Edmonton is home to one of the largest stretches of urban parkland in North America. Each spring our river valley bursts with biodiversity, from commonly observed species like trembling aspen and spruce trees, to less-recognized living things like lichens and fungi. While it’s clear that all of these species have a role to play in our parkland ecosystems, many people are not aware of how beneficial they are to human lives as well. For example, did you know that the white berries growing on red osier dogwoods make a great hair conditioner? Or, that some plants in our river valley can relieve chronic pain? Luckily, we have Robert Rogers to introduce us to some of the cultural and provisional ecosystem services (benefits people obtain from ecosystems) we may find right in the city.
Robert, a University of Alberta botany graduate, former owner and herbalist of Self Heal Herbal Centre in Old Strathcona and now co-owner of Self Heal Distributing and Scents of Wonder essential oils, has had a keen interest in the natural world since he was very young. With over 40 years of experience studying plants and mushrooms all around the world, and dozens of books published, Robert is a phenomenal returning host of the River Valley Medicinal Plant Walk.
During this annual stroll through Mill Creek Ravine, participants can expect to learn about the edible qualities, medicinal values and traditional uses of 60 to 70 different plants and fungi living in the river valley. Don’t let that number fool you into thinking you’re going on a major hike, though. Robert explains you only need to walk about 500 metres (at most) to find edible Saskatoon berries, hazelnuts and chokecherries, and even the strongest twine in the world!
The regularly sold-out event takes place every summer, hosted in partnership with the Local Good (tickets available on Eventbrite).
Those interested in learning more about the plants in our river valley but unable to attend the walk, may instead consider a course with Robert in the Earth Spirit Medicine Program at Northern Star College of Mystical Studies, or pick up one of his books. Local clubs, like the Alberta Native Plant Council, Edmonton Nature Club or Alberta Mycological Society, also offer great educational events and workshops.
Watch for a future post describing the plant walk experience after Elyse joins Robert on July 21!