May 2, 2013

Edible plants abound in Rugar Woods

PLATTSBURGH — It is important to know about the plants around us to understand planet Earth, Michael Burgess says.

The assistant professor in the Biological Sciences Department at SUNY Plattsburgh led about 30 people through Rugar Woods for what he called an edible-plants walk as part of the college’s recent Earth Week.

“The reason why I love plants so much is because the natural plant world has everything we need, like oxygen,” Burgess said.

Modern culture has disconnected people from the environment, he said, and that is why it is important to know about the benefits of plants.

Mollie Putzig, who went along on the walk, said she likes the idea of people going back to nature.

“There are a lot of valuable things that people don’t know about,” she said. “It’s great that Michael is doing this.”

Burgess also talked about the code of ethics of interacting with growing things.

“It’s important to know how to take care of plants. There is a specific way to collect plants, and if this is done wrong, it could be death.”


The group made its way through the woods, and soon it began to drizzle.

The first stop was in front of a white pine tree. Burgess plucked some needles to show them to his audience.

“Those are not needles; they are leaves,” he explained. “It’s a really wonderful tree.”

The white pine has a rich history, Burgess said, that goes back to Native Americans, who used it for food, medicine and building materials. The leaves can be used as an infusion for tea or as an addition to a salad, he said.

“It provides a wonderful smell.”

The tree’s paste, a resinous substance that comes from the inner bark, is useful for pain and skin problems.

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