Ancestral Plants

You are here:  Home > Purchase > Ancestral Plants


Ancestral Plants:  A Primitive Skills Guide to Important Edible, Medicinal, and Useful Plants of the Northeast.  Volume 1.



The first volume of an anticipated three volumes is available for purchase.  It discusses the uses of approximately 100 wild plants that occur in northeastern North America, with mention of many more related species and their uses.  It will be an important reference for anyone interested in foraging, survival, herbal medicine, self-sufficiency, and ethnobotany.  To purchase a copy ($26.00 plus shipping), email Anaskimin or call 207-266-5748.  Checks and credit cards are accepted. 


You can download a one-page of announcement of Ancestral Plants that includes a brief description, example pages, ordering information, and price.  See below for two reviews of this book.  This reference is not being sold by any large book distributors, rather, it is offered primarily through the non-profit organization Anaskimin.  Please help spread the word by distributing this announcement to friends, coworkers, and organizations you believe will be interested in its content.  Thank you for your help.



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