Edible & Poisonous Plants of the Eastern States – Cards Review

I purchased these little flash cards from a seller on ebay about 3 years ago, but I couldn’t find them on there as I wrote this.  They are available HERE, however for about $8 which is pretty much what I payed for them.

These aren’t playing cards – they’re just wild edible flash cards.  They are playing card sized however, and I’ve seen a version that are playing cards.  Having them serve the dual purpose of campsite entertainment makes sense to me, and I’ll probably pick up the playing card version eventually.

What I love about these cards is their convenience.  In a pack the size of a deck of cards, I have 52 high quality pictures of plants (44 edible and 8 poisonous) plus information on the flip-side including latin name, description and details, where to find/look for the plant, and how to use it.  Very useful.  For the most part, the pictures are of the plant when it’s at it’s most edible stage.

These are a great resource for a beginner.  The plants in the deck were chosen in part because they are easily identified and don’t have many poisonous look-alikes.  When I bought them, I knew nothing, and a few days later I was out finding edible plants.  I still run through the deck on occasion and find that I’m learning things when I do.  I’ve also used them to start teaching my oldest son (age 9) about wild edibles and I generally keep them handy on camping trips and long drives.  For the first year, I was grabbing these at least once a week to confirm my suspicions about a plant I encountered.

For kids in particular, I like these cards in part because there are a few plants on there that just about everyone who has ever stepped outside will recognize.  Dandelion and blackberry are notable examples.

Like all flashcards and other photo based plant identification resources, they have weaknesses:

  • At some point, you switch from learning to memorization and that’s a danger to be avoided.
  • The pictures, while remarkable, show the plants at only one stage of development – which is fine I guess … since the pictures are of the plant in its edible stage, the authors don’t want you to find that same plant in its non-edible stage.  On the other hand, if you’re trying to get to know the plants in your yard – you’ll have no idea that some of the plants in these cards are in your yard as well unless you catch them at exactly the right stage.
  • Because you’re learning from pictures instead of real plants, it’s hard to capture the nuances that make this particular plant the one you seek and not a lookalike.
  • I’ve learned in the past couple of years that plants look significantly different in different areas of the country.  The Pokeweed I encountered in Florida for example was almost unrecognizable to me.  Some of it was at thick as my wrist and 10-15 feet tall.  Around here, it gets 5 feet tall and finger thick at best.  Differences in scale like that will throw someone fairly easily.  In this deck, the pictures of cattail are interesting in the same way.  The fluffy end is narrow and conical in these pics.  Around here, they’re thick and cylindrical.

Would I recommend this product?  Wholeheartedly.  This deck has been a great resource to have around.  The same company also makes Edible Plants of the Western States, Knot Playing Cards, Survival Playing Cards, and Staying Alive in the Arctic (a pocket sized manual).  I don’t have any experience with any of those, but I like these cards enough that I’d probably pick them up if I encountered them.

In case you have trouble finding them or want more information – let me put up some info about the maker (taken from one of the cards they threw in):

Maker: Plant Deck, Inc., Lake Oswego, OR 97305 – (503) 636-6254

Copyright 1973 by Frank G. Heyl & Calvin P. Burt.

I have the 3rd Printing – made in 2000.

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