Monday, November 25, 2013

Useful Plants of the Nemaha Country (List in Progress)

A working list in progress of "top 5/10/etc. most useful plants" from various sources. I will be working on this list and reposting it as I complete different sections of it).

If you are learning to identify and use plants, or find new uses for kitchen spices, these are plants to look for. If you have an issue about so-called "weeds," and this is a big thing in agricultural areas, please realize some "weeds" can be even more nutritious and medicinally useful than most of your pretty garden plants.

Warning: Be aware that plants are spiritual beings as well, and proper gathering and careful stewardship is needed for treatment and use to be efficacious (to work well and properly). Grow the plants that can be grown in your garden (g) and freely gather (but with respect) those marked as invasives or weeds (i). But take special care not to gather too many of the natives (n) as many are threatened and people have wiped out patches in their greed. Plants are spiritual beings and this must be remembered and accounted for. They can harm as well as heal.

n = native to Nemaha (the far northeastern corner of Kansas and southeastern corner of Nebraska, as well as just across the Missouri River in the Platte Purchase lands of my tribe).
i = "weedy"/nonnative/introduced invasive plant, grows here on their own but many regard them as "bad" or as weeds
g = desirable garden/cultivated plant, can be grown here (?= possibly, not known for sure)
s = will not grow outside here, wrong climate entirely, must be bought in store

The Ten Plants with the greatest number of uses by Native Americans overall, and uses for medicinal, food, dye, fiber, and other (Moerman 1998: 11)

Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) = g? perhaps
Common chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) = n
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) = n
Banana yucca (Yucca baccata) = ? (I have seen yucca here but Yucca glauca)
Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) = n
Common cowparsnip (Heracleum maximum) = n
Skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata) = n
Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) = g? perhaps
Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) = g? perhaps
Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) = g

The Ten Plants with the greatest number of uses by Native Americans for medicines (Moerman 1998: 12)

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) = i
Calamus (Acorus calamus) aka Sweet flag = n
Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), aka Grandfather Sage = g? perhaps
Fernleaf biscuitroot (Lomatium dissectum) = g? perhaps
Common chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) = n
Louisiana sagewort (Artemisia ludoviciana), aka White Sage, Prairie Sage, Man Sage = n
Devil's club (Oplopanax horridus) = g? perhaps
Common juniper (Juniperus communis) = n
Canada mint (Mentha canadensis) = n
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) = n

The Ten Plants with the greatest number of uses by Native Americans for food (Moerman 1998: 15)

Common chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) = n
Banana yucca (Yucca baccata) = g?
Corn (Zea mays) = g
Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) = g?
Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) = g? (probably too humid here)
American red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) = n
Saguaro cactus (Carnegia gigantea) = 0 (too humid)
Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) = g?
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) = g?
Broadleaf cattail (Typha latifolia) = n

There are also top ten lists in Moerman for dyes, fiber, and "other" (this last category is for things like toys, fuels, tools, or ceremonial, etc.). I might add these later.

Note also that the original plant lists were derived from selected sources and are only a starting point for further investigation.

Common Plants used to treat kids 
when they have simple, day-to-day, first aid type ailments

Chickweed (Stellaria media) - i (
Violet (Viola spp.)  - n (
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) - i (
Plantain weed (Plantago spp.) - i (
Chamomile - g (certain species from the Family Asteraceae) (
Calendula - g (Calendula spp., pot marigold, not the common marigold) (
Marshmallow - g (Althea officinalis) (
Burdock - i (Arctium spp.) (
Elder/elderberry - n (Sambucus spp.) (
Pine - g (Pinus spp.)
Rose - g, n

Herbals Medicines for your Medicine Chest (general, adults/children)

Peppermint - w, g
Lemon balm
Eucalyptus - s
Echinacea - n
Licorice root
Tea tree
Calendula - g
St. Johnswort - w
Arnica - n
Plantain (weed, not the food) - w
Aloe vera - s
Clove - s
Slippery elm - ?s
Mullein - w
Garlic - g

= = = = = = =

Learning Herbs.
Moerman, Daniel. 1998. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland: Timber Press.

I first posted this on my Montana blog a few years back, and thought I would revisit it now that I have relocated to the Nemaha country.


  1. Do you have sweet flag in the area?

  2. A few generations back probably, but "strip mining" it by many people looking for it wiped it out. And if anyone knows of any, they keeping mum, otherwise it would be wiped out.