Wild Plants Backpackers Should
Why learn about wild plants just to go
backpacking? Of course it is interesting for some of us, but beyond
that, a little knowledge of plants can save your life. This isn't
just about the edible ones. Food is actually a low priority in most
wilderness emergencies. However, there are many other important uses
for the plants out there.
Useful Wild Plants
Cattails: The cattail is one of the most useful
wild plants in the wilderness. Swampy or wet areas throughout the
northern hemisphere have cattail plants, and once you identified
them, you'll never forget them. While they have five edible parts,
cattails are much more than food plants. Their long flat leaves have
been used for centuries to make baskets and food-serving trays. You
can weave them into mats for sleeping on, and even make crude
clothing out of them.
The "fluff" of the cattail seed head that makes it
one of the first wild plants you should learn about. The old fluffy
seed heads often cling to the tops of the stalks year-round. Put a
spark to these and it they can burst into flame. This can be a
life-saver if you don't have matches. Stuff your jacket full of
cattail fluff and you'll turn it into a winter coat, possibly saving
you from the number one killer in the wilderness: hypothermia.
Some have also reported using cattail as an insect
repellent. Just keep a smudgy fire going by burning the seed fluff.
This may not be any more effective than any smoky fire would be, but
it's so simple to collect and burn cattail fluff that it is worth
Yuccas: Sword-like leaves with sharply pointed
ends make these easy plants to recognize. Few plants can be used so
easily to make rope or twine. In the California desert I peeled
yucca leaves into strips and braided them into a rope in a matter of
thirty minutes. With two men pulling hard on either end, we couldn't
break it. This is one of the better plants for making ropes as well
as finer string (separate out the finest fibers).
Yucca can also provide needle and thread for
emergency repairs. Cut the tip of a yucca leaf from the inside, an
inch down and about halfway through. Bend it back, and you'll be
able to peel some fibers out of the leaf, which stay attached to the
"needle" or tip of the leaf. I've pulled out two-foot long strands
of fibers this way, and sewn up clothing with them.
Milkweeds: Several parts are edible with proper
preparation, and some people apply the white sap to warts to get rid
of them. The really useful part of the milkweed, however, is the
seed fluff. It is even more flammable than cattail fluff, so you can
use it for starting fires from sparks.
It is a great insulater, too, even looking
something like goose down. Fill bread bags with milkweed down and
these "mittens" will keep your hands very warm. Insert your hands
and tie the bags around your wrist or tuck it into your sleeves.
Some other useful wild plants? The bark the white
birch tree burns better than paper, even when wet. Pop sap blisters
on fir trees (young ones) and you can use the sap as an antiseptic
dressing for small cuts. Smear the juice from crushed wild garlic
and onion on yourself as an insect repellent. There are endless ways
to use wild plants, so why not learn and practice a few?
Steve Gillman is a long-time advocate of lightweight backpacking.
His tips, photos, gear recommendations and new Wilderness Survival
Guide can be found at http://www.The-Ultralight-Site.com/wilderness-survival-guide.html
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Steven_Gillman
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