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List of edible plants and mushrooms of southeast Alaska facts for kids

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Southeast Alaska has an unusual climate that allows a large number of edible plant and edible mushroom species to grow. The area consists primarily of the Tongass National Forest, which is a Temperate rainforest. This rainforest has plenty of precipitation and the temperature remains relatively constant, therefore many plant and fungi species flourish there. On a geological time scale, fairly recently during the Little Ice Age, glaciers were abundant in Southeast Alaska. The ice age's last maximum ended about 10,000 years ago. Once the glaciers retreated, they left behind nutrient-rich sediments. These nutrients in the soil enriched the ecosystem of the area.

Tlingit Use

Historically the Tlingit people of the Pacific Northwest foraged off of the land. The Tlingit cuisine included everything from whales to deer, and from clams to plants. Often the Tlingit people included in their diet many edible items from the surrounding native vegetation along with what ever seafood and wild game they were able to find. Hunting and fishing expeditions were not always successful, in which case, meals were made using the local berries, fungus, and seaweed. Because winters were long and cold in the Pacific Northwest, the Tlingit people used preserving methods in order to be able to use the gathered vegetation all winter long. Many of the edible plants that are consumed today in Southeast Alaska are eaten because of the knowledge passed down from many generations of Tlingit.


Common Name/Scientific Name Tlingit Name Image Preparation Comments
Lowbush cranberry, Lingonberry DÁXW
Eaten raw, also commonly used in jams and jellies. In season late in the fall. Rich in antioxidants.
Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus CH'EEX'
Thimbleberry (3823059633)
Eaten raw, also commonly used in jams and jellies. Shoots can be eaten raw or cooked Very similar to the common raspberry.
Strawberry SHÁKW
Wild Strawberries (3818497296)
Eaten raw, also commonly used in jams and jellies. Fruits late in spring. Leaves can be mashed to make tea.
Salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis WAS'X'AAN TLÉIGU
Salmonberry on Raspberry Island
Eaten raw, also commonly used in jams and jellies. Shoots can be peeled and eaten raw. Available in July/August. Common on hillsides with lots of rain and sun.
Nagoonberry, Rubus arcticus NEIGÓON
Rubus arcticus berry
Eaten raw, also commonly used to make juice and tea. Found in damp, low, meadows. Berries are very fragile. Not normally found in abundance.
Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis K'EIKAXÉTL'K
Bunchberries (3823908564)
Can be eaten fresh, also can be preserved by freezing. High in pectin. Berries ripen later at higher elevations.
Huckleberry TLEIKATÁNK
Eaten raw, also commonly used in jams and jellies. Grows on sunny hillsides. Worms frequently present among berries.
Highbush cranberry, Viburnum trilobum KAXWÉIX
Viburnum trilobum (Whitefish Island) 1
Tart when eaten raw. Fruits in late summer. Found in woods and rocky banks. Pectin content higher earlier in the summer.
Gooseberry, Ribes uva-crispa SHAAX
Gooseberries (5980340315)
Can be eaten raw. Available mid-August. Berry has a distinct odor.
Elderberry, Sambucus YÉIL'
Red elderberry (5963375334)
Flowers and mature deseeded fruit can be eaten raw. Berries are sometimes found up to 20 feet high. Cooking the berries removes an alkaloid that may upset the stomach. Said to have the ability to calm nerves. Consumpton of seeds, immature berries, stems, and roots, may cause cyanide poisoning.
Cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus NÉX'W
Eaten raw, also commonly used in jams and jellies. Fruits in late fall. Leaves can be used to make a medicinal tea.
Twisted Stalk, Wild Cucumber, Watermelon Berry, Streptopus amplexifolius TLEIKW KAHÍNTI
Streptopus amplexifolius 13
Berries and young stems can be eaten fresh or raw. Berries have a delicate flavor resembling watermelon. Stems taste similar to cucumber. Grows in shady, moist areas. The poisonous False hellebore plant sometimes grows close to the Watermellon berry, and has similar leaves.
Alaskan Blueberry KANAT'A
Eaten fresh and commonly used in jams, jellies, and baked goods. Fruits in mid-July to late August. Grows on wet, sunny hillsides.


The temperate rainforest of the Tongass National Forest often produces a great amount of mushrooms in the summer and fall months. Fungi can be used for dyeing natural fibers and as a food source. In the ecosystem, Fungi cycle nutrients, aggregate soil, retain water, and are a source of food for many animals. There are many kinds of fungi, including Chanterelles, Boletes, Morels, and Puffballs.

Limits on harvesting

Generally speaking individuals are permitted to harvest mushrooms in the Tongass National Forest without a special license. However, it is expected that harvesters help protect the natural resources from damage. For commercial harvest, a permit is required. Harvesters must check with a local forest ranger to make sure all harvesting is legal.

Many species of mushrooms and berries can be poisonous, but look similar to the edible species. Harvesting the entire mushroom allows for easier identification as does taking note of the surroundings where the fungus was found. All harvested mushrooms need to be cooked, not eaten raw.

Common Name/Scientific Name Image Comments
Angel wings, Pleurocybella porrigens
Pleurocybella 050919low
Typically found on hemlock logs or stumps. Often in large masses.
Shrimp russula, Russula xerampelina
Russula xerampelina
Fishy odor when mature. Most commonly eaten russula.
Orange milk-cap, Lactarius deliciosus group
Lactarius deliciosus
Once handled, the fungus will turn green. Gathered for food, but Alaskan populations not considered deserving of the name deliciosus.
The gypsy, Cortinarius caperatus
Rozites caperata 20100919w
The gypsy is hard to identify and therefore can be confused with more dangerous species.
Alaskan gold, Phaeolepiota aurea
Phaeolepiota aurea 10866-83fabfaacdf92ca2ba5a395f175754a4
Easy to identify. Typically found in disturbed areas and in large areas.
Pacific gold chanterelle, Cantharellus formosus
Cantharellus formosus 174975 Belfair
Large and found in small numbers. Has an odor similar to apricots.
Yellow foot, Craterellus tubaeformis
Craterellus tubaeformis LC0374
Small, slender, and trumpet shaped. Long fruiting season.
Black chanterelle, Polyozellus multiplex
Polyozellus multiplex 34001
Very distinct and striking. Typically in tight clusters and under spruce. Rare.
King bolete, Boletus edulis
Boletus edulis EtgHollande 041031 091
Very popular edible mushroom. The tubes can also be used as a dye.
Admirable bolete, Boletus mirabilis
Boletus mirabilis Olympic National Park
Typically fruits on wood. Is said to have a lemony taste.
Chicken of the woods, Laetiporus sulphureus
Laetiporus sulphureus JPG01
Large cluster with shelves exceeding 12 inches in width. Young, fresh, fruitbodies are the most desirable to eat.
Bear's head, Hericium abietis
Hericium abietis 109093
Very distinctive fungus. Typically grows on conifer logs and stumps.
Gray fire morel, Morchella tomentosa
Morchella tomentosa 40375
Very dark colored when young, but lightens with age. Considered one of the most desirable edible fungi in the area.
Early false morel, Verpa bohemica
Verpa bohemica1
One of the first mushrooms to emerge in the late spring or early summer. In some people, the early false morel is known to cause gastric upset.
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List of edible plants and mushrooms of southeast Alaska Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.