A Deeper Look into 6 Native Plants: Part 2

All information from Nancy J Turners Sannich Ethnobotany

Wild Strawberry

James St. John – Wild Strawberry CC BY 2.0

Perennial herbs, Wild Strawberry Fragaria chiloensis grow in loose patches, spreading by long thin runners.The coarse green leaves are 3 parted and have jagged edges. Wild Strawberries bloom in April and May, bearing white five petaled flowers. Mature berries are bright red and delicious. Wild Strawberries are found throughout WSANEC territory. Any open habitat (except for bogs) can support wild strawberries. They flourish in areas that are burned intermittently.

Traditional uses: Unsurprisingly wild strawberries were a favorite fruit of the WSANEC people, they would regularly burn and clear brush from patches to increase yield. These berries were rarely ever dried because they are too juicy so are eaten fresh, making it a yearly treat. Christopher Paul said there is an excellent tea made out of the dried leaves.

There is a mountain on the Malahat Ridge named ‘like a strawberry face’ and according to Tim Montler, if you point at the mountain, showing it disrespect. the weather will change to rain. Manson Pelkey said that if you want to signal to that mountain you nod your head towards the mountain if you don’t want it to rain. Violet Williams, Elsie Claxton and their families used to go over to Orcas Island and the Mount Vernon area in Washington to pick cultivated strawberries.


Leslie SeatonThimbleberries – CC BY 2.0

A deciduous shrub with large maple-like leaves that cluster in dense patches. Thimble berries are closely related to raspberries and blackberries but have no thorns. The bark of the older stems is light brown and shredded and young shoots are fuzzy. The leaves are soft and a little fuzzy with long stalks and blades usually 15 – 20 cm across. The white flowers flowers bloom in late spring. The short thimble-shaped berries ripen throughout July and August depending on elevation.

Thimbleberry is widespread and common, growing in sites, often at the edge of woods, roadsides and shorelines. It can be found moist to dry sites from sea level to higher elevations.

Traditional use: Christopher Paul said that the sweet juicy edible stalks were harvested, peeled and eaten raw in the spring. They must be harvested before they turn woody, if you could snap the stalk off with your fingers it is just right. Violet Williams remembers eating these sprouts when she was a girl. The berries were picked wherever they were found, eaten fresh or boiled and pressed into cakes for winter. An effective medicine for diarrhoea and stomach aches, the brown leaves could be chewed or a tea made of the leaves, according to Violet Williams, Dave Elliot and Chris Paul.

Stinging Nettle

BrewBrooks – Urtica Dioica – CC BY SA 2.0

A herbaceous perennial, Stinging Nettle grows stalks up to 2 meters from branching rhizomes. Covered in fine stinging hairs, the nettle can often take over expansive areas. The leaves grow in opposite pairs along the stiff stem and are a triangular heart shape. The edges of the leaves are coarsely saw-toothed. The small greenish flowers grow in clusters that droop from the upper leaf nodes. The seeds ripen in midsummer. Stinging Nettle grows in wet meadows and open forests, along stream banks, avalanche track and roadsides from sub-alpine to sea level. The lagoon as Tsawout means “bite of Stinging Nettle” because of the stinging nettle patches around its edges.

Traditional use: The most important use for this plant was the use of fibrous stems for making twine, fishing line, fish nets, duck nets and deer nets. In October the stems were cut lengthwise with a bone knife and dried for five or six days outside, then dried further over a fire. Once they were dry the stems were peeled and the fibers combed out. The fibers were then spun on a bare thigh or with a spindle from Bigleaf Maple wood. The threads were then twisted into two and four ply twine which was used for tying and net construction. Christopher Paul said that fish nets were often dyed using Red Alder to make them invisible to fish.

Dave Elliot points out that the leaves were rubbed on the skin as a counter irritant for aches, rheumatism and bruises. While painful, this treatment eventually relieves aches.

According to Violet the roots were used as an ingedient in a medicine for sore throats. They were also used with Scouring Rush and Maple leaves to make a tea; the leaves would have had to have fallen on the bushes and not touched the ground.

The WSANEC people boiled and ate the young stems and leaves like many people do spinach but this may be a recent use learned from colonizers.

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