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Ninebark (physocarpus opulifolius) isn’t all that edible or medicinal, but it is a wonderful source of nectar and pollen for pollinators.
Ninebark (physocarpus opulifolius) is a rare sight around Haliburton country. When Haliburton Flora was compiled there was only one noted, on an open grassy bank. Yet this is a popular deciduous shrub for native plant enthusiasts. While unusual for a plant in the rose family, our local ninebark is not really edible. It’s actually toxic in large doses. But since it’s such a cool plant for wildlife, I wanted to cover it sooner than later!
Edible Uses of Ninebark
Differing from much of its rose family relations, physocarpus have inedible fruits. A close relation on the pacific side of Canada, mallow ninebark (physocarpus malvaceus), has edible cooked roots.
Medicinal Uses of Ninebark
Ninebark is primarily said to support these body systems:
Medicinal tags include Astringent, Diuretic, Emetic and Laxative. See Medicinal tag key for more information.
Common usage includes the bark for some womb related remedies. However, it’s toxic in large doses and should only be administered by a qualified herbalist.
Growing Physocarpus Opulifolius
This shrub is wildlife-approved and fast growing making it one of my favourite larger hedge plants, up there with the likes of alternate-leaved dogwood. It’s disease resistant, drought tolerant and handles pruning well to boot. And it’ll work for erosion control on banks.
It’s a nectar and pollen powerhouse. Many butterflies and moths, bees and wasps, flies and other insects will delight in the clusters of white to pinkish ninebark flowers. Its gracefully drooping leafy branches will host caterpillars of the white spring moth (lomographa vestaliata), blinded sphinx moth (paonias excaecata) and more. Birds will enjoy the red fruits.
Plants are readily available from native plant nurseries. Older plants can be divided in the early spring. And cuttings are easy to root.
Ninebark is closely related to spiraea species and is a perfect native swap out for introduced or invasive spiraea.
And the Usual Cautions:
1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.
2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.
3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored. Herbalists do not have an official certification yet, but that may be in the works.
4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.
5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.
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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada
Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes