Magical Urban Edges

The current state of the world has put me in the doldrums and writing anything seems impossible, so blogs are a bit irregular.  On the more positive side, it has many of us outdoors more!  As the flowers begin to bloom I always take notice of the “edges”.  The edges are those little bits of wild between developed areas, those scraps of woods with wildflowers and native plants bordering them.  Some lucky folks live in rural areas with large meadows and deep hardwood forests but a lot of us live in urban/suburban areas without such elaborate gifts of nature.  One of the questions I am most often asked is where to forage.  Public lands generally forbid foraging and access to wild plants can be challenging for us suburbanites.  My quick answer is to count on friends and family with more acreage who will give you permission to forage their land .  But there are treasures even in the city.

If you want to simply enjoy wild flowers and not forage, even roadsides are a valuable edge of wilderness for photos and nature appreciation.  If you want to take home plants for seeds or consumption you will need to stay clear of polluted roadsides.  That’s where the magical edges come in.  Take a walk and be very observant.  Are there small patches of wooded areas?  Along the edge of those woods are always some amazing plants.  In the spring the edges are the first place to find Chickweed, Purple Deadnettle, Henbit, Dandelions and Violets.  As temperatures rise the wild flowers come in with Goldenrod, Fleabanes, Milkweed, Mullein, Queen Anne’s Lace, Asters, Mimosa, wild roses and berry vine flowers.  Vines all love the edges, Japanese Honeysuckle, Trumpet Creeper, Virginia Creeper, Bind Weeds and grapes are often found along the edge.  Poison Ivy loves edges too, so be mindful.  Soon the berry blossoms are replaced with a variety of wild berries.  (My list is not all inclusive as there are too many wild plants to mention, it is just a sample).  Often the urban edges occur on disturbed soil which makes them plentiful with invasive species.  Unfortunate for the environment, but also an excellent source for foraging.  You don’t have to worry about taking too much of non-native invasives and you actually do a service by removing them.  Always remember wildlife depends on flowers and fruits too.  Don’t be greedy!

It would be remiss of me not to mention knowing your plants.  Know which are native, protected or invasive.  Absolutely know your edibles from your poisonous plants.  If you are new to it all and just out having a walk to enjoy nature, take pictures and see if you can identify the plants once you are back home.  It is a great way to learn your local plants without harvesting.  Observe local areas through all four seasons to really know the plants well.  Create your own personal photo journal for future reference.

We really don’t have to eat or make medicine out of everything we see.  Sometimes it is just nice to enjoy the beauty.  No matter where you live if you look hard enough you can find those tiny wild spaces with magical edges.  Walk slower, observe more and experience the magic in your own neighborhood!


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