Home page Forums Plant Identification Telling different pods apart from each other

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    • #7660
      PJ Ferguson
      Keymaster

      So… I’m posting this because I live in an area where culturally tamarind is a common part of people’s diet, lots of tamarind products on the grocery store shelves. There are also a lot of pod-bearing plants around that look like tamarind pods. I happened to have a very bad experience with a pod I assumed was probably safe, even if it wasn’t tamarind. It looked like tamarind on the outside but now (after studying more, something I should have done first) I know that the insides of tamarind look very different from what I tested. I didn’t even ingest the seed, I just cracked it in my mouth for flavor then spit it out. It made me very, very, very… very sick for a week.

      The culprit turned out to be Texas Mountain Laurel, photo of the pods below. A deathly poisonous plant. Since studying pods, I’ve noticed that a LOT of pods look very similar to each other so pods alone isn’t a good way to identify a plant. There are other important aspects to consider when identifying a plant or herb.

      Do you have some rules of thumb about identifying pods, plants, etc. before proceeding to any usage of it? And yes you can scold me for not clearly identifying a plant before putting it in my mouth like a 2-yr-old 🙂

      Texas Mountain Laurel

      • This topic was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by PJ Ferguson.
    • #7661

      Hello PJ!

      While I do caution my students to never ever put plants in their mouths unless they are 110% sure of the identification, I’ll go with your very scary experience being enough of a call out. Grace.

      If a person cannot take a person with them who has the knowledge of the local plants, such as a local botanist or herbalist with years of experience, a field guide for the area can come in at a close second. Field guides with pictures vs drawings must be used. While drawings are pretty, they will inherently reflect the artistic whims of the artist who drew them. A good field guide will show easily recognizable pictures of the plants, habitats, and the botany – leaf, root, flower, stems, flowers, growth habits, etc.

      My go-to publisher for field guides is Long Pine Publishing, although they seem to stick with PNW and Inland West field guides. Ask Uncle Google to show you some field guides of the area where you live. Most websites will show examples of a few pages, so you can take a look and see if it will suit your needs before purchasing.

      PS….a person who took one or two classes and calls themself an herbalist isn’t necessarily the person who will be able to be an adept guide. Having confidence in plant identification takes years of study.

      Glad you made it out on the living side!

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