I'm realizing now that this is the way you learn something - slowly, a little bit at a time, with lots of repetition. This time I'm talking about learning plants, mostly learning how to ID them. We get lots of training in how to use plants but essentially nothing with regards to how to find and prepare them. And that's ok. Naturopaths are already in some senses educated as a jack of all trades, given the option to try to master a few only after leaving the hallowed halls of whichever CNME accredited college they essentially live at for four years.
There's something about knowing plants that I really like. And the first step of that for me is always being able to recognize them. I'm not going to see all of my favourites in my climate zone but there are a lot of really great ones. Each summer since this became important to me, I seem to ID 4-6 new plants a year that are pretty common to see in my neck of the woods and then I just keep my eye open for them all summer long. Last summer it was Achillea millefolium /Yarrow, Rubus idaeus/Red Raspberry, Symphytum officinale/Comfrey, Chelidonium majus/Greater celandine and Sanguinaria canadensis/Bloodroot. The year before it wasTussilago farfara/Coltsfoot, Arctium lappa/Burdock, Plantago major/Plantain, Viburnum opulus/Crampbark, andTrifolium pratense/ Red Clover.
What's funny is that in the past I have had plants that I've wanted to find, and have spent time studying books in advance of a plant walk looking at habitat, leaf orientation, height, flowering time and I just won't see them. But then the next year, it's everywhere I look! Case in point: Comfrey. I was obsessed with finding it when we were living in the country but it was nowhere to be found. The next year it was everywhere.
All this is just to say that summer has arrived and new plants are making themselves available to me. First was Rumex crispus/Curly dock, then Galium aparine/ cleavers, which was followed by Capsella bursa-pastoris/Shepherd's purse. Since this post is just about identification, I'm not going to go into much detail about what these plants are for but here are some pictures* - maybe it's your year to see them too!
*I didn't take these photos, please click through to see their wonderful sources