Achillea millefolium

Literal: pine stem
Season: Blooms beginning in may and often lasting throughout the summer
Identification: Flat topped terminal clusters of small, white to pinkish white flowers
Alternate finely dissected feathery leaves
Today, dried flowers and leaves are most frequently used as an ingredient in various cold remedies, where yarrow is believed to act as an expectorant and analgesic
Fresh leaves may be rubbed on skin as temporary but effective insect repellent
Blackfeet use: “a pleasant tea was made from the leaves and flowers.”

Hellson, John C., and Morgan Gadd. “The Ethnobotany of the Blackfoot Indians.” The Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service Paper no. 19, 1974.



Allium ssp.

Literal: funny vine
Season: April to August
Identification: Flowers are rose pink to purplish and sometimes white. They are tubular and bell shaped with 6 lance shaped petals (tepals) spreading slightly at the tips

The Blackfeet ate these onions raw.
They can be used like chives


Amelanchier alnifolia

Season: flowers bloom April and may to June
Fruits begin to develop by midsummer
Habitat: grows in dry woods and open hillsides in well drained soil
Large deciduous shrub or small tree up to 16 feet tall  feet high
Bark: smooth, reddish/grey
Flowers: bloom in April and May, white flowers crowded in drooping clusters, five long petals
Leaves: round to oval leaves, bluish green and sharply toothed around top half
Berries: when ripe are reddish purple to dark blue, fruits each contain two seeds and have waxy outerskin

Ripe juicy berries are mildly sweet
Can be eaten raw or made into jams
Often dried for long term storage or for use in pemmican
Green inner bark (cambium) in anti inflammatory eyewashes, eardrops, and to stop excessive vaginal bleeding
Berries were sometimes used to treat constipation and various stomach disorders
Berry juice makes purple dye

Turner, Nancy J. Food plants of interior First Peoples. Royal BC Museum, 2007.


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Kinnikinnick Bearberry
Season: Blooms April to June, fruit begin to develop in midsummer
Habitat: open forest clearings
Identification: Leathery alternate leaves are spoon to lance shaped, upper surfaces darker green than undersides
Flowers are pink and urn shaped, nodding
Fruits are mealy red berries that look like tiny apples
Edibility: edible but usually too tart and mealy to enjoy, hardiness, they often remain in edible condition throughout winter, best remembered as a survival fare
“The tart berries were washed and eaten or dried and soaked later with sugar. The leaves could be crushed and smoked with tobacco or brewed for tea” (Hellson, 101)

Hellson, John C., and Morgan Gadd. “The Ethnobotany of the Blackfoot Indians.” The Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service Paper no. 19, 1974.



Camassia quamash

literal translation: excrement smell
Season: April to June, depending mainly on climate, elevation, snowpack
Habitat: only in meadows that are very moist in the spring but dry out in late summer
8 – 20 inch perennial
Light blue to deep purple, terminally arranged spike of flowers that stands conspicuously above the surrounding flora
Leaves: narrow, arise from the base of the plant in a classic lily fashion, may grow as tall as flower stalk
Flowers: star shaped and have yellow anthers (the pollen bearing part)
Bulb is egg shaped with brown coat
Roasted bulbs are sweet
BEWARE, Misisa looks just like the poisonous plant death camas, do not eat or look for this plant on your own 

Turner, Nancy J. Food plants of interior First Peoples. Royal BC Museum, 2007.


Escobaria vivipara

Ball Cactus
Blackfeet Use: “The fruits of these ‘wild figs’ were eaten as a confection” (Hellson, 103)
Identification: spiny, perennial herb; stems flesh, spherical, 306 cm tall, covered with fleshy, spirally arranged, nipple like bumps
Leaves: reduced to rigid spins 8-11 mm long and smaller, more slender spines, in spreading clusters at tips of tubercles
Flowers: bright reddish purple, about 2-3 cm across, broadly funnel shaped, with many spreading, pointed petals, from between mature tubercles
Fruits: pale green, fleshy berries, 1-2 cm long
Season: Flowers bloom May to June
Habitat: Dry open sites; plains to lower montane (Kershaw, 181)

Hellson, John C., and Morgan Gadd. “The Ethnobotany of the Blackfoot Indians.” The Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service Paper no. 19, 1974.
Kershaw, Linda J., et al. Plants of the Rocky Mountains. Lone Pine Publishing, 1998.






Mahonia repens

Season: Blooms may to July
Habitat: grows in coniferous forests up to the timberline
Tools: solid container or bag for berries
Identification: looks like holly, has small frosted blue grapes in clusters
Edibility: sour, ripe berries are edible raw or cooked
High in vitamin c
The roots, stems, and leaves of this plant contain a substantial amount of the bright yellow, bitter alkaloid berberine. Berberine is known to possess strong antimicrobial qualities, used as an aid to fight infection, both topically and internally
Berberine also well known for stimulating bile production, and for this purpose it has been used to treat a variety of liver and digestive disorders
Makes goldenrod yellow dye


Opuntia spp.

Prickly pear cactus
Season: dependent on moisture
Habitat: dry climate and gravelly soil
Spiny, pear shaped yellow, orange, or bright red fruits
Edibility: succulent but seedy fruits are edible once the spines have been scorched or carefully peeled off with a sharp knife
Flavor bland to sour or sweet
Can be cooked, pickled, or candied
treat wounds burns, contusions, warts, to facilitate childbirth
Oily juice useful emollient and demulcent, external use to sooth dry irritated skin or internal use as a diuretic or anti inflammatory agent for the digestive and urinary tracts
Juice may be effective in lowering blood sugar in cases of juvenile onset diabetes, particularly where chronic hyperglycemia prevails


Perideridia gairdneri

Gardner’s Yampah
Blackfeet Use: “The roots of ‘double turnip’, another staple, were eaten fresh or saved for use in soups, etc. Children often made snacks of them while playing on the prairie,” (Hellson, 103)
Identification: slender, perennial herb, with a caraway like fragrance; stems solitary, erect, 40-120 cm tall, from fleshy, tuberous roots
Leaves: alternate, usually once pinnately divided into long slender segments, often withered when flowers open
Flowers: white, time in a loose twice divided, flat topped clusters
Fruits: brown, rounded, about 2mm long with several prominent ribs
Season: Flowers bloom July to August, fruits follow
Habitat: dry to moist open or wooded sits
“Yampah was an important food for many native peoples and mountain men. Some people claim that these roots are the best tasting wild roots in the mountains, with a sweet, butty flavour, devoid of any bitterness. They can be eaten raw but usually they were boiled or roasted. Several tribes dried them for winter use, either whole or mashed and formed into cakes. The dried roots were soaked and boiled, or they were ground into meal and mixed with soup to make mush.” (Kershaw, 112)

WARNING!!! Never eat any plant in the carrot family unless you are sure of its identity. There are many poisonous species.

Hellson, John C., and Morgan Gadd. “The Ethnobotany of the Blackfoot Indians.” The Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service Paper no. 19, 1974.
Kershaw, Linda J., et al. Plants of the Rocky Mountains. Lone Pine Publishing, 1998.



Prunus virginiana

Dialect variation: Pákkiihp (FR); Púkíhp; Pukkoop
Season: Cherries ripen late after 4th of July
Habitat: Common to streambanks, slopes, and woodlands up to about 5,000 feet
Small shrub or tree that grows up to 20 feet high, bushes are similar to those of service berries but the cherries hang in long bunches
Bark: purplish grey in color
Flowers: white to yellowish flowers presented in narrow, blossoms are white, smell good
Leaves: finely serrated edges, oval to round, pale green underneath and bright green on top 1-4 inches long
Berries: small, round, with large hard stones in the center and bright red to purple/black flesh

Old uses: Pákki’p would often be dried or made into jelly. The stones by themselves are poisonous, therefore the Amskapi Pikuni would pound the cherries up, stones and all, picking out the largest bits of stone, and create cakes out of the pulp. These dried cakes would be cooked in winter.
Chokecherry bark used to be a popular cough and chest cold medicine
Cherry taste of cough syrup derives from this, used to flavor medicines
Inner bark in the treatment of diarrhea, sore throats, worms, headaches, and even heart conditions

Turner, Nancy J. Food plants of interior First Peoples. Royal BC Museum, 2007.



Rosa acicularis

Season: Blooms april to July
Habitat: moist soils

Could be crushed and added to pemmican
Ripe rose hips are high in vitamin C
Seeds cooked and ingested for relief from muscular pains
Roots were used as a general purpose astringent for diarrhea, sore throat, and conjunctivitis, and to stop bleeding
Flower petals were employed as a bacteriostatic, protective bandage on burns and minor wounds, and as a treatment for colic and heartburn
Poultice of leaves was used for insect stings and bits, and folkloric accounts claim that rose-petal wine is useful for easing labor pains


Rubus strigosus

Blackfeet uses:
“The ripe fruit of this ‘red berry taste’ was eaten,” (Hellson, 105)
Dry leaves and drink as tea
Regulates menstrual cycle
Muscle and blood vessel relaxant
Identification: Prickly, erect to spreading shrub, 50-200 cm tall, similar to a cultivated raspberry; branches (canes) biennial, green and bristly in 1st year, yellowish brown to cinnamon brown and with straight, slender prickles in 2nd year.
Leaves: Alternate, palmately divided into 3-5 egg shaped, pointed, double saw-toothed leaflets each 4-10cm long
Flowers: White, 8-12mm wide, with 5 glandular hairy backward bending sepals, 5 slender, erect petals and 75-100 stamens, nodding; many flowers in small clusters (racemes) of 1-4 from upper leaf axils;
Fruits: Juicy, red drupelets in dense clusters (raspberries) about 1 cm across
Season: Flowers bloom June to July, fruits follow
Habitat: moist to dry, open or wooded sites; foothills to montane
“Raspberry tea has traditionally been given to women before, during and after childbirth. Pharmacologists have validated the use of raspberry leaf as an antispasmodic for treating painful menstruation. It contains ‘fragarine’ a compound that acts both as a relaxant and a stimulant on the muscles of the uterus” (Kershaw, 67)


Thalictrum occidentale

Wester meadow Rue
Literal: Gros Ventre scent

“The fruit of ‘Gros Ventre smell’ were used to spice pemmican, dried meat and broths.”


Hellson, John C., and Morgan Gadd. “The Ethnobotany of the Blackfoot Indians.” The Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service Paper no. 19, 1974.



Vaccicium spp. 

Season: blooms May to July, berries come end of July
Habitat: varies according to species. In mountains of western north america, upland species such as V. globulare or the similar V. membranaceum are among the most common and widespread
Small bush
Blue to purple berries
Leaves and berries are high in vitamin c
Dry leaves and berries and use as tea
Lowers blood sugar
Improves eyesight