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Miscellaneous Plant Uses

(Adapted from the U.S. Army Survival Manual)

The uses for plants in the wilderness are almost endless. Here are a few ideas.

You can make dyes from various plants to color clothing or paint signs for rescuers. Usually, you will have to boil the plants to get the best results. Onion skins produce yellow dye, walnut hulls produce brown dye, and pokeberries provide a purple dye.

You can make fibers and cordage from plant fibers. Commonly used are the stems from nettles and milkweeds, yucca plants, and the inner bark of trees like the linden.

 Steve's Notes: I once peeled yucca leaves into strips and braided them into a rope in a matter of thirty minutes. With two men on either end, we couldn't break it. Yucca is one of the better plants for making ropes as well as finer string (just separate out the finest fibers).

Make fish poison by immersing walnut hulls in a small area of quiet water. This poison makes it impossible for the fish to breathe but doesn't adversely affect their edibility.

Make tinder for starting fires from cattail fluff, cedar bark, lighter knot wood from pine trees, or hardened sap from resinous wood trees.

Make insulation by fluffing up female cattail heads or milkweed down.

 Steve's Notes: A couple bread bags full of milkweed down will keep your hands as warm as mittens. Insert your hands and tie the bag around your wrist or tuck it into the sleeves. Milkweed down will also burst into flame from a good spark.

Make insect repellents by applying the expressed juice of wild garlic or onion to the skin, by placing sassafras leaves in your shelter, or by burning or smudging cattail seed hair fibers.

Plants can be your ally as long as you use them cautiously. The key to the safe use of plants is positive identification whether you use them as food or medicine or in constructing shelters or equipment.

 Steve's Notes: Cattail leaves can be quickly woven into mats for sleeping on or serving food on.

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The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Miscellaneous Plant Uses