En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Thursday - May 20, 2010

From: Vancouver, BC
Region: Canada
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: How was salal (Gaultheria shallon) used by the troops in WWII?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We live in Vancouver BC. My mother says that during WW2 all the kids in her school were sent out to pick salal. They picked sacks of salal which were then sent to the troops. We are trying to find out why? What use was salal put to during WW2? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Gaultheria shallon (salal) is ubiquitous in the Northwest US and Canada.  You can read a beautiful description of the plant in "Simply Salal" by Jocie Ingram.  The plant has and has had many uses over the years.  Landscapers use them as attractive shrubs and florists use their foliage as greenery for flower arrangements.  Historically native peoples collected and used the berries, eating them fresh and also drying them and pressing them into cakes for winter use.  They have used the leaves for medicinal purposes—as poultices for wounds and burns and as an infusion to treat several ailments such as indigestion, colic and tuberculosis.  You can read more about the uses of salal in an article by Brian F. Harrison in the November 13, 2008 edition of  Northwest Coast Magazine.  Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to find out what the salal collected by children in the Northwest might have been usesd for by the WWII troops.

Did you mother tell you whether they were picking the fruits or the leaves?  I can't think of any possibility for using the leaves unless they dried and sent them to the troops to use for making infusions to drink.   That doesn't seem very likely, however.  If they were picking the berries for the troops, this would make more sense.  Perhaps they were drying them and forming them into granola-like cakes to provide the troops with an easily carried source of vitamins and nutrition.  I am sorry I wasn't able to find any information about collecting salal in World War II. However, I did find references to a recent (2007) book about salal—Salal: Listening to the Northwest Understory by Laurie Ricou from NeWest Press.  You might check your local library for the book.  It might have a reference to uses of salal by WWII troops.

 

 


 

More Edible Plants Questions

Are gourds poisonous, edible?
August 27, 2008 - Are all the Gourds edible? How can I know which one is which? If it is not edible, is it poisonous? If not, what is stopping us from eating them?
view the full question and answer

Are yellow bells (Tecoma stans) edible?
January 25, 2009 - Can you tell me if any part of the yellow bell can be eaten and if so what part. Also is it useful in making natural paints?
view the full question and answer

Edible plants in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania
March 02, 2014 - Hi again! Thanks for answering my one question. I have another though. Do you know of any edible plants with no nasty side effects ( like stomach aches or being nauseous) that grow in Lycoming County ...
view the full question and answer

Are American Hazelnuts Self-Fertile?
November 06, 2014 - I planted an American Hazelnut a couple of years ago that I ordered from a catalog. Is this plant self-fertile or do I need to plant another one? I have seen conflicting information on this subject.
view the full question and answer

Texas native peach from Elmendorf TX
January 30, 2013 - Does Texas have a native peach tree that grows wild?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center