A growing collection for medicinal plants and their uses from shared cultural knowledge gathered by Wampanoags. The following information is intended to raise awareness and care for the natural resources that exist on our Island so that they may continue to thrive in our lifetime and beyond. It is important to acknowledge that Wampanoags have existed in harmony with these resources for thousands of years. While foraging, only take what you need and consume at your own risk.
Family: Betulaceae (Birch family)
Native to the Eastern United States this shrub can grow between 8 - 12 feet and is part of the Birch family. Its foliage is rough in texture with double serrated edges growing from fuzzy twigs that extend in a zigzag pattern. The fruit produced from these trees are known to help regulate blood pressure and improve blood sugar levels.
Family: Lauraceae (Laurel family)
An evergreen perennial shrub with leaves that can be harvested to use as a spice or flavor agent through drying. Additionally when dried, they can be ground into a paste to treat skin ailments, or boiled and simmered to create a dressing for infections. A peppery, floral aroma is released from brewing; tea can be ingested to assist colds, flu, headache and bowel regulation.
Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)
This hardy flowering shrub is native to the mid-Atlantic coastal region. It is saline resistant, flourishing in sandy, gravel-abundant terrain with thorough drainage and can survive in just about any type of soil. Oval glossy leaves with spikes or wavy edges decorate every stem forming thickets
Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)
The foliage of this tree grows 2-6 inches long with fine teeth curling inwards ending at a point. A pale underside contrasts the leaves' surface which is dark and shiny in luster. Its fruit grows in small clusters, edible when pitted. Young trees sport a smooth bark whilst older trunks present a scaly texture.
Family: Ericaceae (Heath family)
This multi-stemmed shrub growing 6 - 12 feet tall is often found in wetlands and occasionally in uplands. Green or red twigs adorn the base growing upwards and bloom clusters of whitish flowers that have a shape reminiscent to urns. This plant flourishes in highly acidic, moist soil that is abundant with organic matter.
Family: Ericaceae (Heath family)
Horizontal stems lend to easy propagation, the fruit is crisp when fresh and will soften after frozen. High in Vitamin C and pectin, the benefits extend to responsive and healthy kidney and urinary tract systems.
Family: Cupressaceae (Conifer family)
EASTERN RED CEDAR
This evergreen is known for its reddish brown trunk made of strips that create a distinguishable texture. The flowering period is between March and May with its fruits ready for harvest in Fall through November. Classified as spermatophytes (seed-bearing plants), these trees are able to produce after 10 years, bearing cones every 2-3 years.
Family: Adoxaceae (Moschatel family)
Occurring in wetlands, meadows and forest edges, this deciduous woody plant favors moist and fertile soil with full sun. They are adorned by ornamental lacy white flowers and fleshy fruit hanging in low clusters. The berries of this flowering shrub are dark purple and contain nutrients that can combat cold & flu symptoms, treat inflammation, lower cholesterol and assist with bowel regulation.
Family: Asteraceae (Sunflower family)
Flourishing in full sun from summer to fall, this herbaceous perennial endures many different soil conditions and is recognized as a keystone species for the ecology of its environment. The fluffy wands hold clusters of yellow flowers that provide sustenance and shelter for different insects, contributing to the overall health and biodiversity of its surroundings. Its genus name Solidago stems from its Latin root Solidus meaning "to make whole," in reference to its healing and medicinal qualities.
Fox grapes and silverleaf grapes are two varieties that grow wild on our Island. Both flowering in late May or early July
Family: Malvaceae (Mallow)
One of the few large trees whose large heart-shaped leaves are nontoxic, a lettuce substitute and edible year round. The young flowers can be made into a tea that aids cough and promotes relaxation.
Family: Juglandaceae (Walnut family)
This shrub takes up to 25 years before fruiting. Once deshelled, the nutmeat is edible and can be eaten raw or roasted, or frozen immediately after harvest to preserve its oils. For fallen fruits, be aware of tiny holes that signify weevils.
Family: Gigartinaceae (Carrageenan family)
This small red seawood can grow up to 10 inches, and is packed with Vitamins A, C, and iron to aid the immune system. Carrageenan is a gelatinous substance produced after this plant is boiled and cooled, lending to its many pharmaceutical and cosmetic uses as a thickening agent, and a vegan alternative to gelatin.
QUEEN ANN'S LACE
This biennial wildflower grows in full sun during summer and fall and survives in rocky soil. The white umbrella shaped clusters are produced in its second growth year, and its seeds are viable for 5 years. An important distinction is that its stems and stalks are hairy compared to its smooth-stemmed toxic imposters. Its leaves are parsley-shaped and the roots smell like carrots. Flowers and seeds of this plant are not recommended to be consumed by people who are pregnant. From root to flower, they have been used to stimulate the kidneys and overall circulation of the body when boiled.
ROSA RUGOSA / ROSE HIP
This non-native shrub is considered to be invasive and was naturalized in the New England region prior to the 1900s due to its resistance to salt spray.
This perennial tree is common to the Eastern US. Although its safrole oil is recognized as a carcinogen, its bark has been used in limited quantities to treat fevers, diarrhea, inflammation, and arthritis among other ailments.
Family: Araceae (Arum family)
Often found in marshes, bogs, wetlands and any terrain with an abundance of water to cover its roots, this native species thrives in partial sun and blooms between late winter and early Spring. the spathe (hood) and spadix (central flower cluster)
Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew family)
This deciduous shrub is native to woodlands, marshes, roadsides and grasslands throughout the Northeast. It has been used medicinally to strengthen kidneys and treat intestinal issues. Packed with vitamin C, its fruit can be made into a tea and sweetened with maple syrup. The bright-colored flowers attract bees, beetles and other insects, making it a food destination for songbirds and small mammals. Short reddish brown hairs covering the branchlets are reminiscent of the velvety texture on a deer's antlers, which lend this drought tolerant foliage its name.
Family: Brassicaceae (Mustard)
This semi-aquatic perennial herb is found in cold, shallow slow-moving alkaline streams, ponds, river edges and springs. Rich in vitamin C and calcium, it also carries high amounts of iodine that can be useful in combatting thyroid issues. Excellent for water filtration, its fibrous root pattern allows it to naturally propagate along the with the movement of its water source.
This woody flowering shrub is native to the Northeast, with bright yellow petals that tend to bloom in the late Fall. The flowers are fragrant and have antimicrobial and antiviral properties
Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)
Found in woodlands, this creeping wintergreen favors acidic soil that is coarse and well-drained. Its glossy elliptical leaves emit a minty fragrance and when crushed, the poultice can be applied to wounds for inflammation and relief. Not only do the berries act as a major food source for a number of bird species, they can also be made into jams and cakes.