Edible & Medicinal Plants of the Northwest Sierra Nevada: A Summertime Field Exploration
In contrast to the arid, steep slopes of the Eastern Sierra, the lush west side of this massive 400 mile long granitic uplift is blanketed in deep coniferous forests, dotted with countless subalpine lakes, and transected by many crystal clear rivers rushing down from alpine snowfields. Travelling east, the long gradual ascent from the Great Central Valley (near sea-level) takes one through a myriad of different plant communities, including: valley grassland, foothill oak woodland, riparian woodlands, chaparral, yellow pine forest, red fir forest, subalpine forest, montane meadows, to the alpine fellfields found above 9,000’. The Sierra Nevada region is an exceptionally rich floristic province, boasting an estimated 3,500 vascular plant species! Many of these species have a long history of use as both food and medicine, and the summer season is the PERFECT time of year to catch them in all their blooming splendor. Some of the plants we’re likely to encounter on our daily treks include: Arnica, Fireweed, Balsam Root, Milkweed, Wild Ginger, CA Spikenard, St. John’s Wort, Valerian, Green Gentian, Alpine Wintergreen, Evening Primrose, Choke Cherry, Angelica, Rhodiola, and many others! We’ll spend our days hiking and botanizing while reserving evenings for interactive hands-on workshops, relaxing with friends around the fire, not to mention camping under a blanket of stars. Keep in mind that refreshing mid-afternoon lake swims and river floats will be worked into the curriculum as well! This full immersion field outing should prove to be insightful and rewarding for anyone interested in knowing more about the unique flora of the region.
Topics to be covered/hands-on activities include:
• field botany/plant ID lessons
• study of plant family characteristics (appearance and basic chemical traits)
• herbal medicine making activities
• coverage of edible, medicinal, and utilitarian uses
• ethical harvesting guidelines and information about at-risk medicinal plants
• tips on how to identify and avoid poisonous plants
• botanical safety issues
• natural history of the Sierra Nevada
• sampling of a large variety of edible/medicinal plants
• regional ethnobotany
Meet-up/Departure Time: Class begins at 1pm on Friday and ends at 6pm on Sunday.
Location: Lakes Basin region near Sierra City, CA.
Instructor: Tellur Fenner. Details and registration online.
To Bring: Since this is a car-camping trip, no serious backpacking gear is necessary. Things that are necessary are: Tent, Sleeping Bag, Rain Gear, Clothes (for hot/cold weather). Hiking Boots, Hat/Sunscreen, Daypack, Food/Snacks (class fee does not include meals), Camp Stove, Camping Chair, Camping Pad, Swimming Suit, Flashlight, Water Bottles, Firewood, Bug Protection (spray, head net, etc), and most importantly…a sense of adventure!
Optional (yet recommended): Notebook, Camera, Hand lens.
Recommended (but not required) Texts:
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore
Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore
The Jepson Manual by Baldwin
A Sierra Nevada Flora by Weeden
Sierra Nevada Wildflowers by Wiese
Sierra Nevada Natural History (Revised Edition) by Lucas
Botany in a Day by Thomas Elpel
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