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Treasures from Maine's Woods Featured on New Forest Service Website

BURLINGTON, VT, November 23, 2010 - Wreathmakers Judy and Steve Sherman of Oxbow, Maine have many lessons about the wild plants of the North Woods for a USDA Forest Service researcher and her collaborators For example, balsam tips from different Maine counties have a different character, a variation Judy attributes to soil type and pH variation.

These and other observations from 30 foragers are featured on a new website on Maine’s culturally and economically important wild plants and mushrooms. Dr. Marla Emery from the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, Dr. Clare Ginger from the University of Vermont, and Dr. David Putnam from the University of Maine-Presque Isle spent almost two years studying how people in Aroostook County and neighboring New Brunswick use wild plants and mushrooms.

This shared knowledge is now collected on a new website that features profiles of the fascinating people who use wild plants and mushrooms, detailed descriptions of 30 plants including traditional and modern uses, and a searchable database of more than 120 plants and mushrooms gathered in northern Maine today. The website and comprehensive handbook  (available via free download) also explore the intimate linkages that develop between people and the land through foraging and how changes in landownership are making it more difficult to engage in foraging - especially for Maine’s Native peoples.

“Foraging for wild plants and mushrooms is part of the culture and economy of northern Maine.  People are passionate about foraging for wild plants and mushrooms.  It feeds them body and soul.” said Emery. 

As another aspect of this study, Allaire Diamond, a consulting ecologist and nature writer, developed curriculum material for grades K-12 in subject areas including biology, economics, geography, health and home economics, local and regional history, and social studies. The materials have been designed to meet Maine state educational standards, including recent guidelines for teaching about Maine’s Native cultures. Curriculum materials can be downloaded from the website.  

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to State and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.