1. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS. There are very few regions throughout the world without some type of edible vegetation. Plants contain vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. Some plants also contain fats. The following are general considerations:

a. Do not assume that because birds or animals have eaten a plant, it is edible by humans.

b. Poor plant recognition skills will seriously limit your ability to survive.

c. Plant dormancy and snowfall make foraging plants difficult during the winter months.

d. Plants generally poison by:

(1) Ingestion. When a person eats a part of a poisonous plant.

(2) Contact. When a person makes contact with a poisonous plant that causes any type of skin irritation or dermatitis.

(3) Absorption. When a person absorbs the poison through the skin, which can interrupt a bodily function.

(4) Inhalation. Poisoning can occur through the inhalation of smoke that contains poisonous plant residue.

e. Plant properties can change throughout the growing season. Plants can be edible during certain periods while poisonous in others.

2. PLANT IDENTIFICATION. Proficiency in plant identification is complex and requires diligent study. You identify plants, other than by memorizing particular varieties through familiarity, by using such factors as leaf shape and margin, leaf arrangements, and root structure.

a. Leaf Margins. The basic leaf margins are toothed, lobed, and toothless or smooth.

b. Leaf Shape. These leaves may be lance-shaped, elliptical, egg-shaped, oblong, wedge-shaped, triangular, long-pointed, or top-shaped.

















c. Leaf Arrangement. The basic types of leaf arrangements are opposite, alternate, compound, simple, and basal rosette.




alternate simple


alternate d. Root Structure. The basic types of root structures are the bulb, clove, taproot, tuber, rhizome, corm, and crown. Bulbs are familiar to us as onions and, when sliced in half, will show concentric rings. Cloves are those bulb-like structures that remind us of garlic and will separate into small pieces when broken apart. This characteristic separates wild onions from wild garlic. Taproots resemble carrots and may be single-rooted or branched, but usually only one plant stalk arises from each root. Tubers are like potatoes and daylilies and you will find these structures either on strings or in clusters underneath the parent plants. Rhizomes are large creeping rootstocks or underground stems and many plants arise from the "eyes" of these roots. Corms are similar to bulbs but are solid when cut rather than possessing rings. A crown is the type of root structure found on plants such as asparagus and looks much like a mop-head under the soil's surface.









3. DETERMINING EDIBILITY. The thought of having a diet consisting only of plant food is often distressing. This is not the case if the survival episode is entered into with the confidence and intelligence based on knowledge or experience. If a Marine knows what to look for, can identify it, and know how to prepare it properly for eating, there is no reason why he can't find sustenance.

a. Types of plants to avoid. (MSVX.02.11a) Experts estimate there are about 300,000 classified plants. There are two considerations that must be kept in mind when procuring plant food. The first consideration is that the plant be edible, and preferably, palatable. Next, it must be fairly abundant in the areas in which it is found. If it includes an inedible or poisonous variety in its family, the edible plant must be distinguishable to the average eye from the poisonous one. Usually a plant is selected because one special part is edible, such as the stalk, the fruit, or the nut. When selecting an unknown plant as a possible food source, apply the following general rules:

(1) Mushrooms and Fungi. These should not be selected because they have toxic peptides, a protein-base poison which has no taste.

(2) Plants with umbrella-shaped flowers. These plants are to be completely avoided, although carrots, celery, dill, and parsley are members of this family. One of the most poisonous plants, poison water hemlock, is also a member of this family.

(3) Beans, Peas, and Seeds in pods. All of the legume family should be avoided (beans and peas). They absorb minerals from the soil and cause problems. The most common mineral absorbed is selenium. Selenium is what has given locoweed its fame.

(4) 3-leafed and Whorled-leafed growth patterns. These leaf patterns are members of the Lupinas genus and other poisonous plants.

(5) All bulbs. As a general rule, all bulbs should be avoided. Examples of poisonous bulbs are tulips and death camas.

(6) White and Yellow berries. The colored berries are to be avoided as they are almost all poisonous. Approximately ^ of all known red berries are poisonous.

(7) Plants with a milky sap. A milky sap indicates a poisonous plant.

(8) Plants with shiny leaves. These types of plants are considered poisonous and caution should be used.

(9) Plants that are irritants to the skin. These types of plants include poison ivy.

b. Preparing an unknown plant. (MSVX.02.11b) All plants that cannot be positively identified will be prepared properly prior to testing for consumption. Do not prepare plants that are described by types of plants to avoid. Many harmful toxins contained in plants can be destroyed by heat, or are water soluble, though some toxins remain exceptions.

(1) Place one part (leaves, flowers, stems, or roots) in a canteen cup.

(2) Fill the canteen cup with water and boil.

(3) After the water has boiled, remove the canteen cup from the heat source. Strain the water out, leaving the plant inside the canteen cup. Cooking and discarding the water can lessen or remove the amount of toxins that may be contained in the plant. These boiling periods should last at least 5 minutes each.

(4) Fill the canteen cup with water and repeat the process.

(5) After straining the water out a second time, the plant may be tested.

c. Plant testing procedure. The US Military has developed a plant testing procedure, which may not always guarantee the safety of plants for human consumption. This procedure should only be used in a long-term survival situation as a last resort.

(1) Ensure that you haven't eaten any food for at least 8 hours. Prepare one canteen cup of charcoal for emergency consumption.

(2) Select a plant that grows in sufficient quantity in the local area. Separate the part of the plant you wish to test: root, stem, leaf, or flower. Certain parts of plants are poisonous while the other parts may be edible.

(3) Rub a portion of the plant you have selected on your inner forearm. Wait 15 minutes and look for any swelling, rash, or irritation. What you are testing for is contact poisoning.

(4) Prepare the plant using the unknown plant procedure as described above.

(5) Touch a small portion (a pinch) of prepared plant to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching. If after 3 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place a pinch of the prepared plant food on your tongue and hold for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.

(6) After holding on your tongue for 15 minute, if there is no reaction, thoroughly chew and hold it in your mouth for another 15 minutes. Do not swallow. If unpleasant effects occur (burning, bitter, or nauseating taste), remove the plant from the mouth at once and discard it as a food source. If no unpleasant effects occur, swallow the plant material and wait 8 hours.

(7) If after 8 hours no unpleasant effects have occurred (nausea, cramps, diarrhea), eat a H cup of plant prepared the same way and wait 8 hours.

(8) In no unpleasant effects have occurred at the end of this 8 hour period, the plant may be considered edible if prepared in the same manner.

(9) If at any time symptoms appear (i.e., nausea, cramps, or dizziness), attempt to induce vomiting and consume prepared charcoal.

(10)Completely document and sketch the plant in a log book to refer to for future use. This will aid in future procurement of this plant. If plant properties have changed, you will have to repeat the plant testing procedure.

4. EDIBLE PLANTS. There are many recognizable plants located throughout the world. Remember, eating large portions of a single plant food on an empty stomach may cause diarrhea, nausea, or cramps. Two good examples of this are such familiar foods as green apples and wild onions; therefore, eat them in moderation.

a. General Considerations. The following are general considerations which can be applied throughout the world.

(1) Select plants resembling those cultivated by people.

(2) Single fruits on a stem are generally considered safe to eat.

(3) Blue or black berries are generally safe for consumption.

(4) Aggregated fruits and berries are always edible (for example, thimble berry, raspberry, salmonberry, and blackberry).

(5) Plants growing in the water or moist soil are often the most palatable.

(6) All cone-bearing trees produce seeds in their cones which are edible. The cambium layer, pitch, and pine needles are a rich source of vitamin C.

(7) All fruits having 5-petals at the end of a single fruit belong to the rose family. The hip (fruit) and flower are edible and a rich source of vitamin A and C.

(8) The seeds from all grasses are edible.

b. Specific Plants. There are several edible plants found in the western region of the United States and are easy to recognize.

(1) Wild Onions - Complete plant.

(2) Dandelion - Roots and leaves.

(3) Watercress - Complete plant.

(5) Thistles- Anderson, Bull, and Elk thistle root and flower.

(7) Juniper Tree - Berries.

5. MEDICINAL PLANTS (MSVX.02.11c) A Marine or unit's bid for survival may be complicated by medical problems. Injuries incurred will reduce survival expectancy and the ability to evade.

a. Willow. Willow is a thick forming shrub with clustered stems and very narrow leaves. Its habitat includes wet soils, riverbanks, sandbars, and silt flats.

(1) A fever can be reduced by drinking tea made from the inner bark.

(2) The dried and powdered inner bark can be used to stop severe bleeding.

(3) Diarrhea can be treated by administering a half cup of willow charcoal dissolved in water.

(4) The Willow roots can be mashed and applied to tooth aches.

b. Yarrow. Yarrow is a plant (tall, usually not branched, with many white, slat topped group flowers). Do not confuse Yarrow with Poison Hemlock.

(1) Insect repellent can be made by rubbing a handful of crushed Yarrow flowers and leaves on any exposed skin.

(2) Bleeding can be stopped by placing a Yarrow leaf poultice on the wound.

(3) Relief from minor burns and many rashes, including poison oak and ivy, can be achieved by applying a Yarrow leaf compress to the effected area.

(4) The Yarrow root can be chewed to relieve the pain of a tooth ache or break a fever.

(5) A potent anesthetic can be made by scrubbing fresh Yarrow roots in water to clean them. Once the roots are clean, crush them into a spongy mass and apply gently to the wounded area.

c. Medicinal terms and definitions. The following terms, and their definitions, are associated with medicinal plant use:

(1) Infusion or Tea. The preparation of medicinal herbs for internal or external application. You place a small quantity of a herb in a container, pour hot water over it, and let it steep (covered or uncovered) for 20 minutes before use.

(2) Poultice. The name given to crushed leaves or other plant parts that are applied to a wound or sore either directly or wrapped in cloth. Place plant in gauze or other similar material and fold it so the gauze will hold the plant in place. Put gauze in a larger cloth, about 6"x8", and roll the sides inward. Fold the cloth over without losing the plant. While boiling water, dip the bottom portion of the cloth containing the plant into the hot water by holding the edges. Keep the plant submerged in the boiling water until it becomes saturated. Bring the cloth straight up and with a twisting motion, wring the excess water back into the pot. Apply the poultice to the affected area as soon as it has cooled enough to place on the wound. To be effective, the poultice should be as hot as you can tolerate.

(3) Compress. A compress is made just like a poultice, except it is cold when applied to the wound.

NOTE: Poultice or Compress should be applied for 1 to 24 hours, as needed. When applying a poultice, you may experience a throbbing pain as it draws out the infection and neutralizes toxins. When the pain subsides, the poultice has accomplished its task and should be removed. Apply a fresh poultice as needed until the desired level of healing has been reached.

6. POISONOUS PLANTS. (MSVX.02.11d) Rarely will a survivor have an ideal means of killing large game, though there are certain plants that can aid the survivor. The two plants that we will talk about are the Water Hemlock and Monkshood.

a. Preparing Poisonous Plants. Once a poisonous plant has been located, dig up the root of the plant. The roots of the Water Hemlock and Monkshood generally grow 8 to 10 inches deep. Extreme caution must be used when handling the root. Do not handle the root without a barrier between your hands and the root. A barrier can be gloves, socks, T-shirt, or even moss. Split the root lengthwise to expose the inside of the root where the toxin is located. With the root split, rub the tip of your spear/arrow inside of the root opening. In a slow controlled manner, work from the bottom of the tip to the top. Once the tip is thoroughly coated, allow the toxin to dry and apply another coat to the tip. Continue to apply coat after coat of toxin, until the root is completely drained of it's toxin. You are now finished and the tip is ready for use.

7. INSECTS. Insects are the most abundant life form on earth and are an excellent survival food. They are easy to catch and provide 65-80% protein, compared to 20% for beef. They aren't too appetizing, but personal bias has no place in a survival situation. The focus must remain on maintaining your health.

a. Insects to avoid. (MSVX.02.12a)


All adults that sting or bite.


Hairy or brightly colored insects.


All Caterpillars.


Insects that have a pungent odor.


All spiders.


Disease carriers like ticks, flies, or mosquitoes

b. Edible



Insect Larvae.








c. Foraging for Insects. One must be careful not to expend more energy harvesting food than can be replaced. For example, catching insects such as grasshoppers can become frustrating and tiring.

(1) At night grasshoppers climb tall plants and cling to the stalks near the top. They can be picked from the plants in the early morning while they are chilled and dormant.

(2) Dig for worms in damp humus soil, under rocks/logs or look for them on the ground after it has rained.

(3) Carpenter ants are found in dead trees and stumps which can be gathered by hand.

(4) Most other insects can be found in rotten logs, under rocks, and in open grassy areas.

d. Preparing Edible Insects. (MSVX.02.12b)

(1) Insects with a hard outer shell have parasites. Remove the wings and barbed legs before cooking.

(2) Drop worms into potable water for at least a half hour. They will naturally purge themselves. You can either cook or eat them raw.

(3) Most other insects can be eaten raw. Cooking insects will improve their taste. If the thought of eating insects is unbearable, grind them into a paste and mix with other foods.

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