If You Go Down To The Woods Today - Volume 2 Issue 3

Last week we looked at the beginning of our foraging journey and what it meant to forage, what rules to set in place and what limited kit to take with you.

This week we are going to discuss one of my favorite aspects of this fascinating pastime, the identification. 

Why is ID so Important?

There are many reasons for this such as is the plant endangered, is it at the right stage of maturity and the like.  However, the most obvious one is, is the plant poisonous? 

By poisonous I mean is it going to make you ill, very ill or dead?  I’m not being obtuse when I say this as by rights the stinging nettle is classed as poisonous as the human body reacts to the chemicals in its hollow hairs, the sting.  Saying that we know it to be a delicious hedgerow treat.

The following method has been used by me for years and I swear by it.  It involves books, not IT or smartphones but books.

Books are fantastic.  They don’t need batteries, they don’t get hacked or need backing up and they are always available.  The editor and publishing house have to get things right or they will be in a huge amount of trouble.  Websites can post anything and not have any other people look at the work. This doesn’t mean IT isn’t part of the foragers arsenal, far from it, but we’ll talk about that later.

Always remember to take the book to the flower and not the flower to the book.  The best way of doing this is by taking lots of photos of your chosen plant and then use these photos as references. 

What Books Should I Choose?

There are a dizzying amount of books on identifying the four Fs; Flowers, Fruit , Foliage and Fungi.  This is my little list of books that cuts right through the noise and goes straight to the point. 

I like to K.I.S everything I do in life as there are enough curve balls as it is.  So the first book I go to is one where the flower is identified by its colour.  As you can see it’s a small book with line drawings.  Many people stay away from books with drawings but I’m using this to dial in the ID. 

The book below allows me to do just that.  As it’s my book I jot notes in it too.  This seems odd at first but you’ll get used to it.

I’ve chosen the ramsons (Allium ursinum) as it is so easy to ID but it also shows my methodology. 

So I Have Dialed in, What Next?

The next book is purely about the identification of the flower.  It’s so good I really do consider it to be a top book on my creaking bookshelves.  (You can never have too many herbal and bushcraft books, can you?)  It has a quick guide at the beginning explaining what the basic biology of a flower is and a “cheat” guide.  This puts the flowers in categories sorted by petals.  So, with colour of the flower and the number of petals, (remember all those photos you took?) this book allows you to nail your chosen species.  It’s all photos too. 


There is the ramsons entry.  Very short and to the point with the all the terminology they introduced at the beginning of the book.

Where to go From Here

So my interest in the four Fs really comes from our relationship with them.  I’ve always wondered, “How did we use ….?”  So the world of herbal remedies was opened up to me.  There are stacks of books out there, all beautifully illustrated and written so well.  I know, I have most of them.  This book has a few line drawings but so much information.  It’s a whopper for sure.  It was my first ever herbal and I still use it regularly today.  The text for “Garlic” covers many of the family and our ramsons are there. 


So these three books open a gateway of information to me.  That gateway is found on my bookshelves but IT does now play its part.

Information Technology’s Place With ID

So you have Identified your plant and what you can do with it.  The next logical step is to use your computer to help grow your knowledge. Type in the plant’s scientific name as this will bring upo the only plant in the whole world with that name.  Common and local names are good to know too but you can’t beat a scientific name for ID.  This should bring up lots of information.  Use it wisely and only go onto sites that are trusted, The Woodland Trust or The National Trust are a good place to start.

Once you have done that pop over to YouTube and type in the name and see if anyone has produced a video about it.  Again, only use reputable names here.

This way you are gaining knowledge from reputable authors, bloggers and content creators.

So, Next Time You Are Out And About…

Take your camera and snap away, ID the plants properly and it won’t be long before your basket will full of some of the four Fs

Until next time.

Greg. Check out my instagram, here

Post Script

I have spoken at length about books and I want to leave you with some wise words from Sir Winston Churchill about these amazing objects we take for granted.

“If you cannot read all your books…fondle them…peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so you at least know where they are.”