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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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Thursday - May 15, 2008

From: Clearfield, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Edible fruits and plants in Pennsylvania
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Can you give me a list of edible berries and plants that someone might find if they were hiking through the forest of Pennsylvania?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants doesn't even know ALL the edible native plants in Pennsylvania, but there are books that can give you a listing of the best ones. For instance, Edible Wild Plants of Pennsylvania and Neighboring States by F. J. Medve and others; Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America by M. L. Fernald and others; and Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America by L. Peterson all are excellent references. These books provide you with means to identify the plants, habitat and distribution, which parts are edible, how to prepare the plant, poisonous plants to avoid, etc. Here, also, is a page of foraging and ethnobotany links from Foraging.com.

Just to give you an idea of the great variety of edible native plants you can find, below is a partial list of  trees and shrubs only that grow in Pennsylvania that bear edible fruit. There are many more herbaceous plants as well that are edible.

A cautionary note: Be sure you know what plant you're about to eat! There are look-alike plants that can give very unpleasant, even dangerous, results if eaten.

Asimina triloba (pawpaw)

Carya alba (mockernut hickory)

Castanea dentata (American chestnut)

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud) (edible flowers)

Celtis occidentalis (common hackberry)

Diospyros virginiana (common persimmon)

Juglans cinerea (butternut)

Morus rubra (red mulberry)

Prunus americana (American plum)

Prunus angustifolia (Chickasaw plum)

Prunus pensylvanica (pin cherry)

Prunus serotina (black cherry)

Prunus virginiana (chokecherry)

Castanea pumila (chinkapin)

Corylus americana (American hazelnut)

Gaylussacia dumosa (dwarf huckleberry)

Mahonia repens (creeping barberry)

For the next 3 genera, use the "Narrow Your Search" option to limit the species to Pennsylvania.

Ribes spp. (currants and gooseberries)

Rubus spp. (blackberries, raspberries, dewberries)

Vaccinium spp. (cranberries, blueberries, huckleberries)

 

 

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