List of Edible Wild Plants in North Carolina

List of Edible Wild Plants in North CarolinaFrom the sweep of its Atlantic coastal region to the heights of the Blue Ridge in its west, North Carolina is a state of enormously varying ecosystems supporting a vast range of plant life. The North Carolina wilderness has an abundance of edible plants--some familiar and some surprising--to support you on the trail or to enjoy at home.

Using these plants requires caution. They may have toxic look-alikes, or be toxic themselves at various times of year. Always educate yourself before consuming any wild plant.


The first Europeans to arrive at North Carolina's Roanoke Island with Sir Walter Raleigh might not have survived as long as they did without the groundnut vine, which also fed the pilgrims of Plymouth Colony. The Handbook of Edible Weeds says groundnuts are common in marshes and damp areas. Identify them from their brown dried stems winding through bushes and trees. They're delicious both raw and roasted.
The plants also produce beans that can be cooked immediately when green, or soaked overnight before cooking if dried. Groundnuts occur throughout the state.
If you're in North Carolina there's a kudzu vine somewhere nearby. In the spring its new shoots make good salad greens. Use the dried ground tubers to thicken soups. The leaves can be boiled, steamed or even fried. Stick with kudzu growing away from the roadsides where it hasn't been sprayed with weed killer.



Cattails' leaves are similar to those of poisonous blue and yellow flag irises. Identify them by the cigar-shaped seed spikes for which they're named. The spikes are edible in the spring and summer, eaten raw or fried. They also produce pollen, which can substitute for flour, in the summer.
The peeled stalks contain edible pulp. Cattail roots harvested in winter are tough but can be roasted and peeled for a carbohydrate and B vitamin source.

Spring Beauty (pictured above)

Officially known as Claytonia Virginica, these pink and white blossoms fill the North Carolina woods with their springtime perfume. Their new leaves make excellent salads and their baked tubers marvelous potato substitutes. The tubers are extremely small, however, taking several plants to make a meal. Always replant the tiniest tubers to ensure the plants' survival.

Black Walnuts

The North Carolina Folk Life Institute says that wild black walnut trees love the growing conditions in sunny spots close to rivers and streams. In the fall their bright yellow-green hulled nuts can cover the ground. After gathering them, remove the hulls immediately by stamping them with your foot or crushing them with a hammer. Rinse the hulled nuts and let them to dry for 2 to 3 weeks before cracking them, again with a hammer or nutcracker.



Mulberry trees thrive in the North Carolina climate. In the late spring their branches are heavy with the fragile juicy berries. Picking the berries is messy because they crush so easily, so eat them straight off the tree. Boil the uncurled new leaves for a vegetable.
Avoid unripe berries, uncooked leaves and the water from the cooked leaves, all of which are toxic enough to cause hallucinations and severe headaches.

Article Written By Judy Wolfe

Judy Wolfe has owned her own writing business since 2006. She is a professional florist, holds a certificate in advanced floral design and had her Valentine's Day floral design published in "Super Floral Retailing." She spent her college summers tending her family's Santa Barbara avocado orchards. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from California State Polytechnic Univeristy in Pomona.

Don't Miss a Thing!

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



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.