Plant Identification – A World Away


UK based forager Martin Bailey gives us a view into how our plant identification skills from home can help us observe and recognise familiar plants while being thousands of miles away from our comfort zone of plant life.



Being a UK forager, I’ve come to know a lot of wild plants, some of which grow here and some across the seas in far-away locations.

On my travels, I’ve often found myself doing a double-take, as our coach speeds past a swathe of familiar looking mustard flowers, or as I inadvertently step over a clump of sorrel. Observing the often subtle differences between species makes travelling exciting with endless rounds of spot the difference in addition to regularly mumblings of “We haven’t met but I know your cousins back home – You’re a….right?”

During a trip to Inner Mongolia last year I was eager to see what well known wild edibles might show up. Just as at home, thrifty thistles reached up through the cracks, along the edges of weathered paths. Yarrow, plantain and artemisias were found thriving amongst the vegetables in temple gardens. I imagined the monks making use of these sacred plants concocting herbal preparations in their home-grown apothecaries.

Plant identification skills come up useful when you least expect it.

Wild and fermented foods featured in meals everywhere from Beijing to Hohot. Seaweeds, Dandelions, Fiddle Head Ferns and assortments of wonderful mushrooms were woven into every menu! This was food that made me feel alive, energised and ready for all that lay ahead!

I came away from the trip with a renewed sense of wonder and admiration for the everyday, as well as the exotic. A year on and I’m still unpacking my experiences, whilst eagerly planning my next herbal odyssey – Hunan province 2020!

Want to read more…

Read about how we came to find our local 22 botanicals on Islay here

Some notes on specific seeded plant identifiaction here

And click here for our 22

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