The Hippo


Jul 4, 2020








Maria harvests herbs during one of her classes at Wintergreen Botanicals. Photo by Robin Carter.

Spring Herb Walk

When: Friday, May 15, 6 to 7:30 p.m. 
Where: Wintergreen Botanicals, Bear Brook State Park, Allenstown
Cost: Free. Register online to secure a spot.

A walk among herbs
Wintergreen Botanicals offers free spring herb walk

By Angie Sykeny

If you’re curious about which herbal treasures can be found in your own backyard, clinical herbalist Maria Noël Groves will be leading an informative herb walk on Friday, May 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at Wintergreen Botanicals in Allenstown. Walkers will learn the basics of how to identify, harvest and use herbs.

The walk will focus on common weeds,” Groves said, “things most people have in their yard, that you can harvest and grow for medicine and food.”

Groves will begin with some safety tips, encouraging walkers to do their research, listen to their bodies, check for medication interactions and always consult an ID guide before keying out a plant on site. She’ll recommend ID guides and herb books as well.

The walk itself will not be extensive, but rather a perusal around the yard and edge of the woods, covering 10 or so common springtime plants. Participants should consider bringing a notebook and/or camera to document their findings and get the most out of the walk.

Springtime is a great time to practice ID,” Groves said. “In the summer it can get overwhelming because there’s too many flowers everywhere, but in the spring, [plants] are distinctive and easy to identify.”

Some herbs the walkers may see include dandelions, used as a diuretic to detoxify the body; white pine, which treats respiratory infections, coughs and colds; St. John’s Wort, used for pain, topical healing and mild depression; horsetail, which is high in silica and strengthens skin, nails, hair and bones; and more.

Upon finding the plants, Groves will demonstrate how to dig them up or pick them to harvest their leaves, flowers and roots. She’ll also talk about the ethical responsibilities that come with harvesting plants from the wild.

A lot of weeds can be harvested whenever you want, but there are some that you don’t want to harvest in large quantities because of the environmental impact,” Groves said. “We have to remember they aren’t just for us. We need to share them with critters and other people and the environment.”

The main reason some plants are more susceptible to declining in numbers is that they are slow growing and can’t reproduce at the rate they are harvested. A few of these include partridgeberry, mayflower, ramps, goldthread and bugleweed. A good rule of thumb, Groves said, is to only harvest a plant that is abundant in that area, and no more than 10 percent of the plants.

Her advice to participants as they leave the walk is to educate themselves with herb literature, start in their yards to identify and harvest some beginner herbs, then progress to more advanced ones after they’ve grown comfortable with the process.

It can be overwhelming if you don’t know the plants already, but the good news is, you don’t need to be able to identify every plant,” she said. “You can start small with a few that are easy and safe.”

Groves has been working with herbs for 20 years and teaches about 100 classes a year in various New Hampshire locations, including the Massabesic New Hampshire Audubon center, Canterbury Shaker Village and Concord Food Co-op. Her practice, Wintergreen Botanicals, is an herbal clinic and education center located in the pine forests of Bear Brook State Park.

I think people have grown frustrated and distrustful of pharmaceutical conventions, so there’s an increased interest in the community right now for getting healthier using natural remedies,” she said. “This walk will be a good opportunity for people to see the natural world as a friend and gain more confidence in their ability to identify and use plants.”

As seen in the May 14, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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