Edible and Poisonous Wild Plants in Alaska

Edible Wild and Poisonous Plants in AlaskaAlaska offers countless opportunities to forage for wild edible plants. When foraging anywhere, know that many plants can resemble others that are poisonous, so it is essential that you identify a plant before attempting to eat it. Using regional guidebooks is advised.

By the Shore

Alaska has a lot of shoreline. If you are foraging in southeastern Alaska there will be many plants right at your fingertips when you walk on the beach or pull up to a beach on your kayak. Beach greens, oysterleaf, beach pea, bladderwrack, bull kelp, dulse, goosetongue, glasswort, nori algae, lovage, orach, roseroot, ribbon kelp (pictured above) and sea lettuce are all edible plants you may find on the shore.

Wildflowers

spring beauty flower

Some flowers are not only beautiful but make a pretty addition to salads, stews or cake decorations. Many of their petals and leaves are rich in nutrients such as vitamin C; one wild violet has approximately one daily adult dose of vitamin C. In addition look for fireweed, goldenrod, wild geranium, monkeyflower, mountain sorrel, nagoonberry blossoms, saxifrage, spring beauty (pictured above) and columbine. Chocolate lilies, also called northern rice root, are dug up for their bulbs, which look like a small cluster of white rice. All of these flowers can be found in southeastern and south-central Alaska and into the Aleutians. Fireweed and golderod are found all over Alaska and into the Yukon. Spring beauty may be found all the way to the Arctic.

Berries

Cloudberry

Berries are an all-time favorite to collect in the wild for those who live or travel in Alaska. They are sweet, sometimes sour, and can be used in jams, pies, pasties, breads, ice creams, granola, in smoothies or of course eaten plain. Bog cranberry, low-bush cranberry (lingonberry), high-bush cranberry, bunchberry, watermelon berry, cloudberry (pictured above), nagoonberry, raspberry, bog blueberry, crowberry, northern black currant or trailing black currant and juniper are berries that can be found in the majority of inhabited places in Alaska. Some berries are more specific to the rain forest region of southeastern Alaska such as the delicious red huckleberries, rosy twisted stalk, sitka mountain ash, red elderberry (along the gulf as well), wild strawberry, western crab apple, trailing raspberry, salmonberry, thimbleberry, Alaska blueberry and early blueberry (along the gulf as well) and salal.

Poisonous Plants

The only poisonous berry plant in Alaska is the deadly baneberry. Do not be fooled, this plant may look enticing with its bright red cluster of berries (it can also have white berries), but eat it and you could die of cardiac arrest. It is found in moist, shady forest, along streams or in open woods in southern parts of Alaska. Luckily its properties make it very bitter, so a child is more likely to spit it out than swallow it.
False hellebore, another extremely poisonous plant, likes moist meadows and forest openings. Though a member of the Lily family, all parts of this broad-leafed plant will make you very ill if eaten. It is easy to confuse it with twisted stalk.
Arrowgrass, death camas, monkshood, water hemlock, devil's club and wild calla are also poisonous. Never eat anything you pick in the wild unless you are 100 percent sure it is safe.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.

FREE UPDATES

Subscribe

We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.