength under water and did not shrink. It was used in the manufacture of many other items, including deer and rabbit nets, small-game slings, nooses for bird hunting, hide stretchers, bowstrings, moccasins, clothing, straps, bedding for baby cradles, wheels for dart games, carrying nets, and cattail mats. Medically, it was used to treat coughs.

Warning
This plant can be fatal to animals if eaten. Other plants in this genus have poisoned humans, and this species should not be ingested.

Riverbank Grape


Ojibway: Zhawimin (or Zhoomin or Jo’minaga’wunj)
Latin: Vitis riparia Michx.
Common Names: River grape, Riverside vine, Frost grapes, Grapevine

Description
Woody vines with trailing or climbing tendrils. Mature stems are thick in diameter; young branches are green to dull reddish-brown.

Flowers
Inconspicuous, greenish, and fragrant. Calyces are short with five petals attached at the tips. Separate at the bases.

Leaves
Alternate, simple, thin, and heart to egg-shaped. 7-15 cm (3-5 inches) long and wide, with three to seven tapered-point lobes. Shiny and green on upper surface, green and pubescent along veins of lower surface. Margins are closely toothed.

Fruit
6-12 mm (⅙-⅓ inch) in diameter; formed in fairly large bunches.

Height
Up to 15 m (50 feet) long.

Habitat
Moist to mesic black prairie soil, woodland edges or openings, sandy woodland edges or openings, savannah, sand dunes, thickets, shorelines, abandoned fields, and ditches.

Range
Eastern and central North America.

Traditional Uses
Can be eaten raw or dried for later use. Fruit is juicy and slightly acidic, and is best following a frost. Leaves can be cooked, and young leaves can be wrapped around other foods while baked. Young tendrils can be eaten raw or cooked, and the sap can be used as a drink and is harvested throughout the spring and summer. Quantity decreases throughout the summer. Yellow dye can be made from fresh or dried leaves.


Disclaimer:
Our staff and community work tirelessly to preserve the natural flora on our trails and we ask that our visitors refrain from collecting plants on the grounds of Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung. Many of the plants on our trails can have adverse effects if used improperly, so please exercise caution when exploring. The staff at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung cannot take responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants described within this guide.