Letter Re: Many Weeds are Actually Edible Wild Plants

Mr Rawles,
I read the article “Many Weeds are Actually Edible Plants” with much interest. I am a botanist not a horticulturist. I was trained in the taxonomy of native plants not commercial flowers and such.
Taxonomy is the identification of plants. I did three years work at my school’s botany department doing field research continuing the longest prenuclear botany studies of native plants in the US. I was required to be able to identify by sight more than 1,000 native plants. My taxonomic mentor was Mr. Howard Reynolds, Ph.d., University of Nebraska and former Marine Corpsman, in the Pacific Theater of Operations in WWII.

The article you displayed was commendable and accurate using the correct scientific names.
However it should be noted that common names are a minefield.
The absolute reference book to correct common names is the National List of Scientific Plant Names. [A two-volume set,published by the Soil Conservation Service.]

One of the plants you displayed I know under a different common name.
This is the problem of common names.
Many are regional and have become accepted as correct…
Example: Throughout the plains states there are many thousands of trees called “Chinese Elm”.
This is an incorrect common name.
These trees are in reality the “Siberian Elm”.
Siberian Elms bloom in the spring and the true Chinese Elm tree blooms in the fall.
Because the public has heard these trees called Chinese Elm by their grandparents they assume the name is correct.

Copies of the National List of Scientific Plant Names are available through Amazon.com.

I would like to see all articles that describe plants for some use to identify the source used for the scientific name and the common name.
This is the way diverse people can talk about a common plant and know they are both focusing on the same entity.

Yes, names do change. Regularly-held botanical congresses hear the evidence for projected changes. A panel of taxonomists can recommend a change.
But that happens only once in a blue moon. It is not a common occurrence. With the ability to identify the sequencing of the DNA molecule plants that appear to have small taxonomic differences are frequently given a subspecies identifier.Or noted that they are the “variety described by and a name of the researcher is given”. But DNA analysis can solve this problem and if the differences are significant the two subspecies or varieties are given separate scientific names and the subspecies/variety gets a new common name.

Two ways to be sure a plant is correctly identified:
1. Contact a trained taxonomist or your county agent. who in turn can send your plant specimen to the state university for identification.
2. Learn how to use a real taxonomic key …. which took me two years of classes and many hours in the field to really master

Using common books with pictures can be very frustrating.

Native plants represent a long lost resource that could again become important in a resource stretched world.
Just do not let the complexities of plant identification keep you from learning this skill.
But it takes practice to build a working knowledge of the local plants…so get going now.

Local: here in our town several businesses are showing significant increases in prices, especially groceries. The local lumber yard is having significant problems getting “hardware items”, many being back ordered…but lumber and building materials seem to be plentiful at this point.

I read your postings every day if I am not too tired. Every day I do something to get us ready for a coming time of significant conflictual change. We have facing us a kind of “coercive consensus” descending on us like an upside down tornado. I will be 68 years old on Saturday and never suspected that I would see these kinds of events in the U.S.A.

Best Regards, – JWC in Oklahoma