Plant Gallery

Edible & Medicinal Plants used by the Plain's Native Americans

The images in our plant gallery are a small sample taken from our DVD set entitled "Identification and Usage of Plants as practised by the Plains Native Americans". The Native Americans relied heavily on plants for edible, medicinal, as well as utilitarian uses, and were well versed in their identification and usage. We are just beginning in our contemporary world to realize, re-discover, and understand, some of the tremendous values of the plants that the Native Americans knew long ago.

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(click on the pictures below for an enlarged image)

Morel Mushroom

A very tasty spring treat. One of the easiest to identify of all mushrooms by its sponge-like and hollow head. They were boiled and also dried for excellent keeping qualities.

Morel Mushroom

The morel mushroom split in half to show it's hollow identification characteristic

Wild Onion

The wild onion is distinguished by tubular leaves and a characteristic onion odor from the bulb. The umbel or flowering head is at the top of the plant. Was used raw or in stews. Crushed bulb was used for insect bites.

Wild Onion Bulb

The bulb of the wild onion with the mesh-like skin covering. CAUTION! Do not eat if it lacks the characteristic onion odor as could be poisonous Death Camas

Purple Prairie Clover

The leaves were used to make an excellent hot tea and the stems were used as brooms by the Native Americans.

Prickly Pear Cactus with fruit

The pads are edible after burning and peeling the skin and spines. The fruit which ripen in the fall, although seedy, are very sweet, and taste something like a cross between a Kiwi and a Watermelon. The juice was also used as a type of varnish over the paintings on parfleche bags.

Puccoon Plant

The root of this plant produces one of the best red dyes in the Plains region.

Puccoon Plant Root

The root, flower head, and an arrow crested with the dye of the Puccoon.

Water Hemlock

CAUTION! One of the most deadly plants in North America. A member of the parsley family which includes the Wild Carrot, Dill, and Wild Parsnip. People have died mistaking Water Hemlock and Poison Hemlock for Wild Dill or Parsnip. Best to stay away from this family entirely!

Water Hemlock Leaves

Very similar to its close relative the Water Parsnip.CAUTION! extremely poisonous!

Water Hemlock Leaves

The only member of the Parsley family in which the side veins radiate to the inside notch of the sawtooth edge on the leaf. "Vein to the cut, will really hurt your gut".

Wild Parsnip and Poison Parsnip Roots

Found these growing side by side. One will kill you and one is edible. Want to guess which is which? The plants look very similar as do the roots. Don't bet your life on a guess! NEVER utilize wild plants for food unless you are with an experienced forager with years of experience.

Prickly Poppy

The Lakota called this plant, "thistle used to dye arrows yellow".

Prickly Poppy juice

The yellow juice from the cut stem of the Prickly Poppy


Has a high tannin content which helps constrict blood vessels in the control of bleeding. The powdered leaves and flowers were snuffed to help control nosebleeds. Was used during the Civil War where it was called Soldier's Woundwort.

Lakota Arrow dyed yellow

A replica Lakota arrow dyed yellow with the juice of the Prickly Poppy

Parfleche Bag

A replica Lakota parfleche bag made from elk rawhide, painted with natural pigments using a wooden stick. Bag sized with juice from prickly pear cactus.