If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.

-David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia

Bird enthusiasts keep Bird Lists. Herb enthusiasts keep Herb lists. Last year, we did not have time to put in our usual vegetable garden so the plot of land that usually is full of veggies this time of year has been dormant. But, dormant, no, really, it is full of life! So many medicinal “weeds” have filled the space, it is amazing. Here is a short list of what we’ve found in this new plot (this does not include the rest of the yard or the herb gardens already in place): OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ragweed: Ambrosia tenuifolia (on the left) and Ambrosia trifida (on right)

Narrowleaf Ragweed – Ambrosia tenuifolia

Broadleaf Ragweed – Ambrosia trifida


Prunella vulgaris

Prunella/Self Heal/Heal All/All Heal – Prunella vulgaris

Plantago rugelii

Plantago major

Blackseed Plantain – Plantago rugelii
Broadleaf Plantain – Plantago major
Narrowleaf Plantain – Plantago lanceolata

Vicia villosa

Vicia villosa

Hairy Vetch – Vicia villosa


Lactuca virosa

Wild Lettuce – Lactuca virosa
Fleabane – Erigeron spp. (I haven’t keyed it out yet) Solidago spp.

Solidago spp.

Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis and related spp.

Violet – Viola sororia

Bistort – Persicaria bistorta syn. Polygonum bistorta
Lady’s Thumb – Persicaria maculosa syn. Polygonum persicaria

Red Clover – Trifolium pratense

Burdock – Arctium lappa

Lobelia – Lobelia inflata 

Abutilon theophrasti

Abutilon theophrasti

Velvet Leaf – Abutilon theophrasti

Cleavers – Gallium aparine

Chickweed – Stellaria spp.

Your list can be this simple or you may choose to make it more complex. Some ideas for your plant list is to group your plants by family and then list the plants by their botanical names. You might also wish to mark down if they are annuals, biennials or perennials. If including trees, coniferous or deciduous as well. If you want your list to be a continually expanding list, purchase a journal or notebook and dedicate it to your plant list. Reviewing each year’s list is a fun way to how your yard grows and changes over the years as well as how your knowledge base grows.

While we may not know all the medicinal uses or any of the medicinal uses of each of these plants, we do know that they all have value in their own way. Besides medicine, they are wonderful for attracting pollinators, feeding the bees and hummingbirds and fixing the soil for next year’s hopefully vegetable garden.

What’s on your Backyard Herb List?