By Brenda Boonzaijer
Plants and animals are important for many reasons; and the more variety, the better, because many organisms have uses that are still unknown to scientist. Others still have uses unknown to most people, so I hope to share those with you in this blog post. Even the plants and animals right here in North Eastern North America and Pelee Island can be used in medicine, food, tools, aesthetics, and more.
Even a weed, that most people spray Round-Up on when they find it in their driveway, is the most medically significant native plant in our area. North American Plantain can stop the sting of insect bites if you crush it in the palm of your hand, blood sugar can be regulated if drink a tea out of it, rubbing a salve on a poison ivy rash will stop the itch and spread. I have used plantain myself as a disinfectant on cuts and applied to mosquito bites on people on my tour to stop the itch. However, I wouldn’t recommend eating plantain for fun, there are other plants for that if you are feeling adventurous.
Many tourists have been amazed by the variety of edible greens I have showed them including garlic mustard, wild grape, honey locust trees, mulberry trees, wild blackberry, selfheal, and fragrant sumac. Not to mention all the animals; muskrats actually used to be the main food source of the first explorers to Pelee island. Walking through Pelee’s nature reserves you wouldn’t get lost, but if you did, you wouldn’t starve either!
Some of the plants can be a food and a tool. One example of this is the Sumac tree. The flowers can be made into a tasty tea (with caution, some people are allergic) but the stem can be made into a whistle, due to the incredible soft inner wood it has that can easily be poked out with a nail. Another historically useful tree is the native Blue Ash. A threatened species and listed as special concern in the Ontario Endangered Species Act, a dark dye can be extracted from the Blue Ash’s inner bark and used as an ink or dye. Like many other trees, it can also be used in construction.
Lastly, even if we don’t know a use for the fauna or flora, it can still be very aesthetically pleasing. Examples include the impressive Great Egret, delicate Prairie Rose, and fabulous Grey Headed Coneflower.
As you can see, there are plenty of uses for the flora and fauna found in Eastern North America ranging from nutrition and health to beauty. However, there are still many unidentified species as well. On Pelee Island those species are especially in the worlds of insects and snails, and they could hold incredible secrets!