Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest

[ Texas ]

Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest

Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona

By Delena Tull

Illustrations by Michael Earney, Julia Larke, Judy Teague, Suzanne Rippe

Photographs by George Oxford Miller

Now expanded to cover more plants of New Mexico and Arizona, here is the most complete guide to edible and useful Southwestern plants, including recipes, teas and spices, natural dyes, medicinal uses, poisonous plants, fibers, basketry, and industrial uses.

July 2013


33% website discount price


5.5 x 8 | 500 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-74827-9

All around us there are wild plants useful for food, medicine, and clothing, but most of us don’t know how to identify or use them. Delena Tull amply supplies that knowledge in this book, which she has now expanded to more thoroughly address plants found in New Mexico and Arizona, as well as Texas.

Extensively illustrated with black-and-white drawings and color photos, this book includes the following special features:

  • Recipes for foods made from edible wild plants
  • Wild teas and spices
  • Wild plant dyes, with instructions for preparing the plants and dyeing wool, cotton, and other materials
  • Instructions for preparing fibers for use in making baskets, textiles, and paper
  • Information on wild plants used for making rubber, wax, oil, and soap
  • Information on medicinal uses of plants
  • Details on hay fever plants and plants that cause rashes
  • Instructions for distinguishing edible from poisonous berries
  • Detailed information on poisonous plants, including poison ivy, oak, and sumac, as well as herbal treatments for their rashes

List of Photographs

List of Illustrations

Preface to the Revised Edition



What's in This Book

Vegetation Regions

Why Use Botanical Terminology?

1. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the Southwest

Cautions and Notes on Using Wild Edibles

Why Bother with Wild Foods?

Native Plants for Agriculture

Grazing from the Wild: Tips and Precautions

Edible and Useful Wild Plants by Family, Including Recipes

Alismataceae--Water-plantain Family

Arrowhead--Sagittaria Species

Amaranthaceae--Amaranth Family

Amaranth--Amaranthus Species

Lamb's-quarters--Chenopodium Species

Orach, Four-wing Saltbush--Atriplex Species

Tumbleweed--Salsola Species

Amaryllidaceae--Amaryllis Family

Onion, Garlic, Chives--Allium Species

Anacardiaceae--Sumac Family

Sumac--Rhus Species

Asparagaceae--Asparagus Family

Agave, Lechuguilla, Mescal--Agave Species

Beargrass--Nolina Species

Blue Camass--Camassia scilloides

Sotol--Dasylirion Species

Yucca--Yucca Species

Asteraceae--Composite Family, Sunflower Family

Chicory--Cichorium intybus

Dandelion--Taraxacum officinale

Goldenrod--Solidago odora

Lettuce--Lactuca Species

Ragweed--Ambrosia trifida

Sow Thistle--Sonchus Species

Sunflower--Helianthus Species

Maximilian Sunflower--Helianthus maximiliani

Thistle--Cirsium Species

Bixaceae--Lipsticktree Family

Yellow Show, Saiya--Amoreuxia Species

Boraginaceae--Borage Family

Sandfood--Pholisma Species

Cactaceae--Cactus Family

Cholla--Cylindropuntia Species

Tasajillo--Cylindropuntia leptocaulis

Prickly Pear--Opuntia Species

Saguaro Cactus--Carnegiea gigantea

Strawberry Cactus--Echinocereus stramineus, Echinocereus enneacanthus

Caryophyllaceae--Pink Family

Chickweed--Stellaria media

Cleomaceae--Caper Family

Bee Plant--Cleome Species

Clammyweed--Polanisia dodecandra

Commelinaceae--Spiderwort Family

Dayflower--Commelina Species

Spiderwort--Tradescantia Species

Crassulaceae--Orpine Family

Sedum, Stonecrop--Sedum Species

Cucurbitaceae--Gourd Family

Buffalo Gourd--Cucurbita foetidissima

Cyperaceae--Sedge Family

Nut-grass--Cyperus Species

Euphorbiaceae--Spurge Family

Bull Nettle--Cnidoscolus texanus

Cassava--Manihot Species

Noseburn--Tragia Species

Fabaceae--Legume Family

Acacia, Huisache, Catclaw--Acacia Species

Alfalfa--Medicago sativa

Black Locust--Robinia pseudoacacia

Desert Ironwood--Olneya tesota

Groundnut--Apios americana

Hog Peanut--Amphicarpaea bracteata

Honey Locust--Gleditsia triacanthos

Indian Breadroot, Scurf Pea--Pediomelum Species

Kudzu--Pueraria Species

Mesquite, Tornillo--Prosopis Species

Redbud--Cercis canadensis

Retama--Parkinsonia aculeata

Tepary Bean--Phaseolus acutifolius

Fagaceae--Beech Family

Oak--Quercus Species

Fouquieriaceae--Ocotillo Family

Ocotillo--Fouquieria splendens

Juglandaceae--Walnut Family

Hickory--Carya Species

Pecan--Carya illinoinensis

Walnut--Juglans Species

Lamiaceae--Mint Family

Henbit--Lamium amplexicaule

Liliaceae--Lily Family

Lily--Lilium Species

Golden Mariposa Lily, Sego Lily--Calochortus Species

Spanish Bayonet--Hesperoyucca whipplei

Loasaceae--Eveningstar Family

Blazing Star--Mentzelia Species

Malvaceae--Mallow Family

Turk's Cap--Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Martyniaceae--Unicorn Plant Family

Devil's Claw--Proboscidea Species

Nelumbonaceae--Lotus Family

Lotus--Nelumbo lutea

Nymphaeaceae--Water-lily Family

Spatterdock--Nuphar lutea

Water-lily--Nymphaea odorata

Onagraceae--Evening Primrose Family

Showy Evening Primrose--Oenothera speciosa

Orobanchaceae--Broom-rape Family

Broom-rape--Orobanche Species

Oxalidaceae--Wood Sorrel Family

Wood Sorrel--Oxalis Species

Pinaceae--Pine Family

Piñon--Pinus Species

Plantaginaceae--Plantain Family

Plantain--Plantago Species

Poaceae--Grass Family

Carrizo--Arundo donax

Giant Cane--Arundinaria gigantea

Reed--Phragmites australis

Polygonaceae--Knotweed Family

Dock, Canaigre--Rumex Species

Pontederiaceae--Pickerelweed Family

Pickerelweed--Pontederia cordata

Water Hyacinth--Eichhornia crassipes

Portulacaceae--Purslane Family

Purslane--Portulaca Species

Rubiaceae--Madder Family

Bedstraw--Galium aparine

Smilacaceae--Greenbriar Family

Greenbriar--Smilax bona-nox

Typhaceae--Cattail Family

Cattail--Typha Species

Urticaceae--Nettle Family

Pellitory--Parietaria Species

Stinging Nettle--Urtica Species

Violaceae--Violet Family

Violet--Viola Species

Xanthorrhoeaceae--Grass Tree Family

Day Lily--Hemerocallis fulva

2. Plants as Medicine

3. Teas and Spices


Alfalfa--Medicago sativa--Fabaceae

Basswood--Tilia Species--Malvaceae

Bee Balm--Monarda Species--Lamiaceae

Bee Brush--Aloysia gratissima--Verbenaceae

Blackberry, Dewberry--Rubus Species--Rosaceae

Catnip--Nepeta cataria--Lamiaceae

Clover--Trifolium Species--Fabaceae

Goldenrod--Solidago odora--Asteraceae

Greenthread--Thelesperma Species--Asteraceae

Horehound--Marrubium vulgare--Lamiaceae

Limoncillo--Pectis Species--Asteraceae

Limoncillo--Hedeoma Species--Lamiaceae

Mormon Tea--Ephedra antisyphilitica--Ephedraceae

Mullein--Verbascum thapsus--Scrophulariaceae

Peppermint--Mentha piperita--Lamiaceae

Persimmon--Diospyros virginiana--Ebenaceae

Prairie Tea--Croton monanthogynus--Euphorbiaceae

Redroot--Ceanothus americanus--Rhamnaceae

Rose--Rosa Species--Rosaceae

Sage--Salvia Species--Lamiaceae

Sassafras--Sassafras albidum--Lauraceae

Spearmint--Mentha spicata--Lamiaceae

Strawberry--Fragaria Species--Rosaceae

Yarrow--Achillea millefolium--Asteraceae

Yaupon--Ilex vomitoria--Aquifoliaceae


Chile Pequín--Capsicum annuum--Solanaceae

Epazote--Chenopodium ambrosioides--Amaranthaceae

Juniper, Cedar--Juniperus Species--Cupressaceae

Knotweed--Polygonum aviculare--Polygonaceae

Mintweed--Lippia graveolens--Verbenaceae

Mustard--Brassica Species--Brassicaceae

Onion, Garlic--Allium Species--Amaryllidaceae

Peppergrass--Lepidium Species--Brassicaceae

Red Bay--Persea borbonia--Lauraceae

Shepherd's Purse--Capsella bursa-pastoris--Brassicaceae

Spicebush--Lindera benzoin--Lauraceae

Sweet Bay--Magnolia virginiana--Magnoliaceae

Watercress--Nasturtium officinale--Brassicaceae

Wax Myrtle--Myrica cerifera--Myricaceae

Wormwood--Artemisia ludoviciana--Asteraceae

4. Edible and Poisonous Berries and Other Fleshy Fruits

Key to Southwestern Plants with Edible or Poisonous Fruits

Poisonous Fruit

Blue, Purple, or Black Fruit: Toxic

Cherry--Prunus Species--Rosaceae

Coyotillo--Karwinskia humboldtiana--Rhamnaceae

Eve's Necklace--Styphnolobiumaffine--Fabaceae

Juniper, Cedar--Juniperus Species--Cupressaceae

Lantana--Lantana Species--Verbenaceae

Ligustrum--Ligustrum Species--Oleaceae

Nightshade--Solanum americanum--Solanaceae

Poke--Phytolacca americana--Phytolaccaceae

Virginia Creeper--Parthenocissus quinquefolia--Vitaceae

Red Fruit: Toxic

Coralito--Rivina humilis--Phytolaccaceae

Holly, Yaupon--Ilex Species--Aquifoliaceae

Jerusalem-cherry--Solanum pseudocapsicum--Solanaceae

Snailseed--Cocculus carolinus--Menispermaceae

Wahoo--Euonymus Species--Celastraceae

Yellow, Cream, or White Fruit: Toxic

Chinaberry--Melia azederach--Meliaceae

Mistletoe--Phoradendron Species--Santalaceae

Nightshade, Silverleaf Nightshade--Solanum elaeagnifolium--Solanaceae

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac--Toxicodendron Species--Anacardiaceae

Soapberry--Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii--Sapindaceae

Tallow Tree--Triadica sebifera--Euphorbiaceae

Fruits with Unknown Toxicity: Avoid Eating Them

American Beauty-berry--Callicarpa americana--Lamiaceae

Ampelopsis, Heartleaf--Ampelopsis cordata--Vitaceae

Carolina Buckthorn--Frangula caroliniana--Rhamnaceae

Dogwood--Cornus Species--Cornaceae

Elbow-bush--Forestiera pubescens--Oleaceae

Greenbriar--Smilax Species--Smilacaceae

Hercules' Club--Aralia spinosa--Araliaceae

Honeysuckle--Lonicera Species--Caprifoliaceae

Indian Strawberry--Duchesnea indica--Rosaceae

Peppervine--Ampelopsis arborea--Vitaceae

Edible Fruit

Standard Jelly and Jam Recipes

Blue, Purple, or Black Fruit: Edible

Blackberry, Dewberry--Rubus Species--Rosaceae

Blackhaw, Rusty Blackhaw, Withe Rod--Viburnum Species--Adoxaceae

Blueberry, Whortleberry, Farkleberry--Vaccinium Species--Ericaceae

Brasil--Condalia hookeri--Rhamnaceae

Cherry, Black Cherry, Chokecherry--Prunus Species--Rosaceae

Coma, Gum Bumelia--Sideroxylon lanuginosum--Sapotaceae

Currant--Ribes Species--Grossulariaceae

Elderberry--Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis--Adoxaceae

Grape--Vitis Species--Vitaceae

Mulberry--Morus Species--Moraceae


California Fan Palm--Washingtonia filifera

Sabal Palm, Texas Palmetto--Sabal mexicana

Persimmon, Texas Persimmon--Diospyros texana--Ebenaceae

Prickly Pear Cactus--Opuntia Species--Cactaceae

Serviceberry--Amelanchier Species--Rosaceae

Brown Fruit: Edible

Pawpaw--Asimina triloba--Annonaceae

Green Fruit: Edible

Crab Apple--Malus Species--Rosaceae

Red, Orange, or Yellow Fruit: Edible

Agarita, Barberry--Mahonia Species--Berberidaceae

Anacua--Ehretia anacua--Boraginaceae

Buffaloberry--Shepherdia argentea--Elaeagnaceae

Chile Pequín--Capsicum annuum--Solanaceae

Desert Yaupon--Schaefferia cuneifolia--Celastraceae

Hackberry--Celtis Species--Cannabaceae

Hawthorn--Crataegus Species--Rosaceae

Jujube--Ziziphus jujuba--Rhamnaceae

Madrone--Arbutus xalapensis--Ericaceae

Mayapple--Podophyllum peltatum--Berberidaceae

Passionflower--Passiflora incarnata--Passifloraceae

Persimmon--Diospyros virginiana--Ebenaceae

Plum--Prunus Species--Rosaceae

Pyracantha--Pyracantha coccinea--Rosaceae

Rose--Rosa Species--Rosaceae

Strawberry--Fragaria Species--Rosaceae

Sumac--Rhus Species--Anacardiaceae

Tomatillo--Physalis Species--Solanaceae

Turk's Cap--Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii--Malvaceae

Wolfberry, Desert-thorn, Matrimony Vine--Lycium Species--Solanaceae

White Fruit: Edible

White Mulberry--Morus alba--Moraceae

5. Poisonous and Harmful Plants

First Aid for Toxic Plant Ingestion

Plant Poisoning: Dispelling Some Myths about Poisonous Plants

Who Is Affected by Plant Poisonings?

Livestock Poisoning

The Toxins in Plants

Toxic Wild Plants by Family

Amaryllidaceae, Iridaceae, Liliaceae--Amaryllis, Iris, and Lily Families

Apiaceae--Carrot Family

Poison Hemlock--Conium maculatum

Water Hemlock--Cicuta maculata

Apocynaceae--Dogbane Family

Dogbane, Indian Hemp--Apocynum Species

Milkweed--Asclepias Species

Araceae--Arum Family

Asteraceae--Composite Family, Sunflower Family

Fabaceae--Legume Family

Black Locust--Robinia pseudoacadia

Bluebonnet, Lupine--Lupinus Species

Coral Bean--Erythrina herbacea

Devil's Shoestring--Tephrosia virginiana

Locoweed, Milk Vetch--Astragalus Species

Mescal Bean--Sophora secundiflora

Rattlebush--Sesbania Species

Singletary Pea, Sweetpea--Lathyrus Species

Wisteria--Wisteria Species

Gelsemiaceae--Jessamine Family

Jasmine--Gelsemium sempervirens


Death Camus--Zigadenus Species

Phytolaccaceae--Pokeweed Family

Coralito--Rivina humilis

Poke--Phytolacca americana

Rosaceae--Rose Family

Sapindaceae--Soapberry Family

Buckeye, Horse-chestnut--Aesculus Species

Mexican Buckeye--Ungnadia speciosa

Solanaceae--Nightshade Family

Jerusalem-cherry--Solanum pseudocapsicum

Jessamine--Cestrum Species

Jimsonweed--Datura Species

Nightshade, Silverleaf--Solanum elaeagnifolium

Tobacco--Nicotiana Species

Toxic Ornamental Houseplants and Yard Plants: The Enemy Within

Poisons in the Garden and the Kitchen

Rashes, Itches, and Stings

Contact Dermatitis

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac--Toxicodendron Species

Pollen Dermatitis


Irritant Dermatitis

Chemical Irritants

Mechanical Irritants

Stinging Nettles

Hay Fever Plants--Pollen Allergies



Spring and Summer

6. Mushrooms: To Eat or Not to Eat

7. Colorful Dyes with Southwestern Plants

Vegetable Dyes: A Historical Perspective

Dyes Today: Synthetic versus Vegetable Dyes

Fibers for Dyeing

Factors that Influence Dye Colors

Pigments from Plants



Dyeing Techniques

Plants for Dyes

How Much Should I Collect?

What Plant Parts Should I Use?

Kitchen and Garden Dyes


Procedures for Dyeing Wool and Other Fibers


Preparing the Plant Material for the Dye Pot

Preparing the Wool

Dyeing the Wool

Simmer Dyeing

Solar Dyeing

Cold-water Fermentation

Final Tips on Dyeing with Plants

Vegetable Dye Recipes

Symbol Key

Plant Species Used for Dyes

8. Fibers and Baskets from Southwestern Plants

Plants for Basketmaking

Preparation of Plants

Textile Fibers

Extracting Fibers: Retting and Scutching

Fibers Attached to Seeds

Dyeing Plant Fibers


9. Rubber, Wax, Oil, and Soap: Industrial Resources

Appendix: Fifty Important Plants




List of Photographs

List of Illustrations



Delena Tull is an environmental science educator and naturalist. A twenty-year resident of Central Texas, she holds a Ph.D. in science education from the University of Texas at Austin.