Plant Profile Library

Plant Profile: Valerian

Common Name:  valerian, garden heliotrope, garden valerian, vandal root Latin Name:  Valeriana officinalis, derived from the Latin word valere, meaning “to be well” or “to be strong” Family:  Valerianaceae Habitat:  Native to Europe and Western Asia but grows easily in much of North America.  Grows well in partial to full sun, prefers rich soil and…

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Plant Profile: Ginger

Common Name: Ginger Botanical Name: Zingiber officinale; Zingiberaceae Part Used: rhizome Energetics: pungent, sweet, drying, warm to hot Actions: Stimulant, diaphoretic, expectorant, carminative, antiemetic, analgesic Systems: digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular (more…)

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Plant Profile: Sida

Botanical name: Sida rhombifolia, Sida ulmifolia, Sida acuta*, Sida cordifolia   Family:  Malvaceae Common name: Broomweed, wireweed, teaweed, fanpetals, Cuban jute, Indian hemp, bala (* A note on S.acuta vs. S.ulmifolia – “ Although S. acuta has often been applied to Florida material, Krapovickas (2003) restricted the use of S. acuta to plants with a glabrous…

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Plant Profile: Betony

Each spring, I eagerly anticipate the perfect formula of patience and warmth to produce a succulent, slightly sweet tuber beneath my garden beds of the bountiful Florida Betony, aka Florida Radish, Wild Artichoke, or Rattlesnake Weed. I first learned of Betony from my dear teacher Peggy Lantz, and the moment I first tasted them in…

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Plant Profile: Shiitake

by Lex Barnard Common Names Shiitake, Shiitake Mushroom, Black Forest Mushroom, Chinese Black Mushroom, Donko (dōnggū) aka “winter mushroom”, xiang gu aka “flower mushroom”, bai hua gu Latin Name: Lentinula edodes Family: Omphalotaceae Habitat: Native to east Asia, largely China and Japan, as well as in warm and moist climates. Shiitake grows on decaying broadleaf…

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Plant Profile: Nettle

by Lex Barnard Latin name: Urtica dioica Family: Urticaceae Habitat: Perennial herb often found in damp, nutrient-rich soil along bodies of water in relatively well shaded areas or places with access to full sun. It can also be found in disturbed areas and is often thought of as a “weed” due to its ability to…

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Plant Profile: Garlic

by Shay DeGrandis Common Names: Garlic, Ail, Ajo, Camphor of the Poor, Da Suan (TCM), Nectar of the Gods, Poor Man’s Treacle, Rason/Lasunam (Ayurveda), Stinking Rose Latin Name: Allium sativum Family: Alliaceae (previously listed as Amarylidaceae and Liliaceae) Habitat: With approximately 500 species native throughout the Northern Hemisphere, almost all cultures across the world have…

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Plant Profile: Horsemint

Monarda punctata is an upright, tall, sprawling perennial that grows wild throughout Florida. It typically grows in clumps around 2-4 ft wide. They produce pink, purple, or cream-colored bracts that are often mistaken for flowers, and some of these bracts can have spots. The flowers of this plant are found just above the colorful bracts, and they produce fruits that aren’t showy but reseed well.

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Plant Profile: Echinacea

Echinacea is a perennial plant that grows to 4 ft. with upright stems and purple to pink flowers that are daisy-like. It’s a hardy perennial that has branched stems with oval, lanceolate, bristly leaves. The large flowers have brown-orange centers that are packed with bristly scales. Echinacea is native to central and eastern North America. It grows best in open woodlands and prairies. 

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Plant Profile: Rose

Several different species can be used, like R. damascena, R. canina, R. rugosa, R. virginiana, R. multiflora, R. gallica, R. centifolia, R. palustris, R. spinosissima, and a few others. It’s important to note that not all garden variety roses can be used, so be sure to verify your rose species before adding them to your herbal collection.

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Plant Profile: Usnea

Usnea’s nickname, “lungs of the forest,” comes from its sponge-like action to absorb airborne particulates. However, this means that it’s susceptible to over-pollution. In fact, it’s believed that when lichens like Usnea disappear, it’s a warning that the air quality in the area is harmful. 

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Plant Profile: Marshmallow

Native to Europe, it has also been naturalized in the Americas. As per its name, it grows in marshy habitats, the edges of wetlands, and disturbed areas. It is a perennial that grows 2-4 feet high and has several wooly stems. The leaves are usually 1-3 inches long and serrate; the flowers are purple in color and 1-2 inches in diameter.

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Plant Profile: Dandelion

Florida School of Holistic Living’s Plant of the Month for May 2022 when i was a little girl my mama said to me,what’s your favorite flower, darling? i’ll get you a seed.i said, dandelion! dandelion! that one’s so pretty!she said, child, that one’s not a flower; that one’s just a weed.i still loved those mellow…

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This perennial herbaceous climbing vine is native to Central Florida and the southeast United States—found growing mostly from Texas to Florida. It grows easily by cutting and is happy in sandy Florida soil, sunshine, and rain.

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Plant of Month profile contributed by Jessica Grandey Common Names Wonder Tree, The Divine Tree, The Miracle Tree, Drumstick tree, West Indian Ben, Bridal Veil, Muringa/Muringai (Tamil), Jacinto (Spanish), Sahijan, Munaga (Hindi), Shigru, Shobhanjana (Ayurvedic). Benzolive Tree, or Ben Oil Tree (more…)

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Plant of Month profile contributed by Jessica Grandey Common Names Beautyberry, American Beautyberry, French Mulberry, Perfumed cherry, ZiZhu (more…)

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Plant of Month profile contributed by Jessica Grandey Common Names English Papaya, Pawpaw, Papaw, Melon Tree, Mummy Apple, Papaya, Kates (more…)

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Cuban Oregano

Plant of Month profile contributed by Jessica Grandey Common Names French Oregano (in Cuba) Puerto Rican Oregano, Indian Borage, Spanish Thyme, Mexican mint, Broadleaf Thyme, Menthol Plant, Vicks Plant, Spanish sage, Hung chanh (Vietnamese), Bruja Oregano (Puerto Rico), Patta Ajwayin (Hindi) (more…)

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Plant of Month profile contributed by Jessica Grandey Common NamesBushy Lippia, Bushy Matgrass, Licorice Verbena, Lippia, Marguerite; Marguerite Blanche; Marguerite Des Jardins; Melisse. Hindi: Basula; Chinese: 白棘枝, Kwéyòl: twa tas, Portuguese: erva-cidreira-brasileiraSpanish: Juanilama, Salvia morada, Salvia sija, Sanalotodo“The local and traditional names are numerous in Latin America, because of widespreadtraditional use, and are generally derived…

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Plant of Month profile contributed by Jessica Grandey Common NamesMagnolia, Hou Po (China), Honoki (Japan) Indian Bark. Japanese white bark, The flower is Xin Yi Hua in TCM, Blue Magnolia, Swamp Sassafras, Cucumber Tree, Lily treeLatin NameMagnolia grandiflora, Magnolia virginiana, Magnolia officinalis and many moreFamilyMagnoliaceae HabitatNative to North and South America, the Himalaya’s and East…

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Peach – Plant of the Month, April

Plant of Month profile contributed by Jessica Grandey Common Names  Peach, Peach tree, Persian apple, Momo, Táo Ren. Latin Name Prunus persica, Amygdalus persica Family Rosaceae HistoryPeach is an old European folk remedy that was adopted by the Indigenous people as a food and medicine when European settlers brought it to the New World. Peach…

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Mulberry – Plant of the Month, March Plant of Month profile contributed by Jessica Grandey Common Names Mulberry.Chinese name: Sang Shen (Berry/Fruit), Sang Ye (Leaves), Sang Bai Pi (Bark)Persian name: TootAyurveda: ShahtootFolk names: Tut, Morera, GelsoThe sap is known as “blood of a goose” in Magical formulas. Latin NameMorus Alba (white mulberry) and Morus Nigra (black mulberry)There are upwards of 50 genera…

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Gotu Kola

Plant of Month profile contributed by Jessica Grandey Common Names Indian pennywort, marsh pennywort, Asiatic pennywort, antanan in Pakistan. In Malay cuisine it is known as pegaga, brahmi booti in Hindi, brahmi in Marathi, saraswati aku in Telugu,  kudangal in Malayalam, ondelaga in Kannada, Vallarai keerai in Tamil, brahmi (Sanskrit in Ayurveda-not to be confused with…

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Drymary Common Names: Tropical chickweed, Drymary, whitesnow, West Indian Chickweed, heartleaf drymary Latin name: Drymaria cordata Family: Caryophyllaceae (more…)

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Cayenne Latin name: Capsicum annuum – Solanaceae Common name: Cayenne, chili pepper, chile Cayenne comes from the same Capsicum genus that includes many other peppers like habaneros and jalapenos. Capsicum peppers are from the western hemisphere where they have been used for thousands of years. The word Capsicum derives from the Greek word kapto meaning…

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Latin name: Stachytarpheta jamaicensis – Verbenaceae Common name: Porterweed, snake weed,  blue porterweed, Jamaican vervain, worryvine, Brazilian tea (more…)

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Common name:  PineLatin name: Pinus spp. (Pinus elliottii – slash pine, Pinus palustris – longleaf pine, Pinus clausa – sand pine, Pinus echinata – shortleaf pine, Pinus taeda – loblolly pine, Pinus serotina – pond pine, Pinus glabra – spruce pine) Family: Pinaceae (more…)

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Latin name: Foeniculum vulgare Family: Apiaceae Common name: Fennel Usage:  The entire above-ground portion of the fennel plant can be utilized for food and medicine and have been for centuries. Valued by the Greeks & Romans, fennel tea was said to have been consumed before battle to give warriors courage. According to Greek myth,…

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Latin name: Calendula officinalis – Asteraceae Common name: Calendula, pot marigold Usage: This sticky, golden, aster is well known as an all-star skin remedy. The resinous flowers are cooling and soothing topically, as well as internally. Infused in a carrier oil (olive oil, almond oil, etc), calendula flowers can aid in finding relief from…

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March – Plantain Plantago lanceolata By Rasbak – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Latin name: Plantago major, Plantago lanceolata,Plantago virginica Family: Plantaginaceae Common name: Plantain The leaves of Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata, commonly known as plantain, are an essential component of any herbal medicine cabinet and first aid kit. Originating in Europe…

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February – Oak Latin name: Quercus spp.  – Family: Fagaceae Common name: Oak Usage:  The wood of the oak genus, or Quercus, has long been utilized for its strength and durability, from ship framing to tanning hides to wine barrels. Nearly every culture throughout history that encountered the oaks utilized the tree in some fashion.…

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January – Citrus Latin name: Citrus spp. – Rutaceae Common name: Citrus, oranges, lemon, lime, pomelo, grapefruit, mandarins, etc. Usage:  Many of the common citrus fruits we know and love are not only delicious but also beneficial for both their nutritional and medicinal properties. The flesh, juice and rind of many citrus species have been…

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Prickly Pear Cactus

December -Prickly Pear Cactus Latin name:  Opuntia spp. Family name: Cactaceae Common name: Prickly pear, nopales, tuna, Indian fig, many different names by many cultures of people across the regions in which it grows Usage: The usage of the many Opuntia species is great and varied, from food and medicine to dye and water purification.…

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October 2019 Plant of the Month – Ashwagandha

October – Ashwagandha By Salicyna – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,–qKD3sysE Latin name: Withania somnifera – Solanaceae Common name: Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, winter cherries, asgandh Ashwagandha Properties and Uses Uses: Here in the Western world, the ashwagandha root has recently gained quite a bit of popularity as an adaptogen. However, this plant has…

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September 2019 Plant of the Month – Sida

September – Sida Sida rhombifoliaLatin name: Sida rhombifolia, Sida ulmifolia, Sida acuta, Sida cordifolia  – Malvaceae(* A note on S.acuta vs. S.ulmifolia – “ Although S. acuta has often been applied to Florida material, Krapovickas (2003) restricted the use of S. acuta to plants with a glabrous to ciliate calyx and (5-)6(-7) mericarps. Sida ulmifolia is then applied to plants with a stellate-pubescent calyx and 7-12…

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Latin name:  Tradescantia ohiensis – Commelinaceae Common name: Spiderwort, bluejacket, Ohio spiderwort, day flower Usage:  Tradescantia ohiensis, or spiderwort, is a Florida native edible and medicinal plant that is tolerant of the intense summer heat. You will find spiderwort blossoming year round in Florida, but the height of its bloom is in the spring. Energetically,…

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June: Tulsi, Holy Basil Latin name: Ocimum gratissimum, O. tenuiflorum (previously O. sanctum), and O. africanum Family: Lamiaceae Common name: Tulsi, holy basil, sacred basil Tropical tulsi: Vana (O. gratissimum), Krishna (O. tenuiflorum) Rama (O. tenuiflorum), African basil (O. gratissimum), clove basil (O. gratissimum) Temperate tulsi: (O. africanum) Usage:  Within the Ocimum genus there…

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Spanish needles

Latin name: Bidens alba – AsteraceaeCommon name: Spanish needle, beggarticks, shepherd’s needle, butterfly needle, pitchfork weed, ottrancedi, xian feng cao, gui zhen cao Uses: There are approximately 250 species within the genus Bidens. All occur within tropical and warm, temperate climates — roughly 7-8 of which grow in Florida. All-star of the genus — Bidens alba — is one…

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FL Betony

Latin name:  Stachys floridana – Lamiaceae (Mint Family) Common name:  Florida betony, wild radish, rattlesnake weed, Florida hedgenettle Usage:  The tubers of S. floridana are used  as food and have a crisp, sweet taste.  They can be eaten raw in salads and also make a stellar pickle. Harvest the tubers from  late winter until spring.…

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Violet March – Violet Latin name: Viola odorata, Viola affinis, Viola sororia, Viola tricolor, (and related species) –    Family:  Violaceae   Common name: Violet, sweet violet, common blue violet, common wood violet, heartsease     Usage: There are anywhere between 525 to 600 species within the Viola genus. Identification  of species can be challenging,…

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Latin name: Mentha spicata (aka M. viridis or M. sativa) Family:  Lamiaceae Common name: Spearmint, garden mint Usage: There are hundreds of varieties of cultivars within the mint family, many of which are used for their pleasant taste and medicinal value. One such variety is spearmint; utilized for its stimulant, carminative, antimicrobial and antispasmodic properties,…

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Latin name: Hibiscus sabdariffa, H. acetosella, Family:  Malvaceae Common names: H. sabdariffa: Hibiscus, Jamaica, Roselle, Florida Cranberry; native to India and MalaysiaH. acetosella: Cranberry Hibiscus, Red Maple Leaf Hibiscus, False Roselle, African Rose Mallow Hibiscus; native to South Central AfricaBoth: Sorrel Parts Used: Leaves are edible, and cooked with chiles and garlic to make a…

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August’s Plant of the Month: Ashwagandha Latin name: Withania somnifera, Solanaceae Common names: Ashwagandha, Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng* Growth: About 2 feet in height, native to India. In Central Florida Ashwagandha is a nice herbaceous garden plant, rarely exceeding 3′ in height. It grows similarly to its cousin, the tomato! The root can be harvest…

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Achillea millefolium Latin name: Achillea millefolium Family:  Asteraceae Common names: Yarrow, Milfoil Growth: In Central Florida can be used as a ground cover, the bipinnate leaves grow low to the ground and appear almost fern like, differing from their growth habit in almost every other location. The composite flowers are showy and require partial to…

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Spanish Moss

Latin Name:  Tillandsia usneoides Family:  Bromeliaceae Spanish moss is best known for its stunning accent to a wooded landscape, but it is neither moss, nor Spanish. Its species name “usneoides” means that it has an appearance like moss – though is not actually a moss, but rather an epiphytic bromeliad, with long threadlike festoons that can grow several feet in…

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Bald Cypress

Latin Name:  Taxodium distichum Family:  Cupressaceae Our local Taxodium, the Bald Cypress, is one really cool tree! Taxodium distichum is our local Bald Cypress, and it’s a deciduous conifer. A conifer is usually (not in this case!) evergreen, and has cones as their reproductive parts instead of a flower- a gymnosperm instead of angiosperm. Marc…

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Mullein Latin Name:  Verbascum thapsus Family:  Scrophulariaceae   I still laugh out loud thinking about the Leaves and Roots customer back in the 90s who legally changed her name to “Verbascum” after a long love affair with the plant ally Mullein. We all lovingly called her Verbie for short, and really, who could blame her? This…

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I cringe when I hear the word “superfood” uttered in a mixed crowd. Between GOOP and Dr Oz, health and nutrition fads fill up my Facebook feed daily, and they fade into distant memory as quickly as they come. But many years ago, on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, I was introduced to a plant…

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Swamp Medicine: Healing Plants of Central Florida

Herbalist Emily Ruff presented “Swamp Medicine: Healing Plants of Central Florida” at the 2017 International Herb Symposium, highlighting medicinal plants growing in the subtropical climate surrounding the Orlando area. While unfamiliar to many herbalists in temperate climates, the herbs featured within this presentation are central to the melting pot plant medicine traditions of this bioregion.…

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Spiral Ginger

Insulin plant (Costus pictus) is the subject of numerous studies from the National Institute of Health for its effects on – you guessed it – hyperglycemia and diabetes. It has a history of use in India and other countries, as well as a lot of modern trials confirming its medicinal use to balance blood sugar.…

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Loquat Fruit Tree Eriobotrya japonica Also know as Chinese Plum, this cold hardy fruit tree is widely grown as a garden ornamental and commercial fruit and herbal medicine. Generous annual fruit production, plus many valuable Traditional Chinese Medicine remedies using the fruit and leaves for the throat and respiratory system. Thrives in full sun to…

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Maranta arundinacea, commonly known as Arrowroot, is a beautiful herbal ally to grow here in sunny Central Florida. It loves our tropical weather and thrives in humid environments. The rhizomes of this plant have been used across the world as a thickening agent in foods and medicines as well as a carrier powder for pigments…

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Elder Plants that bring forth pollinators, grow in abundance, and provide food and medicine, are our favorite additions to a garden. One in particular comes to mind and that is Sambucus nigra, commonly known as Elderberry. This small (6-10ft) running tree is quite the eye catcher when it is in full bloom, with its bursts…

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Summertime and the livin’ is easy, that is until you get an awful sunburn from the scorching Florida sun! One of our favorite herbs to help ease the sting of a sunburn is Aloe vera. Not only does Aloe grow really well here but it will multiply for years to come. This plant is special…

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Anamu Petiveria alliacea is an herbaceous perennial that grows up to 1m in height. Indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and tropical areas of Central and South America, the Caribbean and Africa. Anamu, aka Guinea Hen Weed, has a long history in herbal medicine in all of the tropical countries where it grows. Anamu grows in…

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Vetiver grass is used both as a hedge against erosion in permaculture colonies, and also a medicinal herb! It forms narrow, dense hedges when planted along the contours of sloping land, slowing down run-off and helping the water soak into the soil rather than washing off the slope. The stiff foliage also blocks the passage…

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Black Cohosh In this week’s blog post we take a visit to Rosemary Gladstar’s Sage Mountain Herbal Center in Vermont from Summer 2015 and visit one of our northern plant allies, Black Cohosh (Cimcifuga racemosa)   More info on Black Cohosh can be found at this Materia Medica monograph from David Hoffmann.   How have you…

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Goldenrod is beginning to bloom in parts of Central Florida. Watch this week’s video to learn more about this local plant ally. How do YOU use Goldenrod? Share with us in the comments below!

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Learn more about the ubiquitous Central Florida invasive tree, Camphor, in this week’s Materia Medica video. How do YOU use Camphor? Let us know in the comments below!

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Today’s Materia Medica introduces Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), an herbaceous medicinal known for preventing headaches. Have you worked with Feverfew before? What was your experience? Leave us your feedback in the comments below.

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Vitex or Chaste Tree, latin name Vitex agnus-castus, is a gentle yet powerful balancing herb for the endocrine system – aka your hormones. As one of the herbs we meet and discuss in our Roots of Herbalism course, and our Home Study version of that program, as well as an herb that grows well in…

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