I’d like to welcome all the new subscribers in the past few weeks and to those who were able to take a moment and respond to my questions, I’d like to say thank you! I know your time is valuable and I appreciated every response I get. I am sorry I have not been able to answer each one personally but I am taking note of what you are asking for and I hope to be able to offer up suggestions and tips in upcoming newsletters.
One of the reoccurring themes in your responses is “how can I learn and/or teach my child to identify plants, both for medicine and food? What kid-friendly sources are available?”
There are some really great books on the subject, both geared to children and more adult oriented. Having a variety available will help your child to learn and a few more in depth options will be her go to resource once she’s found a plant she really wants to learn about.
I have quite an extensive book list on my website that is growing every day. If you have any suggestions for books to add, please email me!
Today I’d like to highlight a few that kids will particularly enjoy.
One of the first books I can recommend is Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure For Kids Ages 9 to 99 (book and card deck) by Thomas J. Elpel. I just adore this story and card set! The set teaches children how to learn to identify plant families in a fun way. There are 8 plant families taught in this book: Mint, Parsley, Mustard, Pea, Lily, Grass, Rose and Aster. Once the key patterns are learned, children can identify 45,000 species of plants. With this knowledge also comes basic knowledge of the plant’s healing capabilities. For instance, the majority of the Mint family plants are carminatives. The card deck is a fun way to reinforce the patterns learned in the book. It’s truly a story your children will ask to read again and again.
Tom does a great job of following this set up with his ‘adult’ version, Botany in a Day. This is a wonderful book for learning plant families in more depth than Shanleya’s Quest teaches. His newest edition is in color and is absolutely gorgeous to look at, drawing children into the book with their colorful renderings.
Keying out plants can become a fun game using guides. For flowers, I love using Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb. Kids love learning the ‘code’ of the flowers through this book. The only downside to keying out plants this way is they have to be in flower.
Try to search out a tree guide book for your region or state. In Illinois, we are lucky to have the Forest Trees of Illinois book which is put out by Illinois Department of Natural Resources. I believe a lot of states publish these books and they can be used in the same manner as the Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide for keying out trees in your neighborhood.
Peterson Field Guides are quite handy to have around as well. They are based on region such as Western, Eastern/Central and Southwestern & Texas. There are wildflower and medicinal plants and herbs books available for the regions, with color photographs, descriptions and uses of plants.
For children who enjoy story books, check out Jean Craighead George’s books, such as My Side of the Mountain. This story is my most read book from childhood and will spark children’s interests in learning about plants as they watch Sam learn about them for his survival in the woods. Though it’s not specifically a field identification book, it might spark the interest in learning more about plants.
As your child is learning to identify plants, have her create a herbarium for storing a pressing of each plant she learns to identify. She can write the plant family, the botanical name, any characteristics that stick out, the main uses of the plant along with the date and location found. Then, the next time she finds the same plant in another location, she can look it up in her own plant ID book. It won’t take long for that herbarium to fill up and her knowledge to grow.
What are your favorite herbal identification books? Which ones are your children attracted to? Please share with us on our Facebook page!