Updated: Jan 7
Many believe that the winter time possesses little to discover in the plant world, however, I'm here to beg you to differ! Of course, plants thrive during the growing season but with intention and patience there is so much to learn from the dormant landscape all around us. In this blog I'm going to discuss at length a few of my favorite botanicals to forage in wintertime. Wild (yet invasive) Rosa Multiflora Hips and White Pine (Pinus Strobus) Resin, Needle, and Bark are a few of the most obvious and visible wild plants in Northeastern New England to forage at this time.
Rosa Multifora hips are accompanied by thickets and bushels of lime green thorned vines. They can be found lining forest edges while also being spotted on its floor. Rosa Multiflora will also spread itself along walkways, trails, and edges of open fields. The most distinguishing feature of the Rosa Multiflora hip is the size. Rosa Multiflora hip is quite tiny (maybe around 1/4 of an inch in diameter). It has an ovular shape compared to beach rose hip or ornamental rose hip. You will see later in the following photos how to distinguish it by size, shape, and color.
Pinus Strobus towers tall amongst its fellow deciduous trees in the local forests where I live.
The bark is thick with broad sections. The long branches of white pine expand outward from the tree and begin their growth further from the ground toward the middle of the tree. You will still find a few branches toward the base of the tree where you can forage the needles (though gathering bows and needles from the forest floor is preferred over taking from the tree). A great way to distinguish white pine from other pine trees is to look at the fascicles (or the individual clusters). If there are 3 to 5 needles per cluster than that determines they came from a white pine. This year, I have been utilizing the white pine resin more than any other part of the tree. I will get more into detail on that later.
Why is White Pine so Special?
White Pine trees hold a strong, sturdy and aromatic quality. They are a signature tree to the coastal regions all the way to up to the north country. Many people look at them as sources for wood furnishings, to burn (though not easily), or to chop down when clear cutting. I've grown to absolutely adore this tree and it's medicine over the years. Pine needle tea is a great way to introduce yourself to the tree's medicinal qualities. Simply simmer (not boil) a handful of pine needles in a pot of water for 10 minutes to obtain a lemon and tannic- like tea for lightly supporting the immune and respiratory system. I've also had experience using the inner bark when tincturing. The inner bark is noted to have the highest medicinal immune supporting qualities, it's loaded with proanthocyanidins and polyphenols! However, I've specifically have had a blast experimenting and making medicine with the resin.
I've used the White Pine resin in making a special formula for calming irritated skin in my White Pine & Tallow Balm . The resin will appear as a solid and slightly cloudy mass with a redish-orange tint coming out of the cracks in the bark or naturally created holes in the trunk of the tree. I never take more than I need (about a 1 cup per tree or less). You can ingest the resin or use topically.
You can apply the resin directly to the skin in survival or primitive circumstances to prevent infections and stop bleeding. It can be used as an adhesive as well. The resin will dissolve when added to a carrier oil over light heat. You then want to strain the oil infusion with a metal mesh strainer to retrieve any residual pieces of bark or dirt. Apply the resin infused oil to cuts, wounds, abrasions or infected conditions topically.
When added to salves and oil infusion blends, it serves as a natural anti-biotic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and aromatically grounding remedy. Having a white pine topical treatment in your herbal first aid kit will be beneficial if external cuts, scrapes, and wounds should occur in the outdoors or at home!
More on Rosa Multiflora!
Once you've spent some time getting to know the key characteristics of Rosa Multiflora, it will be easy to identify and forage them. Rosa Multiflora is sweet and fruity, a wonderful trail snack! The rose hips grow in a panicle structure from the vine and are often pointing upward.
As you see in the left photo, the hips have a dark crown that attaches to the vine, an oval shape, and maroon color. Forage the fruit in early winter to dry for tea, make into jams or preserves, for syrup (recipe below), or tincture as an immunity tonic. Like White Pine, Rose Hips support the immune system and are a great secondary or supporting herb for immune teas or tinctures. Rose hips are high in vitamin C content, fiber, and antioxidants. Freeze and enjoy as a garnish to sweet treats, smoothies, or add to sparkling water.
Rosa Multiflora is also a very important food for local winter wildlife! Let's not forget to forage sustainably and only take what we need. Rose hips are food for bird populations, squirrels, wild turkeys, deer, beavers and more.
Simple Rose Hip Syrup Recipe - will make about 1 cup of syrup
• 1/2 cup freshly foraged rose hips
• 2 cups water
• 1/2 cup raw honey
• Add rose hips and water to a simmer pot or pan
• Allow rose hips to simmer (not boil) for up to 45 minutes, allow for steam to evaporate.
• Turn off heat and allow to cool at room temperature
• Strain seeds and fruit skins from liquid
• Add in honey (you may add more or less depending on the consistency you desire)
• Jar, refrigerate, and enjoy for up to 6 months!
Suggest Use: enjoy 1 to 2 tablespoons per day to support the immune system
* DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not contain medical/health advice. This information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only.