Sap, Seasoning, and Tools: The many uses of the Bigleaf Maple

Sap, Seasoning, and Tools: The many uses of the Bigleaf Maple

Maples are often best known by the world for the sweet flowing sap that runs along its limbs in Spring and Summer. The Bigleaf Maple is largely considered the sweetest of west coast maples. It can be found growing in low to middle elevations along the southern coast of British Columbia and in the coastal regions of Washington State.

The industrious animal that helped create a nation: The North American Beaver (Castor canadensis)

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The industrious animal that helped create a nation: The North American Beaver (Castor canadensis)

The beaver is North America's largest rodent and is most often identified by its large visible front teeth and flattened, scaly tail. It is most valued for its fur, which spurred a large expansion of colonial activities across Canada and the United States through the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. This expansion almost saw the complete collapse of beaver populations across the continent, however, due to its history it was given protection and is now recognized as an emblem of Canada.

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The most expensive spice in the world: saffron- Crocus sativus

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The most expensive spice in the world: saffron- Crocus sativus

Saffron has been cultivated in Mediterranean countries and used by cultures all over the world for over 3000 years. It has many historical and contemporary uses besides colouring and spicing up European and Asian cuisine. Recorded uses include as a dye, a perfume, a cosmetic, and a medicinal herb used to treat eye problems, genitourinary infections and many other diseases.

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Leopards, witchcraft, and cryptozoology in Zanzibar

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Leopards, witchcraft, and cryptozoology in Zanzibar

Human-wildlife conflicts are common especially where people and carnivores live in close proximity. Narratives of sorcery and witchcraft surrounding large carnivores and other predatory animals are not uncommon in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, and in Zanzibar leopards that approach settlements and attack people are thought to be the agents of malevolent individuals’ nefarious plots. 

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The toothbrush tree (Salvadora persica)

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The toothbrush tree (Salvadora persica)

One day when I was out walking with my Maasai interpreter in Monduli District, Tanzania, he gave me a twig and he told me I could chew it to clean my teeth! I wasn't convinced, but it turns out I should more open-minded about my dental hygiene practices!

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Rubus parviflorus - Thimbleberry

Rubus parviflorus - Thimbleberry

Rubus parviflorus is an erect shrub that grows between 1 and 1.5 metres tall along the coast of Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. It is characterize by large, bright green, maple leaf-shaped leaves that are quite fuzzy to the touch. It was an important plant for Coastal First Nations and all aerial parts of Thimbleberry are edible. Parts of R. parviflorus also have traditional medicinal uses as well.

Lampetra tridentata-  Pacific lamprey

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Lampetra tridentata- Pacific lamprey

Pacific lamprey have a large mouth with three large sharp teeth, and adults parasitize other fish and sometimes whales. They are an important cultural food and medicine for peoples of the mid-Columbia River Plateau, and are also ecologically important in the coastal ecosystem they inhabit.

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Prunus africana - African Stinkwood

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Prunus africana - African Stinkwood

Prunus africana is an evergreen hardwood tree found in montane regions in Africa, which is harvested for timber, firewood, and medicine. Unfortunately, P.africana  is often harvested unsustainably from forests, and is listed in CITES Appendix 2.

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Liometopum apiculatum- Escamoles

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Liometopum apiculatum- Escamoles

Escamoles, the eggs of the velvety tree ant L. apiculatum, are a culturally important Mexican delicacy. They are gathered from the wild by escamoleros (escamole farmers), but knowledge of when, how and where to gather them is thought to be declining.  

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Chrysopogon zizanioides- Vetiver

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Chrysopogon zizanioides- Vetiver

Vetiver is a grass in the poaceae family. It comes from India where it is popularly known as khus, and is used for medicinal purposes and as a fragrance. It is also a very useful plant in the garden in warm climates.

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Ilex paraguariensis - Yerba Maté

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Ilex paraguariensis - Yerba Maté

Ilex paraguariensis is an evergreen tree native to subtropical South America, which is used to make a tea known as yerba maté, popular in South America with increasingly appreciated elsewhere.

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Samia cynthia - Eri silkworm

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Samia cynthia - Eri silkworm

Samia cynthia are domesticated for consumption in the larval and pupa stages but is most highly regarded for the cocoon, which is distinguished from other species by its elongated, soft wooly, white, and peduncleless characteristics. 

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Ilex aquifolium - European Holly

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Ilex aquifolium - European Holly

Identified by Linneaus,  European, or sometimes, English Holly is an evergreen tree or shrub, generally growing to a height of 10-15m and is known for its spiny leaves and its iconic red fruits. Often found in shaded oak forests and near beech hedges, it is quite an adaptable species and one of the first to sprout in clear-cut areas. Its high levels of caffeine has seen it be used in Germany’s Black Forest as a substitute for tea.

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Erithacus rubecula- European robin

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Erithacus rubecula- European robin

The European robin is an insectivorous, passerine bird with orange-red breast feathers. The Celtic and Anglo-Saxon peoples regarded the robin as the avian King of Winter—a contrast to the wren, the King of Summer.In a more modern context, there are many sports teams named after the redbreasted avian, citing the small bird’s agility.

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Nepenthes khasiana - Pitcher plant

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Nepenthes khasiana - Pitcher plant

Nepenthes khasiana is the only pitcher plant native to India. Like other carnivorous plants, N. khasiana gets its mineral nutrition from insects that fall into the pitcher-like trap. It is used in local medicine in north-east India, and is also an ornamental plant.

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Scarabaeus sacer - Scarab Beetle

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Scarabaeus sacer - Scarab Beetle

Scarabaeus sacer is a type of dung beetle that was sacred to the ancient Egyptians who likened it to Khepera, a deity of the sun god Ra. They also saw it as a symbol of regeneration and the afterlife. 

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Rhinanthus minor - Yellow Rattle

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Rhinanthus minor - Yellow Rattle

Yellow Rattle is an annual herbaceous flowering plant with vivid yellow flowers found throughout the British Isles, and has a widespread distribution in Europe and North America. It is a hemi-parasitic species that develops haustoria –a bridge from the water and nutrient store of the host to that of the hemi-parasite. Yellow Rattle increases biodiversity as it tends to attach to the roots of dominant grasses, suppressing their growth.

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Corucia zebrata - Prehensile-tailed Skink

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Corucia zebrata - Prehensile-tailed Skink

The Prehensile-tailed Skink measures around 75cm from head to tail and is found in the Solomon Islands archipelago. This culturally important totem species of arboreal lizard occupies the niche of a small monkey on continental forest ecosystems and is classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.

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