Plants To Keep Close
There are certain people that you just know you need to keep close, even if you are living far apart. You know what I’m saying? You know who those people are—think of one right now and send them the sweetness of your heart. Yes, there are those relationships in life we need to hold close, if we want to be our best selves.
Being a plantwalker, I include plants in that circle. There are a few plant friends I keep close no matter what. Since most of them are weeds or grow wild, it’s not too hard:-) I would like to share who those friends are and why, and invite you to think about what green allies you hold very dear.
You probably know this plant as Red Clover, (Trifolium Pratense,) but I call this plant Healing Clover, as it is not red. Folks get it confused with Crimson Clover, which is red but not medicinal. (Who creates these common names?) Healing Clover is pink. Just like Redbud is pink.
Maybe this plant is my greatest ally of all time because of the feeling I get when I see them, think of them, drink them, or talk about them. Or maybe it is because they are the reason I don’t have cancer, since Healing Clover’s isoflavone genistein is known to swallow up unhealthy cells before they can lose themselves to malignancy. Or maybe it is because I drank this herb for both of my entire pregnancies and get sentimental just thinking of it. Or maybe it is because my Celtic ancestors used this plant for connecting with their soul. Who knows why really, but I LOVE this weed and always have it on hand.
It tastes resinousy sweet, and dried it looks like a purple puff. On its leaf is the mark of the chevron, the ancient symbol of nourishment. It loves to grow in fields among Queen Anne’s Lace, Chicory, Orchard Grass and Goldenrod. Healing Clover builds both the soil and our blood. It is an expectorant and an anti-spasmodic. A skin-support herb, it can help with numerous skin conditions.
When I am out and about harvesting Healing Clover, I get to put on my keen senses. Snakes might be in the tall grasses. Hornets nests could be in the ground or hanging from a branch. Turtles might be eating wild strawberries below. There could be a bird’s nest full of eggs in the crabapple nearby. I may see a deer watching on the edge of the field. My yearning for the Healing Clover makes me come alive and engage with so many of Earth’s children in her wild habitat.
The first wild plant that I ate (aside from Pine needles which my father taught me to chew, thank you Dad!) Nettles will forever hold a steadfast place in my heart for teaching me the powers of the plant world. Yum! I had no idea you could wildcraft a plant and it not only be delicious but also so nutritious! With Nettle, both Urtica and Leportea spp., you can eat, drink, tincture, powder and even spin it!
If I were to put a persona to this plant, She would be the Green Good Witch of the Land. With Nettle, I get the feeling anything is possible! Don’t’ listen to those old cranky farmers who curse it as a ‘weed.’ They are eating Bojangles and growing monocrops and don’t know what goodness is! Yes, Nettles can spread where you don’t want it. So can hate. Maybe you want to wildcraft this plant instead of growing it in your garden, or tend to your garden regularly so it doesn’t get out of hand.
A potently powerful antihistamine, I tincture nettle fresh, just cut its leaves and soak it in alcohol immediately, to get that allergy support contribution.
And there it is in mid-winter, underneath the mulch or snow, tender baby leaves who make a vibrant cup of tea to treasure by the fireside. I love you, Nettle.
With all of these plants I find myself wanting to write the same thing, like, “Can’t say enough how wondrous this plant is” or “OMG this is such an incredible plant, do you engage with it?” but I am trying to be more specific just in case you don’t have a relationship with these plants yet and you need a little kick in the rear to begin to do so.
The Rose grows all over the world, both wild and cultivated. Driving along backroads, I am always on the lookout for a new rose variety. My favorites are the ones that bloom for only a few weeks of the year, usually in May, and smell divine because these are the apothecary, or medicinal roses. The Roses that bloom continually are medicine for the eyes and usually do not have much of fragrance or medicinal properties.
Rose (Rosa spp.) not only gives us a world class bloom, it leaves a perfect sepal star once its petals have fallen. Have you ever noticed that? People say stop and smell the roses but I say stop and sit with Rose. Lay next to it. Eat its flower. Inhale the heavenly scent. Look for the stars. Gently prick yourself with the thorn and be reminded of life’s contradictions.
Rose is in my heart elixir, herbal tea mixes, ancestor’s offering bowl, in vases around our home, as art on the wall, in the hydrosol I spray myself with every morning, in our hand creme, and on top of homemade cakes. I bring Rose into my life whenever I have the chance, I love her so!
Oooh giddy goodness, flower or leaf, I will take that smell all day long. I cut a small branch of Lavender and rub it all over me, hoping its scent will make me as beautiful as she. It is a little bitter tasting but in herbal tea mixes or spice blends like Herbs de Provence, it tastes complimentary, is soothing and very calming to the nervous system. As an essential oil, it is the one used most often in our home, for baths, cleaning recipes and in our diffuser.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is somewhat hard to grow here because of the humidity and cold winters. I have found it does best when I plant it in a sheltered, sunny dry area. In late May, I harvest the flowers and make lavender wands, dream pillows, and herbal tea. I leave some of the flowers in a wax bag and stick them in my sox drawer. The smell stays till the plants flower again the next year.
Lavender is a mint family plant so it inherently is antimicrobial. I wish I had enough Lavender to strew all over the floor of the chicken house. But I don’t. So I put a little bit of the leaves in their nesting boxes. The leaves look like gray needles, pretty unusual. I have never been to a part of the planet where Lavender is growing wild but I do hope to have that pleasure one day. Lavish me with Lavender please.
The Almighty Artemisia, “the most powerful mind-altering plant without being hallucinogenic” there is. Dream herb. Plant of the Moon. Herb of Longevity. Journey herb. Go Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris! You are so pretty with your soft and deeply divided leaf, green on top and silvery underneath. I drink this herb every New Moon, to honor all those women who passed along plant knowledge and story and held the village together with their wisdom and honoring of the moon’s cycles and the planet’s seasons.
Long before satellite directions and weather apps, a leaf of Mugwort was placed inside one’s shoe to give them a second sense of what weather lie ahead and the best route to take to get to their destination. Imagine that.
Chewing on Mugwort right before eating can stimulate a healthy digestive process, and is recommended for those who have trouble in that arena.
I would not plant this ally in my garden as the roots are nearly impossible to get out once established, and they run like wildfire. But I would make sure I know where there is a stand I can harvest from, or plant some in a field if you can, and gather it 9 months of the year. Stuff a pillow with the dried leaves and receive prophetic dreams. Mugwort, you make a delicious brew, too!
Who do I turn to if I have a burn, or an injury, or a sprained or broken bone? Comfrey, that’s for sure! As a poultice, or made into salve, or as a tea, I have health insurance growing all around me. Tons of it.
And who do I turn to for green food for my poultry and living mulch for our fruit trees and fertilizer for my garden? Yep, Comfrey.
There are different species and some will run wild and be cursed, but I’m talking about Symphytum officinale or uplandicum, whose roots have to be manually moved in order for the plant to spread. Seeing comfrey growing so perky and luscious is in itself medicine to me. Thank you comfrey for being so happy on our land.
This is the plant that brought me to my husband, so it’s a matchmaker plant in my little world. If you don’t like the smell of garlic, you might have a hard time being in our kitchen for long.
Crushed, minced, whole or squeezed, garlic (Allium sativum) is the herb of culinary choice for me! Just add a little garlic to any savory meal and it becomes upgraded instantaneously. And it preserves the food, a gift of garlic in keeping away unwanted bacteria.
I once unknowingly lost my favorite ring while planting a field of garlic, but it returned when the bulb was harvested 9 months later. Now that’s what I call a magical plant.
This was one of the first flowers I grew. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to germinate myself, and how many flowers it made for months, as long as I kept picking them. I love you, Calendula! It comes in all shades of orange and yellow, and is, like Rose, one of the few flowers that is simultaneously gorgeous and powerfully medicinal.
When I harvest calendula, my fingers become sticky with resin. If I have any wounds or blemishes, I rub them with this when I’m done harvesting. It has healed so much! I take the flowers inside and use fresh ones and dry some. This is my rhythm from May to August.
The fresh Calendula (Calendula officinalis) are perfect for soothing tired eyes. I pour an ounce of boiling water over two flowers and cover. After about five minutes, I take them out, lie down, and put a flower on each eye and rest for five minutes. I swear the world would be a much better place if we all did this regularly.
Calendula will bring lots of butterfly friends into your garden too, another reason to grow them!
Melissa officinalis, Lemon Balm’s botanical name, means Bee Medicine, or Apothecary Honey Mint, and the relationship this plant has with bees is ancient and hard to fully grasp with our limited human perspective. Any beekeeper better have this ally nearby!
I love Lemon Balm not because I am a honeybee (although I would love to have the experience of being one) but because it brings me a happy heart and healthy mind. What a mood lifter! And it’s my favorite remedy for children when they develop any kind of sickness. I dose them up with lemon balm tea and glycerin tincture. It helps heal almost every ill my girls encounter.
And as a cold sore remedy, lemon balm is magic. It beats away the activation of the Herpes virus. If you can feel a cold sore coming on and catch it before it’s started to form, I’ve had 100% success using Lemon Balm essential oil, or tincture or by eating fresh leaf and poulticing it on the area. Plus how cool is it to have a mint plant you rub and your fingers smell like lemons and fresh air?
Plants come in all shapes, sizes, and smells- there are thousands upon thousands of them, all unique and special. I’m so curious which ones you hold close. Let me know next time you come to a plant walk or tea ceremony!
I’ve shared Nine that I keep super close to me, but I did not mention others that are just as close, who maybe I do or don’t grow, or have a little but not enough to provide for my needs and desires, and those 10 are:
Who do you hold close? And how are you nourishing those relationships? And I wonder, are you taking anybody for granted? Sound praises for those you Love- appreciation goes a long long way!