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As a world traveler, I’ve come to accept that every beautiful place has a certain degree of danger that coexists with its wonders. An ordinary camping trip or backcountry adventure in the Pacific Northwest could easily turn into a battle between life and death because of the simple act of picking and eating the wrong berry, mushroom or flower.


For years, I’ve been frustrated by bad or misleading references for identifying trees and plants. Photos of plants, berries, flowers and trees are sometimes inaccurate or of poor quality. Sketches from old books show the bark of a tree but not the leaves— or the leaves but not the bark, which is useless in fall and winter, when leaves are scarce. Some books and field guides have only one photo of the tree, plant or flower in full bloom during their showiest time of the year. However, as a person studying plant and tree identification to aid in foraging, this can go beyond frustrating and approach dangerous. My journey down this path has become—like anything else I aspire to master—a lifelong study, with no graduation day!

The information here is the smallest drop in the ocean of data on plant, tree and berry identification, but it’s a good drop. It pertains to the most common, easy-to-identify, yet useful, items found in the Pacific Northwest, as well as many parts of the northern forests of Scandinavia and Russia. Most of this information will pertain to materials that can be used for fire, shelter and camp crafts because, for me, food is the lowest priority in a survival situation.

Tinders of the northern forests include birch bark, cottonwood and horsehair lichen and are common in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Russia and Scandinavia.
Alder trees all but strangle a hillside in Alaska. Alder is a soft, springy wood that is ideal for building camp items. One small tree offers a variety of branch diameters for traps, pot hangers and support poles.
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About American Survival Guide

April 2020