Chances are, you’re deeply connected with wild plants and don’t even realize it.
All of us in countless ways, whether we recognize it or not, are deeply connected to wild collecting.
Wild plants, as the term suggests, aren’t grown on farms. Instead, they’re collected in meadows, forests and deserts. Since ancient times, they’ve served as natural and essential ingredients in foods, fibers, dyes, cosmetics and traditional medicines.
Consider the açai berries in your super smoothie. They’re wild collected in the Brazilian Amazon. The pure maple syrup you save for special breakfasts most likely comes from the forests of Canada or the northern regions of the United States. The candelilla wax in your favorite skin care products originates in the deserts of northern Mexico. The licorice root used in candies and lozenges could be wild collected in many places — Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan. And at Wildwood Enterprises, more than 40 percent of the botanical species we use are wild collected. All of us in countless ways, whether we recognize it or not, are deeply connected to wild collecting.
The fact is many medicinal plant species are still, for the most part, wild collected and probably always will be. The ones that are easy to the farm were domesticated long ago. Wild plants that have survived and thrived in a particular habitat for eons possess a unique fingerprint that indicates a quality unmatched by domesticated varieties.
When there’s a choice to get a herb from a farm or the wild, Modern Botanicals generally prefers the “genuine article,” herbs wild collected in native habitats instead of farms. It’s the same for food connoisseurs who prefer the quality of wild salmon prepared with freshly harvested wild porcini mushrooms instead of farm raised salmon served with white button mushrooms.
It’s no coincidence that many of the same places where the best herbs are found are also rich in biodiversity.
- The Minshan Mountains, at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, are home to the last of the wild giant pandas and where southern Schisandra also grows wild. Schisandra berries are used in an extract and are sustainably wild collected by members of a cooperative in Pingwu County, which has the highest density of wild pandas.
- American black bears live in the forests of Appalachia where bark from slippery elm and wild cherry trees, is sustainably wild collected each spring when the sap rises.
- A quarter of the world’s population of white storks makes their nests in Poland. The Białowieża Forest, one of the last and largest remaining primeval forests in Europe, exists in the northeastern part of the country where local harvesters collect dandelion roots each autumn for use.
Great care must be taken by the local collectors to protect and preserve sensitive habitats while earning a livelihood for their families. This means sustainably managing the entire herb collection area to ensure the long-term survival of people, plants, and animals.
Wild plant collectors are stewards of vital natural ecosystems where some of the highest quality herbs grow. Many of these areas are now threatened due to changing land uses. Agricultural expansion and livestock grazing cause the greatest changes to wild areas, and expanding cropland is a leading contributor to biodiversity loss on the planet.
However, wild plants continue to play an important role in rural economies everywhere. People living in remote rural areas have a long tradition of earning some or all of their household income by collecting wild plants.
At Wildwood Enterprises, we have great respect for the local, rural and indigenous communities that we depend on for access to quality herbs. The partnerships we maintain with these stewards help us fulfill our mission of preserving medicinal plants and supporting the communities that collect them. It’s why we strongly support the work of the nonprofit FairWild® Foundation. To learn more, visit: http://www.fairwild.org/