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Edible Native Plants for Your Landscape

Webinar replay from June 22, 2024


There’s an increasing inclination to utilize more native species in home landscaping and in parks and other conserved landscapes, thanks to books like Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, which extol the virtues of native plants over exotic ornamentals for attracting and sustaining beneficial insects.  Yet, for some property owners/managers, this alone may be insufficient motivation to “go native”.  Perhaps knowing that many native species are edible by people too will provide an additional incentive to plant native species.  Juneberries (Amelanchier spp.), for example, are equally edible by songbirds and people.   The taste of the ripe fruit is like a cross between cherries and almonds.  Edible wild plants offer opportunities for people to connect to nature via their taste buds, thereby building their enthusiasm and public support for adding edible native plants to their home landscaping, as well as for conserving other lands that offer foraging opportunities.  Adding native edible plants to a landscape can boost biodiversity as well as “spice it up” (literally as well as figuratively – i.e., we can have our acorn cake and eat it too).  Learn about at least three dozen of the tastiest native species the Northeast U.S. region has to offer.  Keys to the identification of each species are provided, along with edible portions, seasons of availability and preparation methods, along with guidelines for safe and environmentally responsible foraging.

Russ Cohen’s “day job” is serving as the Rivers Advocate for the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration.  One of his areas of expertise is in riparian vegetation. He has compiled a list of native plant species suitable for planting in riparian areas; wrote nine fact sheets on the ecological and other beneficial functions of naturally vegetated buffers along rivers and streams, intended to aid the effective implementation of the Mass. Rivers Protection Act; and (in partnership with the Appalachian Mountain Club) prepared “Trees, Paddlers and Wildlife”, a set of outreach materials (YouTube video, brochure and PowerPoint presentation) intended to raise the awareness of paddlers, riparian land owners and managers, and others about the ecological and other beneficial values of retaining trees and other woody vegetation (living or dead) in and along rivers and streams.  In his spare time, Cohen pursues his passion of connecting to nature via his taste buds.  He is an expert forager and the author of Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten, published in 2004 by the Essex County Greenbelt Association. Mr. Cohen has been teaching foraging since 1974 and leads foraging walks each year at a wide variety of venues throughout the Northeast.

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