Naturalist shares tales, music of weeds for needs

By John Butler

Chagrin Valley Times

April 22, 2021

Naturalist Doug Elliott does not hesitate to sing his praises about the nutritional value of weeds.

The herbalist, basket maker, storyteller and professional harmonica player used his musical talents last week during a webinar about the good in weeds.

“It kind of reminds us that it’s all there, we can just squint our eyes or open our hearts and realize that every question we have is probably there in the natural world.” Mr. Elliott said during the April 15 event.

Through stories and songs, Mr. Elliott presented “Weeds for Your Needs,” describing useful plants and sharing how to craft baskets from tree bark or native grasses.

He sang about dandelions and played his blackberry boogie tune.

Dandelions are a natural diarrhetic and a rich source of potassium, Mr. Elliott said. They are often looked upon as nasty weeds without purpose, but the leaves are rich with nutrients, though people can often be turned away by the taste alone, he said.

“Some of you may go out and taste a dandelion and think, well they are kind of bitter.” Mr. Elliott said. “So, what we’ll do is during the first spring of the year when they are coming out and the leaves are good and tender, we will chop them up and make a sweet and sour dressing with a little honey, a little vinegar, and then add your oils and your herbs whatever else you like to add in there.” Dandelions are exceptionally high in vitamin A and other vital minerals. He told viewers that jagged edges of the dandelion leaf reminded someone of lion’s teeth and hence the name.

Blackberries, called heart berries in Native American cultures due to their shape, are another plant rich with both nutrients and history, Mr. Elliott said. Native American tribes found the blackberry to be the first to bloom after winter, he said, so these berries became a crucial food source.

Mr. Elliott, a North Carolina native, warned listeners that some plants in the wild are poisonous. Knowledge of plant life is key to enjoying the outdoors, he said.

He told cautionary tales including a story of a Virginia man who in the early 1700s wrote about an event in which his neighbors thought that Jimson weed would be a good addition to their salads. The result produced several days of a hallucinatory psychotic event and behaviors for those who ate the plant, he said.

The online event was sponsored by Protect Geauga Parks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of county parks.

For more information visit

Protect Geauga Parks hosted Doug Elliott, herbalist, to tell the tales of common weeds in a Zoom webinar last week. The musical storyteller sang about some of the wild plants often found in one’s yard and even shared some of their beneficial uses. Photo provided by Protect Geauga Parks.

A recording of the Weeds for Needs event is now available on YouTube at this link:

Categories: Events, News

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