Winter Foods and Medicines: December Plant Walk

Here are some pictures from a December walk I took on the prairie. I was surprised how many types of food and medicine I found.

Pȟežíȟota swúla (Artemisia absinthium, or Wormwood) is a strong medicine that always amazes me with its resilience. I can always count on it having a few leaves out, even in the cold of winter. I’ve even found green Wormwood leaves growing on -20F February days in the tiny circle of melted snow next to a propane tank or a building.

A hawk feather caught in a buckbrush branch.

An Echinacea seedhead. One of the many Lakota names for it is úŋglakčapi, “they use it to comb their hair.” In this season you can see how this sturdy flower head could make a good hairbrush. (I’ve had several long-haired friends test this out, and it does make a pretty good hairbrush.)

Another seed pod: Yucca. Only the flowers are edible to human, but these seedpods are essential for the Yucca Moth, the creature that the plant relies upon to pollinate and help it reproduce.

If the ground isn’t frozen yet, this could be a good time to harvest the yucca root to make a traditional shampoo. Root medicines, generally, are best harvested in the fall, once the plant’s energy has gone back down into the root.

Uŋžíŋžiŋtka — rose hips. An excellent food AND medicine, and a subject of several of my prior posts. They get sweeter after a frost, so this is the perfect time to harvest, before they get too mushy and wormy.

And finally, the sun starting to set over the beautiful prairie.

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