Under Your Nose

Now that Spring is upon us and we start to spend more time outdoors, it's easy to get swept up in the big picture of nature's beauty. But there is much joy in noticing the finer details, too!
 
Thanks to Canadian Wildlife Federation, we've got three nature guides to share with you. This information will not only kick start you to becoming a wilderness savant, but it could possibly even help you one day!
 
Five Animal Tracks to Know
 
1. Deer

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2. Porcupine 

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3. Rabbit & Hare 

Hare tracks
 
4. Squirrel 

squirrel tracks
 
5. Mice 

mouse tracks
 
For specific species and to learn their different patterns (also how they change, depending on how they move - quickly or slowly) look for a field guide at your local library or nature centre.
 

Five Edible Wild Plants
 
1. Berries: some berries such as raspberries, serviceberries (below), and salmonberries (look like furry raspberries). Be careful, as some berries are poisonous.

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2. Nettles: the aerial parts of stinging nettles provide an overall tonic with vitamins A and C as well as minerals and protein. Be careful when harvesting - use gloves - to avoid being stung by the little hairs on their leaves and stems.

stinging nettle
 
3. Violets: the flowers and leaves of purple and white violets are a good source of vitamin C.

violets
 
4. Cattails: young shoots, flower and pollen heads as well as roots are all edible. Seriously! We found this recipe for muffins made from cattail flour!

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5. Dandelions: the leaves are a good source of vitamin A; dandelion roots and flowers can also be eaten. 

Dandelions
 
Important Notes:
- Don't harvest or use what you don't know. Bring along an expert and use several field guides from a library or nature centre (never just one). You don't want to think a plant is edible when in fact it is not.
 
- Only harvest or dig up plants on your own property. Before you do, check to see that the plant is not at risk.
 
- Some edible plants can be safe one way but toxic another. (For example, one part may be edible and another part not, or sometimes the preparation itself dictates safety vs. toxicity.)
 
- Don't dig up wild plants. Removing wild plants can have a noticeable impact on their abundance and we definitely don't want to put them at risk - especially our native species.
 
Note: There are exceptions to every rule. The dandelion is one of them; most people would be happy to have them dug up. The cattail is another; if you own lots of land with tons of cattails, you won't likely impact their future growth.
 
- When harvesting part of the plant, only take less than 1/3 as a general rule. If there is only a small clump nearby, leave it entirely.
 

Plants to Look Out For:
 
Below are some plants to keep an eye out for because contact or consumption could have serious side effects! Visit the Government of Canada's website for more information about Canadian poisonous plants.

1. Red and Wite Baneberry (Actae sp.): this plant's poisonous berries could cause serious illness or even death. These "doll's eyes" are just for looking, not eating!

white baneberry 2.jpg
 
2. Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans): most people know that this leafy shrub causes irritating and itchy rashes, but it can be difficult identifying in a forest full of green. Look for clusters of three leaves.

poison-ivy
 
3. Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum): can be identified by its flowers and spotted stem              (not easilyseen in the photograph below) and is deathly poisonous - even in small amounts - if consumed.

poison-hemlock.jpg
(photo: Kristine Schaefer, Department of Entomology, Iowa State University)
 4. Poison Oak (Rhus diversiloba, Toxicodendron diversiloba): contact with most parts of this plant, even in the winter months, exposes humans to an allergen that can cause redness to lesions and fever. It's common in southwestern British Columbia.

poison-oak_iStock_500x300.jpg

Most photos courtesy of the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

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