If you are an aspiring wildcrafter, here are some ethical harvesting guidelines you may wish to follow. Gather leaves after the plant has flowered to ensure enough photosynthesis potential to flower and seed-out. When harvesting bark, try to find branches that have been downed by snow or heavy winds. If that is not possible, prune a limb and peel the bark instead of peeling from the main trunk. Use the small twigs as well. Make sure you seal up the wound with mud after the incision is made. This helps protect the tree from disease or bug infestation at the wound. When gathering flowers, make sure the plants will produce enough flowers to regenerate itself. When gathering roots, try to avoid steep terrain where erosion is more apt to occur. Find low-sloped areas instead. Fall or spring is the best time to gather roots. If it is a perennial plant, gather in the fall after seeds have been dispersed. If you can, gather your herbs more than 500 yards away from roads. And, if you gather on private property, make sure you get permission from the landowner. Usually landowners are more than happy that you have volunteered to “weed” from them.
For a detailed account of ethical wildcrafting, see The EcoHerbalist’s Fieldbook, by Gregory Tilford, available at Amazon.com.