367 – Botany in a Day Review – Part 5

Paul had Neil Bertrando from Reno, Nevada with him in this podcast to review Botany in a Day, by Thomas J. Elpel.

The podcast opened with Paul bragging about having huckleberry pie for breakfast. Paul said reading the book is helping his getting the ‘order of orders’ clear. Neil came up with a mnemonic: King David can only find good salami. This corresponds to kingdom, division, class, order, family, genius, species.

They went on to talk about various members of the pink sub-class + some other plants they felt were relevant to this discussion.

Neil brought up the point that there are functional differences at each level of orders, especially at the family level, and that this is important for permaculturists. This book seems to be organized by family. Neil pointed out that this book is written for North America and that tropical plants are not included. Neil explained that Pink refers to a family of plants with a particular flower shape and other interesting details. They went on to talk about properties of cactus, some of which are quite unusual. Paul had gone to a presentation by a Blackfeet woman who is a plant expert. Both Paul and Neil were struck by the difference in approach between native American perspectives and that of European immigrants toward plants.

Saponin is contained in many species of the Pink family. Not just soap, also a fish stunner.

Chickweed, great wild edible, came up and led them to discuss palatability in wild plants. Neil mentioned Breeding Your Own Plant Varieties, by Carol Deppe. The implications of what one might learn from her book are really worth giving some consideration.

Mullein (non-native yet appreciated by native Americans) came up and Neil and Paul brought up the contradiction of using herbicides to control non-native plants. We have all been immigrants at some point in our family’s history. Neil was eloquent and pithy on this subject. Toby Hemenway is cited bringing up the question of ‘what do you eat?’ if the arbitrary designation of ‘non-native’ is clung to. The concept of ‘invasive plants’ is also discussed.

They went on to the Purslane family, which have many great properties. Oxalic acid is contained in a lot of this group, which is worth studying.

Bitterroot was discussed. This led the discussion to considering both sustenance and commercial systems in relation to the usefulness of plants. Identification of plants would be easier if the pictures of plants in many plant books were of the plants at harvest time. We need to know more about beneficial functionality of the landscape, socially as well as botanically.

Miner’s Lettuce was discussed. Paul discovered that the term succulent is more inclusive than he thought. Throughout this podcast Neil’s unfailing positivity was a useful conjunct with Paul’s playing the Devil’s Advocate.

They went on to the Goosefoot family. Spinach and sugar beets were discussed. Have sugar beets had genetic modification? Check that out. In principle, sugar beets are a great fodder plant. Then on to mangles. Many species of this family accumulate salt and so desalinisation was discussed. Neil brought up that both the Brassicas and the Chenopods do not have mycorrhizal associations and that that’ll take some thinking. Lamb’s Quarter’s accumulate calcium and are good under fruit trees.

Then they went on to the Amaranth family, which are closely related to the Goosefoot family and share many properties. Pigweed came up. Amaranth is a great grain. The accumulation of nitrates in the body of the plants was discussed.

Next was the Buckwheat family. Rhubarb is in this family but different genera. Dock and sorrel are in this group. They went on to discuss corralled animals that are constrained in what food is available will eat whatever’s there. As dosage sometimes makes the difference between nutrition and poison, this is an important note for consideration. As is animals’ role in ecosystem health.

Credit: Susan McGuinness

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Relevant Threads

Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel
Plants forum on Permies
Stinging Nettle video with Skeeter
Nettle Lasagna video
Nettle and Eggs video
Salmon-Nettle Soup with Heidi
Podcast 364 – Botany in a Day Review – Part 4
Botany in a Day Review – Part 6


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Angela Brown
Julia Mason
Tyler Miller
wade L
Jason Hower
Bill Crim
Desirea Holton
Doug Barth
One Community
Mark Allen
Kelton Mitchell
David Ingraham

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