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Edible Plants

Chocolate Lily, Vancouver Island, BC
Chocolate Lily, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Vancouver Island has many choice edible plants that can be harvested from the wild. Some plants are very healthy and some can add a flavor to your table that can not be bought. But please be careful when gathering wild food as some may not agree with you and some can make you quite ill. Some plants can be confused with inedible or poisonous plants so be sure you know what you’ve harvested before eating any wild plant. There are many great field guides for edible plants, so find a decent one for your area and take it out with you.

Don’t overharvest a single species in one location and never harvest endangered species. Only take what you need. Even though a plant may be edible, its flavor may not be to your liking so before harvesting a plant that is new to you, gather a little and try it out beforehand.

Be careful about gathering wild plants in areas that have been sprayed with pesticides, or in areas where you don’t know if spraying has occurred. I don’t gather wild plants along any main roads because dirt and pollution from exhaust fumes can contaminate the plants. So get your book and head out into the field, you will have fun, learn about plants and get healthy from the plants and the walk in the forest.

Camas, Vancouver Island, BC
Camas, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan


Bedstraw, Vancouver Island, BCYou can use all parts of this plant, collect it for food before fruiting but let grow until seeds are produced if using as a coffee substitute.  Bedstraw is also known as cleavers. It is a very valuable plant, a tonic made from cleavers is great for the lymph system. As a lymphatic tonic, it can be safely used as a lymphatic tonic, and it works on a wide range of problems where the lymph system is involved, works especially well on tonsillitis and adenoid trouble. Read More….




Camas, Vancouver Island, BCCamas bulbs were at one time, well-used by the first people of the south coast, it was a staple in their diet. A Camas plant has grass-like leaves and a tall stalk of flowers, but it’s the bulb that is consumed. The bulbs have a densely packed center covered in a black to brown tunic. They are up to 3.5 cm across and up to five cm long. They usually grow as single bulbs, but sometimes you will find clusters. Read More….




Cattail, Vancouver Island, BCCattails grow in just about every pond and lake, including most roadside ditches on the BC coast. You can’t miss a cattail stand with its brown, tube-shaped heads sitting at the top of very long stalks. In the spring, the sword-like leaves, with parallel veins, resemble other wetland plants, but last year’s stalks will still be there to provide positive identification. Read More….



Common Chickweed

Common Chickweed, Vancouver Island, BCCommon Chickweed is an annual herb, widespread on the coast of BC, but it originated in the Middle East. The plant has pioneered itself all over the world. They are as numerous in species as they are in the region. Most have white flowers, and all have the same edible and medicinal uses. Did you know that every night the leaves fold over the flowers? Read More….



Chocolate Lily

Chocolate Lily, Vancouver Island, BCWhen hiking around on the BC coast, It is always a pleasure to run into a patch of chocolate lily flowers, they are such a pretty flower. It grows from white bulbs that resemble small, rice grains and usually flowers in the spring. The flowers of the plant are similar, in shape, to those of the harebell, in that the flowers hang from a tall stem. The flower has six petals that are a purple to brown color with spots of green. Read More….



Clasping Twisted Stalk

Clasping Twisted Stalk, Vancouver Island, BCThe clasping twisted stalk was used as a food plant by the first peoples of the Pacific Northwest and as a medicine. The tender young shoots of this plant were eaten by the first peoples as a salad green. The entire plant is sweet with a cucumber-like flavor. The plant was referred to by early settlers of the Pacific Northwest coast as the wild cucumber and as scoot berries for the mildly laxative effects of the plants’ berries if they are eaten in excessive quantities. Read More….



Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead Ferns, Vancouver Island, BCOn the BC coast, we have two good Fiddle head Ferns, the sword fern and the deer fern. Both produce great Fiddle Heads. A Fiddlehead is a young fern whose end is still curled in a tight spiral. This spiral shape reminds many people of a fiddle, hence the name. They are ready to harvest in early spring, they are delicious as a main course or as a side dish. The flavor has been described as similar to green beans with a hint of artichoke. Read More….


Pacific Water Parsley

Pacific Water Parsley, Vancouver Island, BCPacific Water Parsley grows all over the coast of BC. This plant is part of the carrot family. This plant can reach heights up to 65 cm in height, branching occasionally. The light green stems are hairless and are erect, but sometimes sprawl. The flowering period runs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts up to 8 weeks. The compound clumps of flowers are produced during this time period. Read More….


Pink Fawn Lily

Pink Fawn Lily, Vancouver Island, BCThe Pink Fawn Lily is a perennial herb that grows over most of the BC coast. It grows from a narrowly egg-shaped, 3 to 5 cm long bulb attached to a chain of rhizome segments. The flowering stems are up to 35 cm tall and smooth. The basal leaves are dull dark green mottled with brown or white. They are up to 20 cm long, smooth, gradually narrowed to short, broad, narrowly winged stalk. Read More….



Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage, Vancouver Island, BCSkunk Cabbage smells like a skunk. It is a member of the arum family. It has large, cabbage-like leaves, surrounding a bright yellow flower along with a disagreeable smell. (I kinda like it though) The large tuberous rootstock produces fleshy roots and heart-shaped, cabbage-like leaves on thick leafstalks. Numerous small, purple flowers grow on a small, oval, fleshy spike covered by a purple and yellowish-green, hood. Read More….



Spiny Wood Fern

Spiny Wood Fern, Vancouver Island, BCThe spiny wood fern’s fronds are clustered, erect, and spreading to 1 m tall. The rhizomes are stout and covered with brown scales. The fronds are scaly at the base with the blades being broadly triangular too egg-shaped to broadly oblong. They like to grow in moist forests, shaded open areas, and scree slopes from low elevations to subalpine in the Pacific Northwest. Read More….



Stinging Nettles

Stinging Nettles, Vancouver Island, BCStinging nettle is the name given to common nettle or garden nettle, and hybrids of these two plants. Originally from the colder regions of Northern Europe and Asia, this herbaceous shrub grows all over the world today. Stinging nettle grows well in nitrogen-rich soil, blooms between June and September, and reaches up to 2 meters high. Read More….



Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger, Vancouver Island, BCWild ginger is a native North American perennial found growing in moist rich soils in shady woodlands on the Coast. It prefers a rich moist neutral to acidic soil in a shady woodland setting. It grows up by Buttle Lake, along the Ralph River. The large heart or kidney-shaped leaves are hairy, dark green, and deeply indented at the stem they grow in opposite pairs to a height of up to 30 cm. Read More….


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5 thoughts on “Edible Plants”

  1. Thank you for the good read!

    I passed many Spiny Wood Ferns on my walk in Ladysmith this morning.
    I’ve seen a few great places for Skunk Cabbage as well.

    Can’t wait to search for the rest.


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