Forager Alexander McNaughton, of Vancouver Island BC shares a rhapsody and some practical tips about one of his local seasonal favourites – wild rose.
AM: I speak plant; I am fluent in many subspecies dialects both wild and cultivated. This time of year I spend my early mornings conversing with the Wild Nootka Rose of our region, Rosa Nutkana. The language can only be heard during the soft wooly hours between 5 and 8am, with the strongest voices being heard as the dawn light creeps over the grove of ancient shrubs.
When fluent in wild rose, several sub-dialects come easily to the fore – the language of honeybees and wild solitary “bumble” bees drunk on rose nectar, the language of the unknown Lepidoptera that lays in eggs to mature in the un-open buds of rose, the soft morning honkings of the goose and goslings resting in the grassy sea meadows between the rose and the sea, the shrill trilling of the many wild thrushes and robins resting on the canes, the language of the wild deer that sleep and take shelter in the thickets that the stillness of morning allows you to finally hear.
Step into the flow and allow it to carry you, feel the energy of the time and place, listen deeply and be in the moment. Only begin your harvest when full grounding is achieved or the rose will let you know by pricking you or sending one of the bees to sting your hand. I’m not kidding about this! Tangle with the bull and get the thorns; the grove can easily repel you and not allow you passage if you blunder about in your own world. Take the act you engage in seriously and respect the lifeforces around you.
How to identify
This 6ft tall thorny shrub is easily identified in season by its pink hued blossom and yellow pollen filled center, typically 5 petals form around the green hip, although a double petalled variety is also found in our region as well as several smaller species of wild rose. Nootka is the undisputed queen of springtime fragrance, follow your nose to the rose grove.
How to harvest sustainably
Choose only perfectly formed flowers, leaving anything bearing insect evidence behind, don’t disturb the grub filled buds they will be obviously deformed. Do not harvest unopened buds even if not containing insect life, take only “todays” flower and then only 1/4-1/5 of what you see available. Many species rely on the nectar and heavy pollen of this springtime favourite. Avoid disturbing sleeping bees they don’t appreciate it.