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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.

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

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Tuesday - September 12, 2006

From: Philadelphia, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Edible Plants
Title: Lists of edible plants in region of Pennsylvania for school project
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Please Help! I'm a grade four teacher in Philadelphia. My students and I are assigned a theme project that involves listing edible plants that grow in our region. Can you recommend a web site(s) with pictures? Also, I'm interested in that web site giving the common names used for these types of plants. This is a 5th grade class. We are interested in seeing pictures of the plants, their common name, and where in Pennsylvania the plants are located. The students will select one plant to report on and show or draw a picture of it. Thank you in advance.

ANSWER:

I haven't been able to find any "edible plant" web sites that are exclusive to Pennsylvania, but I did find one for a New York City forager, 'Wildman' Steve Brill. It contains lots of pictures and information (with many interesting facts written in an entertaining style) about a large number of plants of the New York City area. I would think that most, if not all, would also be found in Pennsylvania. His page is very kid-friendly. In fact, he is in the process of writing a book, "Stalking the Wild Dandelion: A Guide to Wild Edible Plants for Teachers to Use with Children." You can find information about the book on his web page. Some of his plants are not native and are even considered invasive (e.g., Burdock (Arctium sp.)—nonnative and invasive; Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)—nonnative and invasive; and Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)—nonnative and invasive. He doesn't specifically call them invasive, but he does mention it when they are native to another country and are essentially weeds. Moreover, he certainly isn't encouraging their propagation—rather, their consumption instead!

To determine where these plants occur in Pennsylvania, you can go to the USDA Plants Database and enter the scientific name in the "Search" box. When the page for the plant appears, you can scroll down to the distribution map and it will give you the option to click on your state to see a county distribution map.

There is also a database for edible plants on the campus of Brandeis University in Massachusetts with lots of information and pictures for each species. You can find more web-based information about edible plants on the Foraging and Ethnobotany Links page. For books about edible plants visit our Native Plant Bibliography. Some of these titles may be available at your local library.

 

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