• Question: If you were alone in a forest and had to survive for a couple of days only thanks to the plants around, which ones do you think would be the most useful (for water, food, shelter, and medecine) ?

    Asked by Anaïs to Zarah, Kon, Kirsten, Jena, Freddie on 15 Nov 2016.
    • Photo: Jennifer Bates

      Jennifer Bates answered on 15 Nov 2016:

      There are four things you have to do when stuck somewhere (called the core 4), and usually in this order: shelter, water, fire and food.

      Shelter is important in case the night temperature drops. I’d look for things to wrap myself in or stuff inside the outer layer of my clothes first to add insulation and keep me warm then I’d find bendy branches like willow by rivers to start making a frame and cover that in leaves and moss, unless I could find a tree hollow and make sure that was empty. Moving high might be important if there are wild animals but I don’t want to fall out of a tree at night if I fall asleep!! 😉 So plants with bendy branches and big leaves and some moss are good places to start.

      Water is the next thing, you have to stay hydrated. If there are no fast moving rivers I’d go for water trapped in big leaves, as still ponds or puddles are going to be full of bacteria. And I’d probably use some big leaves to hold water too, unless there was some clay by the river to start making something to hold the water in. I wouldn’t drink just yet though, the water might be dangerous.

      I’d build a fire first. I’d start with dry leaves, then add in twigs that were not green (when you snap off a twig you can see if it is fresh – green). I’d add dryish moss as well, that burns quite nicely for a long time. The I’d have to find a way to boil the water – that clay might be useful right now!

      And food – got to be careful here. If you don’t know what something is maybe best not eat it unless you absolutely are starving. Nuts might be a good place to start, and if you are unsure you can do something called leaching first – you place them in fast moving water with lots of ash from the fire for a few days which helps remove toxins. Berries I’d eat if I was sure what they were, but I’d avoid mushrooms as there are so many that look like one another (like the green spored parasol mushroom that looks like a button mushroom when young in the wild in America!).

      Medicine – depends on what I need it for! You can use some mosses and ferns as vermifuges (getting rid of stomach worms – urgh), some woods and leaves added to fires can ward of mosquitoes, and you can use some leaves and moss when you have cuts and grazes to help clean them and cover them, if the plants are cleaned first!