Wildcrafting in Appalachia


The Appalachian Mountains are home to some of the most diverse forests in the world and it has been suggested that a large percentage of the drugs that now comprise our modern pharmacopeia were originally derived from plant species native to and exported out of Appalachia. Wildcrafting is the practice of identifying and harvesting wild plants for food, medicine, or craft. While the practice of wildcrafting has, with the exception of ginseng digging, become, over the years, less prevalent in Appalachia, it seems to be seeing a resurgence of interest with the growing popularity of herbal medicine and wild foods. Furthermore, the growing field of agroforestry is beginning to see regulated wildcrafting of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) as a more economically and environmentally sustainable alternative to either timbering or mining. While much wildcrafting has been historically performed for medical purposes and there is much to be found here on herbal remedies, this pathfinder has attempted to provide resources specific to the gathering and harvesting of wild plants, not their therapeutic uses.

Introductory Text: 

Rehder, John B. Appalachian Folkways. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2004. ASU APP COLL GR108 .R48 2004. Relevant Pages: 163-171.

Collins, Kaye Carver, Lacy Hunter, and former Rabun County High School Students, eds. Foxfire 11: Wild Plant Uses, Gardening, Wit, Wisdom, Recipes, Beekeeping, Tool Making, Fishing, and More Affairs of Plain Living. New York: Anchor Books, 1999. ASU APP COLL F292 .R3 F7 1999. Relevant Pages: 120-163.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly Relevant:

  • Appalachian Region, Southern - Social life and customs
  • Country Life - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Ethnobotany - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Food Habits - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Human geography - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Wild Plants, Edible - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Wild Plants, Edible - Identification

Also Relevant:

  • Cookery (Wild Foods)
  • Herbs - Therapeutic Use - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Materia medica, Vegetable - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Medicinal plants - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Plants, Edible - Appalachian Region
  • Traditional Medicine - Appalachian Region, Southern

More General:

  • Folklore - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Plants, Edible
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Botany, Medical
  • Forests and Trees
  • Wildflowers and Plants
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • F292 .R3 F7
  • GR108 .R48
  • F291.2 .F62
  • GR108 .15 .C38
  • QK98.5 .U6 B75
  • QK98.5 .U6 G54
  • QK98.5 .F4
  • QK98.5 .G5
  • QK99 .N67
  • QK115 .M4

Brill, Steve, and Evelyn Dean. Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places. New York: Hearst Books, 1994. ASU MAIN QK98.5 .U6 B75 1994.

Cavender, Anthony P. Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. ASU APP COLL GR108 .15 .C38 2003. Relevant Pages: 62-69.

Gillespie, William H. Wild Foods of Appalachia. Morgantown, WV: Seneca Books, 1986. ASU APP COLL QK98.5 .U6 G54 1986.

Wigginton, Eliot, ed. Foxfire 2: Ghost Stories, Spring Wild Plant Foods, Spinning and Weaving, Midwifing, Burial Customs, Corn Shuckin’s, Wagon Making and More Affairs of Plain Living. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1973. ASU APP COLL F291.2 .F62. Relevant Pages: 47-94.

Wigginton, Eliot, ed. Foxfire 3: Animal Care, Banjos and Dulcimers, Hide Tanning, Summer and Fall Wild Plant Foods, Butter Churns, Ginseng, and Still More Affairs of Plain Living. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1975. ASU APP COLL F291.2 .F622. Relevant Pages: 245-353.

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Elliott, Douglas B. Wild Roots: A Foragers Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Roots, Tubers, Corms, and Rhizomes of North America. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1995. ASU APP COLL QK99.N67 E445 1995. Relevant Pages: 117-118.

Fernald, Merritt Lyndon and Kinsey, Alfred Charles. Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America. Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Idlewild Press, 1943. ASU APP COLL QK98.5 .F4 1943.

Gillespie, William H. Compilation of the Edible Wild Plants of West Virginia. New York: Scholar’s Library, 1959. ASU APP COLL QK98.5 .G5.

Medsger, Oliver Perry. Edible Wild Plants. New York: Collier Books; London: Collier MacMillan Publishers, 1972. ASU MAIN QK115 .M4 1966x


Carter, Constance. Edible Wild Plants. Washington, D.C.: Science Reference Section, Science and Technology Division, Library of Congress, 1996. ASU GOVT US

Cavender, Anthony. A Bibliography on Culture and Health in the Appalachian South, with Special Reference to Ethnomedical Beliefs and Practices. Johnson City, TN: East Tennessee State University, 199-?. ASU APP COLL Z5118 .M4 C38 1990z.

Robinson, John R. K. and Joel N. Elias. The Nutritional Value of Indigenous Wild Plants: An Annotated Bibliography. Troy, NY: Whitston Pub. Co., 1978. ASU MAIN Z5354 .E33 R63

Abstracts and Indices: 

Agricola: covers subjects such as agriculture, plant sciences, forestry, food and human nutrition, extension and education, and earth and environmental sciences. Updated daily. ASU WEB ACCESS.

Jacobs, Marion Lee. An Index of Plants of North Carolina with Reputed Medicinal Uses. n.p., 1958. ASU APP COLL QK99 .J3


Frostburg State University’s Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies

Native & Naturalized Plants of The Carolinas and Georgia

Rodale Institute’s Ethical and Practical Considerations for Wildcrafting

United Plant Savers

Wildcrafting With Ila Hatter

Audio and Video Sources: 

From Seed to Supper [videorecording]. UNC-TV Folkways Program; Produced and Directed by Jim Bramlett; Research Triangle Park, NC: UNC-TV. 2005. WCU VIDEO GR.F65537.

Mountain Kitchen: Lore, Legends and Real Uses of Plants [videorecording]. Produced by Linda Billman, Ila Hatter, and Jerry Coleman; Gatlinburg, TN: Great Smoky Mountains Association. 2003. ASU APP COLL VC 492.

Wild Edibles & Medicinals of Southern Appalachia. Summer series, Video 1 [videorecording]. With Ila Hatter. Robbinsville, NC: Ironweed Productions. 2001. ASU APP COLL VC 461.

Wild Edibles & Medicinals of Southern Appalachia
. Summer series, Video 2 [videorecording]. With Ila Hatter. Robbinsville, NC: Ironweed Productions. 2001. ASU APP COLL VC 463.

Wild Edibles & Medicinals of Southern Appalachia. Autumn [videorecording]. With Ila Hatter. Robbinsville, NC: Ironweed Productions. 2001. ASU APP COLL VC 462.

Other Sources: 

Manuscript Collections (Available in App Spec Coll in the Dougherty Reading Room by appointment.)

- 198. Robert C. Proffit papers 1938-1989.


Folk Healing in Southern Appalachia.

Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians.

The Arts and Crafts in Appalachia.

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Shannon Perry, 3 November 2009