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Guide to Foraging

People have lived along the central coast of present-day California for millennia, surviving and thriving off of the resources that continue to surround us. Today, many of our region’s greatest naturalists are fishers, gardeners, and artists who connect with the natural world through their hobbies, work, or craft. Foraging is for many an entryway into a deeper connection with nature.

Negative Impacts of Foraging

Habitat degradation, increased frequency and intensity of fires, development, and climate change are all stressors that impact native species and reduce vital resources.. Foraging has become a popular movement in recent years, often to the extreme detriment of widely sought-after plants like ginseng and white sage.

If you choose to forage, you can ensure that you are doing so in an ethical manner that supports the future health and sustainability  of our environment.

Foraging Ethics 101

1. Protect threatened species

When identifying plants to forage, confirm that population numbers are healthy  to avoid causing additional challenges for organisms already under stress. While many local native species have ethnobotanical qualities, there are also many non-native and invasive species that do, too. By selecting non-native species for forage, you are protecting local natives.

Resources: California Native Plant Society’s Rare Plant Inventory and Calscape.

2. Identification is Key

Never forage something unless you are certain of its ID. Even if you do not plan on consuming the item, if you get the ID wrong you could risk removing something that is rare or threatened. Use three or more points of identification, rather than one characteristic. Some things to consider include: bloom, stem, bark, color, smell, habitat, soil conditions, life cycle, and, in the case of mushrooms, spore prints.

Resources: Jepson eFlora identification key for California native plants, iNaturalist community science database and identification tool, Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast by Noah Siegel and Christian Schwarz, and Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz.

3. Only Take What You Need, and Never Too Much

When foraging for a particular use, only take what you need. More importantly, never take more than what the environment can afford to give. Generally, only take one-tenth from any patch you see, and never from the only patch you find.

It’s a reciprocal relationship. We have a responsibility to take care of this plant—to be responsible for them. So it’s not about going out and just randomly taking. That’s really disrespectful, and it should never be done that way.

Chairman Valentin Lopez, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
As quoted in How Foragers Reconnect with the Land by Erin Malsbury

4. Know Before You Go

Many parks and open spaces have regulations about or against foraging. It is important to know what the rules are for a given space before foraging.

5. Be Safe

Avoid harvesting near busy roads or hazardous sites and be mindful of any potential pollutants or contaminants that the organisms you’re harvesting might have been exposed to, such as pesticides and heavy metals.

Note About Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a fungal organism. There are different schools of opinion about whether it is better to cut a mushrooms above the soil, or pluck it entirely. If you are picking the mushroom to identify it, it is best to try to remove it in its entirety with as little damage to the surrounding area as possible. Always leave the area where you have picked from tidy. Picking older mushrooms and leaving younger ones is a good way of allowing the most amount of fruiting bodies to go through their full life cycle. Carry your mushrooms in a woven basket to let them continue to drop spores as you walk (this is also better than using plastic bins or bags for the shelf life of your mushrooms).

How Everyone Can Contribute to Pollinator Conservation with the Xerces Society

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats through scientific research. They focus on pollinator conservation, endangered species conservation, and reducing pesticide use and impacts.

For this talk, Maddy Kangas, Monarch Butterfly Conservation Planner with the Xerces Society, will share:

The status of pollinators, including monarch butterflies, and need for conservation action
Monarch biology and habitat requirements
Land management practices to protect pollinators
Examples of pollinator habitat projects
How you can get involved (community science programs and more)
Additional resources and Q&A 

Resources

About the Speaker

Maddy Kangas serves as a Monarch Butterfly Conservation Planner and NRCS Partner Biologist for the Central Coast of California as part of the Xerces Society, providing technical assistance on monarch conservation and habitat creation for producers, landowners, and land managers. Her previous work has included integrated pest and pollinator management, habitat restoration, and community outreach and education. Maddy completed her master’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she researched both native bee community composition and pest insect presence within agriculturally based pollinator habitat restorations.

This program is in support of our new exhibit, Pollinators: Keeping Company With Flowers, on view January 15-March 6. Sponsored by 90.3 KAZU, Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History, and UCSC’s Center for Agroecology.

How to Make a Plant Press

Flowers are fleeting, but you can make them last for years by pressing them. In this video you can learn how to make your own plant press to preserve flowers or plants for years to come. You can also use pressed plants for a variety of art projects such as making cards, collaging, or encasing them in resin!

Resources

Explore the museum’s herbarium collection of pressed plants in our Collections Close-Up blog: Herbarium Highlights and Fern Fever

On the Subject of Seeds

Patricia Larenas loves seeds. With a background in horticulture and art, her work aims to inspire appreciation for this life stage of plants. She also works directly with seeds, helping others grow edible gardens and save seeds. This project explores the germination and growth of a Hopi red lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus). The following is written by Patricia.

A sample of Pala hatiko, a kind of lima bean
Pala hatiko (Phaseolus lunatus) is the Hopi name for this variety of lima bean. Lima beans originated in South America in the area now known as Peru, and were named after the Peruvian city of Lima.

Genetic Diversity

I’ve drawn three beans to show the diversity of the seed coat color: 1. solid red-brown, 2. red-brown with dark streaks and spots, and 3. mostly dark with red-brown streaks and spots. The diversity in color of the beans is an indication of  the genetic diversity in this variety. This is an advantage because genetic diversity means that this bean could have more ability to adapt to different environments.

For example, lima beans usually like to grow in hot areas like the Southwestern and Southern USA . My garden in the Bay Area is cooler than those areas, so with its ability to adapt, this bean may do just fine in my garden under cooler conditions. By growing it for a few years and saving seeds from the most vigorous and productive plants, I can create my own land race that is adapted to growing well in my area.

Germination

All viable seeds are alive. By viable I mean they have the ability to grow once they germinate.  Conditions that kill seeds are: exposure to warm or hot temperatures, old age, exposure to light, humidity that can cause mold to grow or seeds to rot, and diseases. Seeds can stay dormant, but alive, while they are waiting for the proper conditions that will induce them to germinate. Germination is the process by which a seed begins to sprout and develop into a seedling. The proper conditions for seeds to germinate vary greatly for different types of seeds and they have to do with temperature, moisture, and exposure to light or darkness. Additionally, some seeds need a period of exposure to cold, usually about the temperature of your refrigerator (called stratification) before they germinate. This could be from a few weeks to a few months. Other seeds need to have their seed coats abraded or damaged (called scarification) a bit so that moisture can penetrate to begin the germination process. Vegetable seeds rarely need stratification or scarification, but some flower seeds do.

An illustration of the germination and growth of a lima bean seed

Bean Seeds

Lima bean seeds need soil temperatures of at least 750 F to germinate (up to 900F), besides moisture (water). As shown in my drawings, first, the root radicle grows out of the seed, and the seed coat begins to retract as the bean swells with growth. The seed leaves, or cotyledons, are the two halves that make up the bean seed, these start to open up and the true leaves grow out from in between them, while the radicle develops into a stem and roots. The little seed is now a seedling ready to grow into a full sized plant that will flower and make lima beans!

Patricia Larenas is a featured artist in the 2020 exhibition of science illustration, The Art of Nature.
Find Patricia’s art on Instagram @plarenas_onpaper
See her website for tips on growing your veggie garden and saving seeds http://www.urbanartichoke.com/

Plant Growth Observations Activity | 2nd Grade

What do plants need to grow and how do different seasons affect them? To answer these questions we need to pay close attention to the world around us and think about what changes each season brings.

Dive into the short slideshow below to explore what plants need to survive and grow, then go look around where you live and see what plants you can find! When you find some plants, you may wonder: Are they in sunny spots? How do they get water? Do you know the names of any plants?

Activity and resources:

Teacher Guide and Lesson Plan (PDF | HTML)