Ancestral Plants volume 1 is a foraging, wildcrafting medicine, and useful plant reference that details 94 species of wild plants that grow in the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada in a variety of habitats, ranging from coastal shorelines to high mountain tops.  Many of the plants are widely distributed and found across the continent and in Europe as well.  Each species includes at least two full color images, a description of the plant and the natural communities it is found in, as well as information on its edible, medicinal, and utilitarian uses.  A foraging calendar is provided to help the reader identify what is available at different times in the growing season.  Introductory chapters on how the Ancestral Plant series is formatted, foraging, and herbal medicine are included.  The ebook contains the original 219 pages of the printed text with some edits for typos and updated scientific names of plants.  The ebook is available through E-junkie.  Purchase of this reference enables the buyer to download an encrypted PDF file that can be viewed on a variety of devices.

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To be notified when this volume is back in print (as a physical book), email Anaskimin or call 207-266-5748. 

Reviews of Ancestral Plants volume 1

Samuel Thayer

Forager's Harvest

Book Review, 16 April 2011

It was hard for me to decide where to put this book, for there is no other like it. While it does cover edible wild plants and their food uses, it also goes deeply into their utilitarian and medicinal properties. While none of this is covered in extreme detail, all of it is covered with care, precision, accuracy, and the insights brought about by Arthur's personal experiences and botanical background.

A serious wild food gatherer in the Northeastern US (that is, north of Kentucky and Missouri and east of the Great Plains) or adjacent Canada will definitely want this book in his or her collection. The coverage of food uses is good but not particularly extensive. However, more general primitive skills enthusiasts will find that this book is incredibly useful and totally unique. Having been involved in woodwork, primitive archery, cordage making, and similar skills for more than 20 years, I have been disappointed time and again by the lack of botanical knowledge that prevails in the primitive skills community--and more so, by the often hostile attitude taken toward those who care to learn about the plants they are using. Authors and teachers make arrows from "red-osier dogwood" but are actually referring to Cornus rugosa most of the time (including mislabeled photos in books). Many instructors have no idea of the differences between stinging and wood nettle, common and swamp milkweed, slippery and American elm, or common and spreading dogbane--yet these details can be incredibly important if you actually USE the plants. (I even once had a bowyer condescendingly laugh at me for suggesting that mountain ash is not an ash [hint, it's NOT]) and might therefore have different qualities to its wood. To my knowledge, there is no other primitive skills instructor in North America who can combine the level of experience that Arthur Haines has with a broad and impeccable knowledge of field botany. It shines through in this work, which is accentuated by excellent color photographs of the plants covered. These, along with the accurate verbal descriptions, make this one of the better guides for plant identification.

I am a firm believer in the efficacy of plant medicine, and enjoy using medicinal plants myself. One thing I appreciate about this book is that Arthur has sifted through the literature to discover those medicinal uses of wild plants that are supported by actual research. So, for those who believe in focusing on the physiological aspects of healing (as opposed to mythological, magical, and spiritual), you will find this book's coverage of medicinal plants refreshing and helpful.

Unfortunately, this title was produced by a small publisher and is therefore hard to find. Although the layout, graphics, typesetting, editing, and binding are all of high quality, the book does not conform to a few simple industry standards that would allow it to be sold in the general retail marketplaces (such as Amazon). This is unfortunate, since the vision, research, writing, editing--all the stuff that counts--are in general well above what is seen in wild food books put out by larger publishers. Get it directly from the publisher at

Matt Peters

Northern Woodlands (magazine)

Book Review, Summer 2011

By the time you read this, the annual banquet of fiddleheads may have passed, but a cornucopia of other wild foods, medicines, and materials are available to anyone who cares to discover them. Arthur Haines can aid this discovery with

his excellent new work, Ancestral Plants, a book that will be enjoyed by those looking to find a deeper relationship to the natural world through interaction with the plants that surround us.

Beyond (but including) widely known wild foods such as fiddleheads, wild leeks, and blueberries, Haines opens the door to creating positive, non-exploitive, mutually beneficial relationships with the myriad wild plants that surround us in the northeastern landscape. The guide is easy to use and backed by Haines’s own experiences and research as a practitionerand teacher of foraging skills.

Ancestral Plants offers brief but highly informative accounts of over 100 plant species in the Northeast. Each species account includes scientific and common names, color photos, a quick reference guide to major types of uses, and brief botanical descriptions. The descriptions of uses are succinct but quite thorough and truly useful. Haines has organized information about harvest timing, standard dosages, modes of medicinal action, routes of administration, and phytochemical classification in separate sections that work in concert with the individual species accounts to convey the full detail and understanding necessary to make use of each plant. As indicated by the subtitle, Ancestral Plants goes beyond edible and medicinal uses to explore the many ways plants can meet our material needs, from fire making to cordage, basketry materials to primitive archery supplies. Haines’s “primitive skills” approach applies to his presentation of edible and medicinal plants as well: he favors simple preparations and processing methods that require little or no specialized modern equipment.

As might be expected from a botanist like Haines (and as is needed for a truly accurate plant reference), scientific names are predominant in the text, but readers whose Latin is a bit rusty need not fear, as common names are provided as well. Plant descriptions, however, are left intentionally brief with the expectation that users will accompany this volume with one of the many existing plant identification guides. (Haines’s other works, including the Flora of Maine, are among the more technical guides on the market.)

The “Volume 1” in the subtitle leaves me hoping that it will not be too long before we can enjoy more in this vein from the author. Note that Ancestral Plants is self-published and not currently available through large distributors but can be ordered from the author at