A Survival Guide to Alaskan Wild Plants

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Fran Kelso pens updated version of ‘Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island’.

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It is also my intent to give readers a valuable source of information if they spend time in the outdoors and want to learn more about their environment.

Fran Kelso now introduces the second of edition of her book, “Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island: foraging in the Kodiak Archepelago” originally published in 1980. (First edition was published by Alaska Northwest Publishing.)

In her newest edition, Kelso expands her listing of edible and medicinal plants, with recipes for preparation, and also adds a special index section of medicinal plants with a brief description of their use. Other sections include dye recipes, tea recipes, a selection of color pictures, a “Plant Family Index”, and a short history of the village of Ouzinkie. Though focused on Spruce Island, the plants or similar species found in the book are located in a number of areas in Alaska.

An excerpt from page 83, “Sundew – (A small insect-eating bog plant)”

There is a hidden little bog on Spruce Island where colonies of the elusive sundew make their homes atop the sphagnum humps. Once, when my knees were younger, I squatted for long minutes, watching a small winged insect flying back and forth, low, across the top of one such little settlement. He seemed unable to break his flight pattern; he flew as if under a compelling spell. He drew closer and closer to the tops of the waiting plants. At last he drew too near, and touched one of the hungry leaves, and he stuck there, held fast by the sticky surface. No more would he fly free – and the sundew colony had fresh meat for supper!

“I would like readers to come away with a desire to go out in the woods and learn about some of these plants firsthand,” Kelso explains. For those who cannot take to the woods, she hopes they would learn some things about wild plants that would intrigue them and inspire them to learn more. “It is also my intent to give readers a valuable source of information if they spend time in the outdoors and want to learn more about their environment.”

Not only is “Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island” a book of ethnobotany, it is also a great survival tool for those venturing the Alaskan wilderness.

About the Author
Fran Kelso was born in Connecticut in 1938 and moved to Colorado in 1947. In 1969, she and her musical group played a number of gigs in Alaska. She married her husband, Les, and in 1973, saw Spruce Island for the first time. In 1977, Fran built a house there, where she resided for the next 20 years. In 1982, she won the Alaska Adult Education award for the best adult educator in the state. She now lives in Gustavus, Alaska, where, as she says, “It will now be my turn to explore a new area and learn what plants are there.”

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