Local Herb Walk

Last summer I had the good fortune of joining local natropath, Dr. Dorothy on an herb walk through Concho. On our hike we identified more than a dozen edible and medicinal plants growing right in our area. Dr. Dorothy has had extensive training in herbs and wild plants and she shared a wealth of information. She emphasized the importance of understanding the specific properties of each medicinal plant, as many are toxic when misused. In addition to identifying useful plants, Dorothy pointed out poisonous plants, stressing the need for absolute correct identification.

Because Concho is located in a "transitional zone" Dr. Dorothy recommends two books written by Michael Moore for identifying local medicinal plants: Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West and Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. The books Flowers of the Southwest Mesas by Patraw and Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Uplands by Elmore were also useful in identifying desert plants on our herb walk. In addition to books, we carried clippers, leather gloves, and paper bags for collecting. For a natural insect repellent Dorothy shared a solution of apple cider vinegar, rosemary and thyme, which was effective when applied every half hour. She also recommends Tea Tree or Lemon Weed as alternative insect repellents.

Working from a list of medicinal herbs we identified the following medicinal and edible desert plants on our June 2006 herb walk:

Identified by shiny sticky buds. Also known as Gum Weed.
White Sweet Clover
Smells like "green vanilla".
  Bayonet Yucca
The roots can be used for soap.
Leaves are pointed. Wood is yellow inside.
Desert willow can eventually grow into a tree.
  Yellow Sweet Clover
Has yellow flowers when in bloom.
  Cockle Bur
It is named for its distinctive pods which grow on top.
Identified by its parallel veined leaves.
Berries can be harvested.
  Escoba de la Vibora
Known also as Snake Broom.
  Red Dock
Has curly leaves that are red and green.
Has fuzzy leaves.
Characterized by delicate fern-like leaves.
  Red Clover
Has reddish purple flowers when in bloom.
  Mormon Tea
Has twig-like leaves. Also known as "Squaw Bush".
  Threadleaf Groundsel
Produces a yellow flower when mature.

The following medicinal and edible plants are also known to grow in the Concho area, though we did not find them on our walk:

Alflafa, Wild Rose, Anil del Muerto, Camphor Weed, Prickly Poppy, Pinon Pine, Prickly Pear,Puncture Vine, Vervain, Wild Lettuce, Mallow, Mesquite, Pineapple Weed

I am looking forward to this coming spring when the native plants begin to grow again. We've had a wet winter and the coming seasons are sure to be green and excellent for desert plant identification.

Medicinal Plant Guides

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West

Michael Moore. Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2003.

This in-depth guide to identifying medicinal plants features illustrations for over one hundred species native to the western mountain region of the U.S. Michael Moore, a leader in the modern herbal medicine movement also offers details for preparing, preserving and using natural medicine. This guide includes full color photos of many of the plants, which is particularly helpful for herb identification.

Click here to buy this book >>

Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West

Michael Moore. Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1990.

In this guide to identifying medicinal desert plants, Michael Moore includes detailed illustrations of each plant featured. He shares information on the preparation and use of herbal remedies created from plants found in American canyons and deserts. This book discusses each plant in great detail, covering techniques for harvesting and preserving numerous desert herbs. Full color photos provided for many of the plants aid in identification.

Click here to buy this book >>