Edible Sierra Nevada Plants


I have taken extreme care in providing accurate information in these keys, however, there is always the possibility of errors. Use these keys at your own discretion.

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These keys have been made possible by the support of Norman F. Weeden and his book "A Sierra Nevada Flora".

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A Plants parasitic or saprophytic, often not green
  B Petals absent; plants usually green
    C Parasite on upper limbs of trees - LORANTHACEAE (Not Edible)
    CC Root parasite; leaves alternate, entire, oblanceolate - SANTALACEAE (Not Edible)
  BB Petals present, more or less united
    C Stamens more than 5 - PYROLACEAE
    CC Stamens 5 or less
      D Twining or trailing vines, not on roots - CUSTUTACEAE (Not Edible)
      DD Root parasites - OROBANCHACEAE

AA Plants not parasitic or saprophytic or not completely so, always greenish
  B Plants woody throughout (not just base)
    C Leaves opposite
      D Leaves compound
        E Leaves palmately compound - HIPPOCASTANACEAE
        EE Leaves pinnately compound or trifoliolate
          F Vines - RANNUNCULACEAE (Clematis) (Not Edible)
          FF Shrub or tree
            G Fruit a samara
              H Leaflets usually 3 - ACERACEAE
              HH Leafletrs 3 to 7 - OLEACEAE
            GG Fruit a capsule or drupe
              H Leaflets 3; fruit a dry capsule - STAPHYLEACEAE (Not Edible)
              HH Leaflets 4 to 7; fruit a fleshy drupe - CAPRIFOLIACEAE (Sambucus)
      DD Leaves simple
        E Petals more or less united
          F Leaves narrow-elliptic, margins revolute; boggy places - ERICACEAE (Kalmia)
          FF Leaves broader; margins not strongly revolute
            G Flowers irregular, leaves usually sessile; fruit a capsule - SCROPHULARIACEAE
            GG Flowers usually regular; leaves petioled; fruit usually fleshy - CAPRIFOLIACEAE
        EE Petals separate or none
          F Stipules with thick corky persistent bases - RHAMNACEAE (Ceanothus)
          FF Leaves without stipules
            G Leaves serrate (except sometimes Philadelphus in SAXIFRAGACEAE)
              H Leaves palmately lobed - ACERACEAE
              HH Leaves oblong to roundish, without lobes
                I Flowers 4-merous; petals 1 mm long - CELASTRACEAE (Not Edible)
                II Flowers usually 5-7-merous; petals more then 6 mm long - SAXIFRAGACEAE
            GG Leaves entire
              H Leaves aromatic - CALYCANTHACEAE (Not Edible)
              HH Leaves not aromatic
                I Leaves thick, often scurfy; plants dioecious - GARRYACEAE
                II Leaves thin; flowers perfect - CORNACEAE
    CC Leaves alternate, whorled, bunched or basal
      D Flowers in catkins
        E Fruit an acron or bur - FAGACEAE
        EE Fruit a winged nutlet, smooth nut, or capsule
          F Male and female catkins on the same plant - BETULACEAE
          FF Male and female catkins on separate plants
            G Fruit a capsule containing many minute seeds, leaves various - SALICACEAE
            GG Fruit 1 seeded; leaves toothed on distal half - MYRICACEAE (Not Edible)
      DD Flowers not in catkins
        E Leaves compound or lobed
          F Leaves palmately, broadly lobed
            G Vines with tendrils opposite the leaves - VITACEAE
            GG Erect shrubs
              H Leaves densely yellowish stellate-pubescent beneath - STERULIACEAE (Not Edible)
              HH Pubescence not yellow and rarely stellate if present
                I Ovary definately inferior; fruit a fleshy berry - SAXIFRAGACEAE (Ribes)
                II Ovary not inferior; fruit various - ROSACEAE
          FF Leaves pinnate or deeply palmately cleft or divided
            G Leaves pinnate; leaflets more than three
              H Flowers 6-merous; leaflet margin prickly - BERBERIDACEAE
              HH Flowers 5-merous; leaflet margin not prickly though stems maybe - ROSACEAE
            GG Leaves various; leaflets 3 or less
              H Leaves pinnately 3-foliate; leaflets more or less oval - ANACARDIACEAE (Not Edible)
              HH Leaves mainly palmately lobed or divided; lobes or leaflets oblong to linear
                I Low shrubs; the linear lobes sharp pointed - POLEMONIACEAE (Leptodactylon) (Not Edible)
                II Erect shrubs; leaflets not sharp pointed - LEGUMINOSAE (Lupinus) (Not Edible)
        EE Leaves entire to serrate, never lobed
          F Petals united at least at base
            G Flowers in compact heads - COMPOSITAE
            GG Flowers solitary or in loose clusters
              H Corolla urn shaped (except Rhododendron) - ERICACEAE
              HH Corolla funnelform - HYDROPHYLLACEAE (Eriodictyon) (Not Edible)
          FF Petals distinct to base
            G Leaves aromatic with "bay leaf" odor - LAURACEAE
            GG Leaves not distinctly aromatic
              H Leaves round, cordate, entire - LEGUMINOSAE (Cercis)
              HH Leaves elliptic to obling, never cordate
                I Sepals 2; bark shredding, whitish - PAPVERACEAE (Dendromecon) (Not Edible)
                II Sepals 4-5; bark not shredding, darker - RHAMNACEAE
  BB Plants herbaceous, at least the branches
    C Petals or petaloid part of perianth united at base
      D Perianth with no green sepals or these minute
        E Flowers densely clustered in heads
          F Plants matted; leaves opposite; flowers reddish; rare, Tulare County - NYCTAGINACEAE (Not Edible)
          FF Plant and flowers various; leaves usually alternate; common - COMPOSITAE
        EE Flowers in loose clusters or solitary
          F Leaves alternate; plants vine like with tendrils opposite leaves - CUCURBITACEAE (Not Edible)
          FF Leaves opposite or whorled
            G Stem leaves pinnate or pinnately lobed - VALERIANACEAE
            GG Stem leaves simple, often whorled - RUBIACEAE
      DD Perianth with green sepals below petals
        E Plants with milky sap
          F Leaves alternate ovary inferior - CAMPANULACEAE (Not Edible)
          FF Leaves mainly opposite or whorled; ovary superior
            G Sepals or petals reflexed; flowers in umbels - ASCLEPIADACEAE
            GG Sepals and petals not reflexed; flowers in cymes or pairs - APOCYNACEAE
        EE Plants with clear sap
          F Ovary 4-lobed; fruit of 4 nutlets
            G Stems 4-angled; herbage often aromatic - LABIATAE
            GG Stems round; herbage not strongly aromatic
              H Leaves mainly alternate, if not flowers white, small - BORAGINACEAE (Not Edible)
              HH Leaves opposite; flowers mainly purple - VERBENACEAE
          FF Ovary not lobed; fruit various, never 4 nutlets
            G Corolla irregular
              H Plants aquatic, insectivorous - LENTIBULARIACEAE (Not Edible)
              HH Plants mainly of dry land, never insectivorous
                I Leaves mainly opposite, stamens 5 or less - SCROPHULARIACEAE
                II Leaves alternate or basal; stamens more than 5
                  J Petal 4, in 2 unlike pairs - FUMARIACEAE (Not Edible)
                  JJ Petals 3 or 5
                    K Petals 3, appearing to be 5 because of 2 petaloid sepals - POLYGALACEAE (Not Edible)
                    KK Petals 5 - CAMPANULACEAE (Not Edible)
            GG Corolla regular
              H Stem trailing, vine like
                I Leaves alternate, ususlly triangular-hastateb - CONVOLVULACEAE (Not Edible)
                II Leaves opposite, elliptical - CAPRIFOLIACEAE (Linnaea) (Not Edible)
              HH Stems more or less erect, not vine like
                I Style cleft; calyx mainly deeply cleft; corolla with definate tube; flowers 5-merous
                  J Style 2-cleft - HYDROPHYLLACEAE
                  JJ Style 3-cleft or flowers in spiny heads - POLEMONIACEAE (Not Edible)
                II Style not cleft; calyx often merely lobed; corolla sometimes deeply cleft; flowers often 4-merous
                  J Leaves alternate, petaloid - SOLANACEAE
                  JJ Leaves opposite or basal, sessile or sub-sessile
                    K Stamens inserted alternate with corolla lobes - PRIMULACEAE
                    KK Stamens inserted alternate with corolla lobes - GENTIANACEAE
    CC Petals none or distinct to base
      D aquatic plants
        E Leaves opposite or whorled
          F Leaves whorled, usually more than 1 cm long - HALORAGACEAE
          FF Leaves opposite, usually less than 1 cm long
            G Petals none; leaves without stipules - CALLITRICHACEAE (Not Edible)
            GG Petals present; Leaves with membranous stipules - ELATINACEAE (Not Edible)
        EE Leaves alternate
          F Inflorescence a compound umbel - UMBELLIFERAE
          FF Flowers solitary or few in a cluster
            G Leaves large, solid - NYMPHAEACEAE
            GG Leaves dissected into linear filaments - RANUNCULACEAE
      DD Plants of wet to dry habitats but rarely growing in water
        E Plants with milky white sap - EUPHORBIACEAE (Not Edible)
        EE Plants with colorless or rarely yellow sap
          F Ovary more or less inferior or perigynous
            G Flowers without petals
              H Flowers clustered in axils; stems stout - DATISCACEAE (Not Edible)
              HH Flowers large, usually lying on ground under leaves, plant without stem - ARISTOLOCHIACEAE
            GG Petals present
              H Inflorescence an umbel or compound umbel (rarely capitate)
                I Fruit fleshy; leaves 3-15 dm long; infloescence umbellate - ARALIACEAE (Not Edible)
                II Fruit dry; leaves smaller, or if not inflorscence a compound umbel - UMBELLIFERAE
              HH Inflorescence paniculate or flowers solitary
                I Stamens perigynous; flowers mainly 5-merous
                  J Pistils usually as many sepals; leaves often pinnate and or stipulate - ROSACEAE
                  JJ Pistils mainly fewer than sepals; leaves often palmately lobed, never pinnate, usually without stipules - SAXIFRAGACEAE
                II Ovary definately inferior; flowers often 4-merous
                  J Flowers 2-4-merous; leaves often opposite - ONAGRACEAE
                  JJ Flowers 5-merous or more; leaves alternate - LOASACEAE
          FF Ovary superior
            G Plants insectivorous or with stinging hairs
              H Plants with stinging hairs - URTICACEAE
              HH Plants insectivorous
                I Leaves with gland tipped hairs - DROSERACEAE (Not Edible)
                II Leaves cobra shaped with globose upper section - SARRACENIACEAE (Not Edible)
            GG Plants without highly modified hairs or leaves
              H Flowers irregular
                I Fruit pea-pod like; stamens inclosed in lower petals - LEGUMINASAE
                II Fruit a capsule or akene; stamens not inclosed in petals
                  J Stamens 6; leaves pinnate to pinnately dissected - FUMARIACEAE (Not Edible)
                  JJ Stamens or many; leaves simple to palmate, rarely pinnate
                    K Flowers solitary - VIOLACEAE
                    KK Flowers in racemes or spikes - RANUNCULACEAE
              HH Flowers regular; petals all alike
                I Stamens more than 10
                  J Leaves opposite - HYPERICACEAE (Not Edible)
                  JJ Leaves alternate
                    K Sepals 2 - PAPAVERACEAE (Not Edible)
                    KK Sepals mainly 4-5
                      L Stamens united into tube; leaves manily stellate-pubescent - MALVACEAE (Not Edible)
                      LL Stamens distinct from base; leaves never stellate-pubescent
                        M Flowers large, terminal and solitary; Leaves biternate - PAEONIACEAE (Not Edible)
                        MM Flowers usually smaller and grouped; if solitary leaves, not biternate - RANUNCULACEAE
                II Stamens 10 or less
                  J Pistils more than 1; leaves simple, entire
                    K Plants fleshy; pistils not in a long spike - CRASSULACEAE
                    KK Plants not fleshy; pistils in a tail like spike - RANUNCULACEAE (Myosurus) (Not Edible)
                  JJ Pistil 1; leaves various
                    K Styles 2 or more; sepals sometimes petaloid
                      L Sepals 2 (often more in Lewisia) - PORTULACACEAE
                      LL Sepals 3 or more
                        M Leaves opposite - CARYOPHYLLACEAE
                        MM Leaves alternate or basal
                          N Petals and sepals present - LINACEAE
                          NN Petals none; sepals sometimes petaloid
                            O Leaves without stipules; sepals 1, 3, 5, never petaloid - CHENOPODIACEAE
                            OO Leaves with membranous sheath like stipules extending above node or if not calyx 6-cleft and petaloid - POLYGONACEAE
                    KK Style 1, occasionally partly cleft (see also Calyptridium in PORTULACACEAE)
                      L Leaves simple, not deeply lobed or divided; stamens 5 or 10
                        M Plant more or less shrubby; stamens 5 - RHAMNACEAE
                        MM Plant a small herb; stamens 10 - PYROLACEAE
                      LL Leaves deeply lobed or divided, if not stamens 6
                        M Flowers solitary, axillary; leaves pinnately compound - LIMNANTHACEAE
                        MM Flowers usually clustered, never solitary in axils
                          N Flowers 4-merous; leaves without stipules - CRUCIFERAE
                          NN Flowers 5-merous; leaves with stipules - GERANIACEAE

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These keys have been made possible by the support of Norman F. Weeden and his permission to use the dichotomous keys in his book "A Sierra Nevada Flora".

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