Edible Plants of Jacksonville
Salutations, seed exchangers! I’ve been doing some research lately into edible plants in our area and have found a good bit of information, though there’s always more to learn.
Mandarin Park (map), located adjacent to Julington Creek in the Mandarin section of southeast Jacksonville, hosts park tours with naturalists showing people many often overlooked edible plants. The cinnamon fern, all wild rose petals, red prickly pear cactus and grass seeds in the Jacksonville area are all edible. Pine trees can be used two ways as food. You can take the leaves of many pine trees and steep them in some hot water for a while and they will make a tea. Also, you can take the pine nuts and eat them as well.
Dollar weed is actually tasty in a salad – just don’t eat it off of your lawn. Lawns soaked in pesticides retain some of the residues and you could end up sick from eating it. Finding them in the wild, or anywhere pesticides are not used, is the only recommended way to eat them. Dotted horsemint leaves, used as an air-freshener by Native Americans, make a great tea. Wild grape vines, blueberries and the blue passion vine, are all edible plants. Saw palmetto has edible fruit, as do beautyberry bushes, whose leaves feel a bit leathery and a bit hairy. The leaves at the tall tip of the catclaw briar vine can be used in a salad or cooked like greens. Even the fruit of the red prickly pear cactus, as well as the plant, suitably cleared of the pointy parts, can be consumed. When out foraging for these edible plants, a helpful hint is to use crushed wax myrtle leaves rubbed on the skin as a bug repellent. Should you get a cut or scratch, a garden silk spider’s web’s silk strands can be used as a primitive bandage, as it clots blood.
All of these delights can be found right in our own backyard at Mandarin Park. You can get more information on the park tours at Nature Scope.
In another part of town, Historic Springfield has an abundance of wild fruits and vegetables. There is a wild asparagus patch on 2nd Street, a white mulberry tree in the second alley to the east of the Springfield Community Garden lot, and red mulberry trees in the car lot right next to the garden.
Here is a list of some of the edible and medicinal plants found in Northeast Florida and their uses, compiled by St. Johns County Parks Naturalist Beverly Fleming and Jacksonville Parks Naturalist Lesley Royce:
• Aloe leaves — sap can be used on burns.
• Beautyberry fruit — raw fruit can be chewed to create saliva. Cooked, it is used to make jelly.
• Blackberry fruit — edible raw.
• Blueberry fruit — can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes.
• Bullbrier roots — can be boiled to make tea.
• Cattail Spring roots — new sprouts can be eaten raw or cooked. Older growth — pull up leaves and peel back the tough leafy layer, and the core can be eaten raw or cooked. The flower’s bloom spikes can be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob if found before they open. And the roots can be used as a flour substitute.
• Dandelion leaves — mix with tonic to make a tea, which can aid stomach cramps.
• Day lily tubers — can be boiled like a potato. Caution — it is a laxative, so eat in moderation.
• Dollarweed leaves — small new growth eaten raw in salads.
• Elderberry flowers — dip in batter and fry. The leaves can be dried and made into a tea to treat diarrhea or a headache. The fruit can be eaten raw.
• Grapevine fruit — edible raw or dried, and can be used to make wine. The leaves can be used to make a tea.
• Greenbrier — new shoots, uncurling leaves and tendrils can be eaten raw in salads or steamed. Soak the roots in cold water, allow the powder to settle, dry it and use as a gelatin or flour thickener. Can be mixed with cold water for a drink refresher. Mix roots and tallow and apply as a salve to burns.
• Hickory nuts — edible raw or roasted.
• Oak and acorns — boil hulled nuts in several changes of water to remove bitter tannins. The nut is edible whole or ground and used as a flour. Use the leftover liquid after boiling as an astringent, poison ivy treatment and on skin irritations.
• Passion vine fruit — edible raw or cooked, and can be made into a jelly.
• Peppergrass — young shoots can be used sparingly in salad with less bitter greens, or the seeds can be used as seasoning.
• Pickerelweed — leaves and flowers can be chopped and used in salads. The leaf stalks can be boiled and eaten, and the fruit seeds eaten as a trail snack.
• Pine — the inner bark can be dried, cooked and ground into flour or used as a bandage or poultice for bug bites and boils. The needles can be used to make tea; the seeds eaten.
This post is meant to be purely informational. Please do not eat wild plants unless you absolutely know for sure what it is you are eating and that it is safe.
If you know of any additional edible plants, or where some are located, shoot Jacksonville Seed Exchange an email!