My Dirt Time The Adventures of Tom Sciacca

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Curly Dock / Yellow Dock

"Can you help me identify this plant from my bike ride Friday?"

Answer: Curly Dock / Yellow Dock

Facts as borrowed from Wildman Steve Brill:

Long, lance-shaped, hairless leaves with very wavy margins radiating from a common center in early spring makes this species distinct. In mid-spring, curly dock grows one- to five-foot tall spikes encircled by dense clusters of tiny, inconspicuous, green flowers, giving way to dense clusters of hard, reddish fruit. It grows in fields, on disturbed soil, along roadsides, and near the seashore.

The highly nutritious, lemony flavored young leaves are excellent raw or cooked in early spring, as are the leaves on the flower stalk and the peeled flower stalk in mid-spring. People boil the long yellow taproot and drink the bitter tea to detoxify and to help liver or skin ailments.

This medium-sized tree has oval, serrated leaves sometimes partially divided into lobes. In late spring or early summer, thousands of dark purple, white, or pink (depending on species) soft, sticky, ripe berries make a big mess on the sidewalks, fields, or roadsides. They look like elongated blackberries (which are stalkless, thorny bushes) hanging from a short, slender stalk. Shake the branches over a drop cloth and harvest a bonanza. Discard debris, rinse, and add to any berry recipe, along with some lemon juice for tartness; or freeze for future months.

Not a plant but a fungus, hen-of-the-woods belongs to the family of polypore mushrooms, which are shelf shaped, grow on wood (on which the fungus feeds), and have many tiny holes (pores) underneath their caps.

The clustered, overlapping grayish-brown, lateral spoon- or fan-shaped caps grow three-quarters of an inch to 2-3/4 inches wide, arising from short white stalks that branch from the base. The surface of the tiny pores under the caps is whitish. The spores, which you can collect on paper under a bowl, are also white. With no poisonous look-alikes, hen-of-the-woods grows on the base of oak trees in autumn.

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