Copyright © 2000 Robert G. Ferrell

A Field Guide to Unusual Herbs

Where would we be without plants? Not breathing, I suppose, and really stuck for something to serve in the salad course, but above that, we'd be missing all those wonderful concoctions that clever people have been whipping up since neolithic times to cure this and dye that a sort of bluish-green color. Plants, in particular herbs (herbs are plants we're on a first name basis with), have been providing us with salve, medication, dye, refreshment, recreation, procreation, enlightenment, and a host of additional services for our entire sojourn upon this hapless planet. In acknowledgment of this long record of botanical exploitation, I present for you now some lore of the less well known herbs of history.

Chuckberry: A woody vine found in rocky areas, known for its stimulant properties. Overuse causes slurring of speech. Individuals under its influence may mumble or utter strings of nonsense syllables. Has been used to treat total arrhythmia.

Fairy Dandruff: Named for the tendency of its seed pods to explode into millions of clinging white particles when handled, this herb is best employed in revenge schemes. A few of the small brown pods affixed to the inside of a hat can give someone a horrifying hair day. Also useful as snow in model dioramas (although it takes several acres of plants per square foot of "snow").

Old Man's Nostril: Also known as Snotweed. An odd-looking root that causes uncontrolled nasal discharge and a craving for tasteless, liquefied vegetables.

Ramsbladder: The cup-shaped flowers of this colorful perennial are whipped into a fondue and used as a confection in areas of the world where they let people who would do such a thing roam around unsupervised. Especially good garnished with vomitus alaudans.

Seamoss: A smallish, nondescript inhabitant of stagnant backwaters, this lichenesque plant has mottled gray-green leaves that remind one of patches of insect-ravaged rat hide. Rolled tightly and eaten fresh, dipped in balsamic vinegar, these leaves stimulate the appetite, but not as well as avoiding eating them does. No matter what flavors you add to seamoss while cooking, it always reverts to the same unpleasant taste when you take it off the flame. For this reason it is a staple of institutional kitchens.

Stuttering Elm: The bark of this tree can be ground into a powder, mixed with wild gopher spit, formed into tablets, and after drying taken three times a day with water or goat's milk. It is not known why anyone would want to do this, however.

Wartwort: A mildly hallucinogenic swamp plant. Ingesting this herb causes susceptible individuals to imagine that they are different animals, or that they can see and talk to bearded old men with strange sartorial customs. If used over a prolonged period, has provoked delusional states in which the victim believes himself to be royalty.

Finally, I would like in the interest of completeness and padding to include a list of some of the other interesting herbs I have run across over the years. Any of these may be taken internally, if you want. I doubt that it is advisable or even nonfatal to do so in all cases, but your voyages into creative ingestion are your own business. It might be better to keep a written record of your experimentation along these lines, however, for when the inevitable happens and you are obliged to seek out a physician. Some of the names of these herbs cannot be uttered with a straight face, and you're going to want the medical staff to take you seriously.

Aaron's Rod [1]Hackmatack [14]
Beggar's Ticks [2]Holy Herb [15]
Blazing StarHundred Holes [16]
Blowballs [3]Ipecac-Spurge [17]
Blue Sailors [4]Justice Weed [18]
Bouncing-BetKinnikinnick [19]
Christ's LadderLife-of-Man [20]
Clappedepouch [5]Love-in-Winter
Clap-WortNard [21]
Cock-Up-Hat [6]Old Woman
Devils-Guts [7]Phu [22]
Devil's ShoestringPuccoon [23]
Doonheadclock [8]Quick-in-the-Hand [24]
Elf Dock [9]Rabbit Tobacco [25]
Englishman's Foot [10]Robin-Run-in-the-Hedge [26]
Fairy Cheese [11]Runaway-Robin [27]
Filenut [12]Running Box [28]
Gill-Over-The-GroundToast [29]
God's Wonderplant [13]Two-Eyed-Checkerberry [30]
Grace of GodVomitwort [31]

Researcher's Notes

[1] Shame on you!
[2] Can't be Chooser's Ticks.
[3] A fast way to get to the surface.
[4] The result of [3].
[5] What happens right after [3]
[6] Shame on you again. Monomaniac.
[7] I think this is what haggis is made from.
[8] Also a move in Pro Wrestling.
[9] Probably a misspelling.
[10] What hares carry for luck.
[11] Why they evacuated Stonehenge.
[12] Comes in flat and round varieties.
[13] Could have been "Underpants"
[14] Sounds like an IRC handle.
[15] Batman!
[16] 20 feet of average Arkansas Interstate
[17] Even the name makes me queasy.
[18] Of America.
[19] Only found in Massachusetts.
[20] Utterly pointless.
[21] A pirate with an Internet connection.
[22] Grows near [11]
[23] A genetic experiment gone horribly awry.
[24] Is worth two in the...never mind.
[25] The only reason we aren't overrun with Thumpers.
[26] What happens when birds eat [17].
[27] See [26].
[28] Where people go after eating [17].
[29] Good with jam.
[30] Makes you see double when playing board games.
[31] The only safe herb in this list.

Bon appetite!