Category Archives: Fibre plant

The Silk Oak: Quercus mongolica

Quercus mongolica (Mongolian oak or the Shandong silk oak)! Did you know that the Chinese not only produce silk from mulberry trees, but also from Mongolian oak trees? The Chinese oak silkworm, Antheraea pernyi, is the worker employed according to Food Plants of China! See https://academic.oup.com/jinsectscience/article/10/1/180/887115

The Mongolian oak nuts were also sometimes eaten and the leaves were used for tea, boiled with the fruits of Siberian crabapple, Malus baccata!

Slender nettle

Urtica gracilis (often classified as a subspecies of stinging nettle,Urtica dioica subsp. gracilis) is a widespread nettle species in North America including Canada and Alaska. It has many local names including slender nettle, California nettle and American nettle. This year, my tallest nettle is currently over 2.9m high!

It was (and is) an important plant of the first peoples throughout the continent from Vermont to Alaska,used as a vegetable, medicinally and, most importantly as a fibre plant, including fishing nets!.
One native use I noted was “Rubbed on the bodies of sealers to keep them awake at night” :) (Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany has a long list of uses)
My slender nettle has almost no stinging hairs, and, in general, has much less than stinginess
than the introduced Urtica dioica subsp. dioica (Stinging Nettle) and Laportea canadensis (Wood Nettle; see my book Around the World in 80 plants).
It is unisexual ( I seem to have just one sex as it doesn’t produce seeds…)

Added 300917: The friend in Granville, Ohio who sent me the seed of this nettle writes: “I collected the Urtica gracilis along the back of my property, near an old railroad (now a bike trail). It’s a common plant in “waste places”. I’ve never seen the plants grow that large here. Could your additional sunlight be to blame?”

Nepal Exhibition at RBGE

When I visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh (RBGE)  in September 2016 I was pleased to find an exhibition of portraits of Nepalese plants, many of which were edible and information was even provided on food and other uses of the plants shown!  The exhibition celebrates the 200th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Britain and Nepal and the even longer botanical relationship of the gardens with Nepal  (see  http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/21610).
The exhibition features drawings made by a group of 6 RBGE artists that visited Nepal in 2015 as well as a Nepalese artist.  See also http://www.mdhardingtravelphotography.com/single-post/2016/08/13/Bicentenary-UK—Nepal
My album of pictures show the edible and fibre plants on display!

Himalayan Nettle

Girardinia diversifolia (Himalayan Nettle; Allo) is a potentially useful plant for the forest garden. The young leaves, inflorescenses and seeds (roasted) are eaten). It’s a large clump-formimg perennial reaching 3m in damp woodlands. It’s also an important fibre plant, like stinging nettle.
I have a feeling it won’t prove hardy here, we’ll see….P1480606 P1480609