Friday, June 19, 2015

Two Paso Robles Wild Plants that Have Medicinal Value

Milk Thistle and Elderberry Plants, © B. Radisavljevic
I happened to take this photo on my Templeton property, but both these plants can be seen growing wild at Larry Moore Park and in many uncultivated areas throughout the North County. The tree, or large shrub is elderberry. It just seemed to appear out of nowhere one year and kept growing. It took me some time to learn what it was. The milk thistle is the lovely plant with the milky marking in the leaves and the purple thorn flowers. It is reputed to have medicinal uses. It is also edible. Recipes for using both milk thistle and elderberries can be found in Edible and Useful Plants of California.

Elderberries on  the Tree, © B. Radisavljevic
This lower photo shows you a closer look at the elderberry's different stages. In the lower left you can still see some of the remaining pale yellow flowers. You can also see berries in various stages of ripeness, with the purple berries being the most mature. The bees love this tree when it's blooming in the spring, which is probably why it has so much fruit. I have never needed to water this tree.

Elderberry has been around since the the Stone Age, according to Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, my favorite herb reference. Man has used the berries and flowers for healing, and the branches to make an ancient Greek stringed instrument called the sambuke. Most people today use the berries for making wine or jelly. Both cosmetics and dyes are also made from elderberry flowers or leaves. Elderberry roots, leaves and stems can release cyanide, so one needs to be careful when using this plant. Berries are best consumed cooked.

If  you want to enlarge a photo, just click on it for a closer look.

Have you seen elderberry trees in wild places or along the roadsides? Have you ever used the berries?