Many of the forest management practices discussed on this website have a multitude of benefits for forest owners. One benefit of managing your forest is the increased opportunity to forage on your property. Foraging includes berry harvesting, mushroom hunting, and wild edible foraging. Listed below are common species you can find on your property and what management practices help them thrive.
Many mushrooms can be found growing on or near deadwood or dying trees. Leaving deadwood and dying trees on your property can help encourage the growth of mushrooms. Remember to use mesh bags when harvesting mushrooms to allow the spores to spread and mushrooms to continue growing in your forest. A prescribed fire can encourage fruiting of many mushroom species. If you are ever uncertain about the identification of a mushroom, do not eat it! For more information on harvesting and identification, check out Indiana DNR’s mushroom brochure.
Morels can often be found around elm, oak, and other hardwood trees. Decaying trees often have morels growing around them. Leave several old and/or dying trees on your property to increase habitat for morels. Read more about Morel hunting here.
Look for Chanterelles around hardwoods, especially oaks. They like damp, warm conditions and can often be found near surface water. Leaving shade and organic matter near water sources in your forest could encourage the growth of Chanterelles. Read more about Chanterelles here.
Puffballs can often be found at the edge of open fields or under brush. Leaving brush piles could benefit Puffballs on your property and encourage their growth. Read more about Puffballs here.
Fruiting Trees and Shrubs
Indiana has many native fruiting trees and shrubs that can be planted or left on your property if already present. These will provide fruit harvesting opportunities for you and also provide food and shelter for wildlife. After establishment, prescribed fire can top-kill shrubs such as blackberries or black raspberries and encourage more berry growth after 2-5 years.
Persimmon is a fruiting tree native to Indiana that bears orange fruits in the fall. The fruits can be eaten once ripe or used to make muffins and breads. Persimmon has great wildlife value, so planting these in your forest can provide foraging opportunities for you and attract wildlife to your property.
Blackberry bushes are a native shrub found commonly along forest edges in Indiana. Blackberry is enjoyed by wildlife, such as songbirds, and the berries can be harvested once ripe. Blackberries are often used to make jams, jellies, or enjoyed on their own.
Black Raspberry bushes are another native shrub commonly found along forest edges in Indiana. Similar to blackberry bushes, they have immense wildlife value and the berries are often used for jams, jellies, or eaten on their own.
Elderberry is an Indiana native shrub. The berries can be used to make wine, jams, jellies, and pies. Elderberry was historically used medicinally, however many parts of the plants are mildly toxic, including unripe berries. The berries and twigs are loved by birds, small mammals, and deer.
They are many herbaceous species native to Indiana forests that can be eaten or used as a seasoning. Creating gaps in the canopy by thinning your forest allows sunlight to reach the forest floor and encourages the growth of these plants. Invasive plants can create dense thickets that shade out the forest floor and prevent native plants from growing, so controlling any invasive plants on your property is critical in ensuring the growth of native plants.
Wild leek is also known as ramps to many foraging fanatics. This wild onion is often cooked and eaten or used a seasoning for other dishes. It is found in moist soil and open woodlands. Use caution when harvesting, as wild leek can be confused with the poisonous lily-of-the-valley. If you are ever unsure of what plant it is, play it safe and do not eat it!
Mayapple grows in clusters in woodlands. Every part of the plant is poisonous, except for the ripe yellow fruit with the seeds removed. The fruit ripens in late summer and is highly valued by wildlife. It has a sweet, tart taste and can be eaten on its own or cooked and used in dishes.
Also known as Bee Balm, this wildflower from the mint family can be used to make tea. It was also historically valued for its medicinal properties.
Another mint family wildflower, Mountain Mint can be used to make tea. It can also be used as a seasoning for meat.