Plant ID and Color : A Primary Mix

Field Guides on Shibori, ©2017 Loretta McClellan

Wildcrafting, also known as foraging in the wild for medicinal herbs and harvesting them (respectfully and sustainably), was and is a significant draw for me to the study of plant medicine. I took an immediate interest in this process, this deeper physical and spiritual connection to the roots of Herbalism.

While I must pace myself and practice abiding patience in this comprehensive art that promotes self-healing, buying dried herbs from responsible providers along the way, it is wildcrafting that I dream about, hope for and imagine doing with a sure knowledge as an integral part of my practice. Successfully growing my own herbs from seed in a strikingly beautiful garden of abundance is another hopeful plan. Each takes time, both through study and implementing. A mindful approach is key, or I might burst from anticipation over all there is that I still want to learn!

Nature is my playground and lifelong friend, as are her gifts. I celebrate this herbal learning experience, as my entire being has awakened in remembrance, returning to the instinctive knowing, that herbs in their season are a divine right, set forth upon this earth for our holistic benefit. The fact that they offer color and beauty to gaze upon is an added bonus!

Pantone Fan on Shibori, ©2017 Loretta McClellan

In college as a Fine Art major I studied Color Theory in a Design course. We learned about the same primary and secondary hues from elementary school, as well as intermediate and tertiary colors. There were copious exercises in mixing paint from only primary colors and black and white, to formulate an exact hue, shade or tint, within a matter of moments. While it took some of the peace and tranquility out of color for me at the time, it has proven useful. It has also provided an opportunity to humor people when they ask what my favorite color is, and I, as an artist-designer, show them several coded hues from my Pantone fan.

After many years of living in the mountains, I now live in the city in California, currently adapting with no easy access to safe wildcrafting spaces.  My light at the end of this tunnel, however, comes from New England, specifically Maine, where I’ll be spending an immersive and nourishing herbal and creative sabbatical, including studying the “weeds” on the pesticide- and herbicide-free property that were sadly, previously dismissed by me. Now that I’m aware, I’m hopeful to make their much-valued acquaintance, anticipating joyful surprises! I’ve already rehearsed my apology speech, knowing I’ll be forgiven, because that’s how plant beings, these beings of balance that help us to return to the same, are.

Complementing my wonderful ongoing, core coursework at The Herbal Academy and other influences elsewhere, I recently completed the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine’s free “Handcrafted Herbalism” mini course, which included a segment on Wildcrafting. Their tandem teaching style and presented topics via video and print resonated. Their strategic marketing to potential future, paying students through this course succeeded with me. I can’t wait until their 350-hour, “Foraging Course: Edible and Medicinal Wild Herbs,” in “early 2018!” In the meantime, I’ve been getting my hands on plant identification guides, as well as information from any and all reputable sources that encourage thoughtful measures and protection of endangered medicinal herbs, such as United Plant Savers.

I believe nothing can fully substitute for local, hands-on plant ID training, such as herb walks with a regional botanist or seasoned herbalist/wildcrafter; however, my book and online studies are preparing me for further education in the wild. Also, with the engaging video paired with written content I’ve seen already from Chestnut School, I fully expect in their Foraging course to learn from a honeybee’s or hummingbird’s view, complete with camera angles to support the realistic, in-the-air or on-the-petal perspective. With the humor I’ve seen thus far from Juliet Blankspoor and Asia Suler in their mini course scriptwriting, I wouldn’t be surprised if the honeybee and hummingbird narrated for a bit, complete with quirky banter!

For now, the Peterson Field Guides for medicinal herbs are my current immersion. I have both guides, for Eastern/Central and Western states. They are great guides; however, if the plant you’re trying to identify isn’t flowering, it seems more challenging to research in the book without prior knowledge. Also, there is a mention in the Eastern/Central book in the “How to Use this Book” section about range of color and its interpretation. When identifying a magenta flower, better comb the pages for orange and red, through violet/purple, as blooms may vary, and from my experience in color theory, one person’s magenta is another’s fushia (or in my case, Pantone 234C and 233C, respectively). Those colors may be just violet/purple, red or pink in another’s perspective.

Thorough plant observation for identification and safety is important, as there should be time to view the plant season-long in all its incarnations, including flowering, which may only last as a two-week span, depending on the plant, according to the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. I want to be around to witness many seasons of wildcrafting and growth as an ever-budding Herbalist, so to be sure I always know what I’m doing, I’ll be taking my time, mixing nature and study in equal parts.

The heart of Botaniscape™ and budding Herbalist, Lori McClellan sees the Art of Herbalism as her lifelong connection to Nature and wonder manifested most fully—another exciting medium and source of abundant joy. An Author, Artist and Poet, creating as Loretta Boyer McClellan, her works as a writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry; conscious PR, brand, graphic design, and communications; and as an Arts instructor, journalist and artist, “sized the canvas,” so to speak, for a fruitful life of expression, connection and inspiration. Author of The Nature of BEing: A Healing Journey, The Misthaven of Maine Series, and Dodging Raindrops: Poems and Prose of Beauty, Peace and Healing, Lori creates from a place of Oneness. Writing, meditating, painting, and her relationship with Nature and all beings, most tangibly through Herbalism, are her connection to the Infinite. 

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