A Beautfiul Day in the Herbalhood

Posted on May 6, 2012. Filed under: Nature, Plant Friends, Urban Herbalism |

I’ve been finding inspiration in the abundance of medicinal herbs right here on the streets of Boston.   As I’ve been appreciating all the marvelous plants and snapping pics on my cell phone, I thought it would be fun to post about it and to make it a sort of test of how generous nature is with her healing offerings even here in the city.

Here are the rules I set for myself:

  • The plants I cover can only be within three blocks of my house
  • They can’t be in parks, gardens, etc.  they have to be wild city plants.  Side walk spaces, median strips, vacant lots or off abandoned sections of yards near the street are fine – as long as it is clear no one is tried to plant them
  • They have to be in more than one location in that area.  If there is just one plant it doesn’t count or if it can only be found in one place it doesn’t count.  And there has to be enough that you could harvest for yourself if needed – not for making medicine to distribute to others.
  • And only finding these by casually looking in my normal walks to and fro.  No extensive searches or going up streets and locations I usually don’t.  I want to find what is offered, not what I can hunt down to exploit.

The notion is you’re home, you need something quick and within five minutes you can find what you need for yourself.  And in particular, I’m doing this focused on being in a city, not a suburb or the country, etc.  – that’s what I’d call an Herbalhood.

Be warned there are a lot of pictures here.  And because of the volume, I’ll only mention a tiny bit at best about what each is good for otherwise this would be a mammoth out of control post. 🙂

In alphabetical order by common name, here we go…

1) Burdock

Burdock—Articum-lappa (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

In this case I found two whole different abandoned lots filled with them.  Burdock is traditionally used for cleansing toxins from the system and considered good for the liver.  Hmm, that area has lots of liquor stores and really greasy, fast food restaurants.
2) Chickweed

Chickweed—Stellaria-media (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Hey it’s all over. Soothing and good for various skin conditions as well as being a nutritive plant.  Pretty much everyone living in the city needs that.
3) Dandelion

Dandelion—Taraxacum-officinale (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Detoxifying and cleansing – with special affection for the kidneys and liver.  It’s everywhere we are, because everywhere we live we need it.
4) Greater Celandine

Greater-Celandine—Chelidonium-majus (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

And it is everywhere as well.  Traditionally a cure all  – with affinities for the lungs and gall bladder.  Sap is used for warts.  But it is strong plant best used with knowledge and care.

5) Ground Ivy

Ground-Ivy—Glechoma-hederacea (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Another one that is everywhere.  Often used with ailments and weaknesses of the ear, nose, throat and digestive system.  Hmm, all the things city air and life hurts the most.
6) Knotweed

Japanese-Knotweed—Fallopia-japonica (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Don’t even need to point out how common this one is.  In traditional Chinese medicine it is used for cancer, inflammation and high cholesterol.  And here is considered as a treatment for Lyme disease.
7) Mugwort

Mugwort—Artemisia-vulgaris (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

To be truthful, this particular mugwort isn’t around anymore (not that mugwort isn’t plentiful locally enough to count.)  I chose to use this picture because it illustrates the ability of the plants to appear as needed.  This one was in a corner of door of an abandoned garage and grew to eight feet tall.  It was the first specific plant I dreamed.  I saw it in a dream and knew I had to make a tea from its leaves.  I did  so that night and had a very influential dream on my life path (I may share that another time.)   Mugwort is traditionally a digestive and for elimination of worms.

8) Mullein

Mullein—Verbascum-thapsus (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Not as abundant as some of the others but I found four plants in different locations so I count it. Used historically for coughs and congestion.  And externally as a wound healer.

9) Nettles

Nettle-(Stinging)—Urtica-dioica (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Another one that is everywhere we are.  And outside herbal community not given the love it should.  One of the most nutritional and nourishing plants around.  Better than most of the one’s we buy in the stores to put on our tables.  It’s detoxifying and helps with skin conditions.

10)  Plantain

Plantain—Plantago-major (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Another one in abundance.  Where Europeans walk it follows so goes the lore of Native Americans (earning it the name White Man’s Footprint.)  Great for drawing out toxins from wounds and easing itching – mosquito and other bug bites.

11)  Red Clover

Red-Clover—Trifolium-pratense (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Another fairly common one.  Often used for skin conditions and as an expectorant.  Plus it helps rebuild the soil.

12)  Reishi

Reishi (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

I found three of these which surprised me, so I decided to count them.  There are several different species of reishis which all have the similar immune building uses.
13) Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherd’s-Purse—Capsella-bursa-pastoris (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

This year we have an embarrassment of riches with Shepherd’s Purse.  Not just clumps of plants every 10 – 15 feet, but only stands like this every block or so it seems – particularly in the area of my neighborhood near where there had been several  shootings and assaults this spring.  It’s good for bleeding – coincidence?

14)  Violets

Violet—Viola-odorata (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Another that is pretty common.  Used for coughs and congestion and in treating breast and stomach cancers.

15)  Yellowdock

Yellow-Dock—Rumex-crispus (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

I found one stand in with a bunch a knotweed, plus about a half dozen assorted individual plants in different locations.  So present and easy to find.  The root is a handy laxative.  Hey no one eating take out fast food in the city ever needs that, right?  😉

And two honorable mentions that aren’t used medicinally so much now but used to be.
16) Garlic Mustard

Garlic-Mustard—Alliaria-petiolata (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

It’s every where and particularly abundant this year it seems.  It is not only yummy to eat.  But it traditionally was used externally for ulcers.

17) Winter Cress

Winter-Cress—Barbarea-vulgaris (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Another mustard that is making a strong showing in my Herbalhood.  I found about eight of these about.  Old scurvy treatment amongst other things.

Ta-da!  And that is almost a dozen and half without trying hard.  If I had looked harder or loosened my rules, I could have easily increased that number.  Heck, if I included trees alone that would have done it (I left off trees because in the city they are planted by choice rather than being provided by nature like these.)

And somehow, thinking about the neighborhood/Herbalhood, I feel myself channeling Mr. Rogers (who was so the Jimmy Page of children’s television!) and with apologies to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood I give you…

Mad Crow’s Herbalhood

It’s a beautiful day in this Herbalhood,
A beautiful day for a herbalist,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a herbally day in this beautywood,
A herbally day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a herb just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a Herbalhood with you.

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my herbal?

Won’t you please,
Won’t you please,
Please won’t you be my herbal?

Ah, brings tears to my eyes.

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5 Responses to “A Beautfiul Day in the Herbalhood”

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This is great Michael, such abundance! I love to see plants growing in unlikely places, i can’t believe that mugwort got so big with no soil.
I have been keeping a little folder of photos of plants growing in concrete, walls, old building etc. for a few years now but it’s slowed down a bit since I moved back to the country. I still get a good one now and then though, like a beautiful herb robert growing out of a sign last week.
Nature is truly incredible.

I have to admit I was surprised by how much is at my metaphorical front door even in the city proper, without even searching hard. And that mugwort was amazing. I miss it. 🙂


I have an herb garden where I grow most of my herbs, but you have inspired me to go out and find other herbs growing naturally around the neighborhood.

I’m only just starting my first herb garden. So I’m coming at the opposite direction from you. 😉


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