Perry's Perennial Pages, Perennial Arcade Quiz


Edible and Useful Perennials Quiz

Name the perennial described in each question or set of facts. Click "Answers" to check yours, then use your back button on your browser for the next question. Good luck and have fun!

1. The leaves of this perennial have served as a source of fibers for ropes, bags, and clothing for native Americans, with the terminal thorn of leaves serving as a handy needle. They also ground and used the roots for soap and as a shampoo, as the roots are rich in saponin. Answer

2. The dried root of this perennial, called "orris root", has a delicate violet fragrance and is used in many perfumes as a fixative. The rhizome has been chewed as a breath freshener, but high doses can lead to vomiting and be possibly toxic. Answer

3. This common perennial, originating in East Asia, was named after the Austrian botanist N.T. Host. Young leaves of the species lancifolia were cooked and eaten where this is native. Answer

4. This bulb is used as a food in Asia where it is native. Boiled and then dried, this bulb is a key ingredient in the Japanese "namono" eaten at the Japanese New Year. Pollen of this perennial is eaten or sprinkled over food, being nutritious and with a pleasant taste. Answer

5. The scientific name of this grass, coming from the Latin name for reed, originated in the Old World but is naturalized in the New World, especially in warmer regions. Used as a grain for food, the culms (hollow, jointed stems) have been used for reeds for musical instruments, windbreaks and in hut frames. Answer

6. This yellow-flowered herb from Eurasia escapes from cultivation in America. It repels insects, but is not as effective as pyrethrum. In the 16th and 17th centuries the leaves and leaf sap were used in omelets which were named after this plant. In high doses it is abortive and toxic. Answer

7. Named for the hero of Homer's Iliad, this perennial has been used in Europe to flavor beers (leaves) and to preserve wine (fruits). There are many nice cultivars currently available. Answer

8. The individual flowers of this perennial were said to resemble the imprint (veronikon or "true image") of Christ's face left on the cloth used to swab his face on the climb to Calvary. Answer

9. This perennial, whose genus name honors the Greek god of medicine, is attractive to butterflies and lends this fact to its common name. Widely eaten by the native Americans, the shoots and leaves if not boiled properly can be toxic. Answer

10. The name for this perennial comes from the Latin for "wolf" because it was erroneously believed to rob the soil of nutrients, when in fact this legume does just the opposite, fixing nitrogen in the soil. Answer

11. There have been many uses of the Eurasian species of this native American perennial genus. Tubers of hexapetala were eaten in Europe in times of famine, and the fragrant flowers of ulmaria are used for flavor in desserts, especially ice cream, and drinks such as teas. The dry plant contains salicylic acid, from which the active ingredient in aspirin is derived. Roots have been used as a detergent. The flowering tops have been used to dye wool black, or when used with alum a greenish-yellow. Answer

12. This low perennial with yellowish flowers, naturalized in eastern North America from Europe, has been used medicinally since Antiquity. It has been used to dye wool green, and the young leaves added raw to salads. The dew drops, so attractive when beaded on the leaves, were called "celestial water" for European alchemists. Answer

13. Leaves of the European species veris have a slightly spicy taste and anise smell, and have been used raw in salads or cooked. They contain vitamin C and minerals. The root has been used medicinally, and drying over time assumes an oil of wintergreen scent (from methyl salicylate). The early spring flowers have a delicate sweet smell and have been added to fruit salads or made into a mousse and other desserts. Other species such as denticulata and vulgaris have been used similarly. Answer

14. Some species of this fall-flowering perennial genus have been used medicinally, with care and caution, as they can poison cattle. Natives of Kamtchatka in Northeast Asia used the sap of local species to poison arrows. The name comes from the Greek for wind, referring to the method of seed dispersal. Answer

15. Young shoots of this fern are often collected for eating, and have been since the early settlers. In Japan they are called "kusasotetsu" when boiled and fried in butter or soy sauce. Fronds have been reported to cause slightly toxic reactions when undercooked, so should be boiled at least 15 minutes to destroy the potential toxin. This fern is named for the Italian physicist Carlo Matteuci, 1800-1868. Answer

 Answers

1. Yucca

2. Iris germanica, German Iris

3. Hosta, Funkia, Plantain Lily

4. Lilium, Lily

5. Arundo donax, Giant Reedgrass

6. Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare, the omelets being called "tansies".

7. Achillea, Yarrow

8. Veronica, Speedwell

9. Asclepias, Butterfly Weed

10. Lupinus, Lupine

11. Filipendula, Meadowsweet

12. Alchemilla, Lady's Mantle

13. Primula, Primrose

14. Aneome, Windflower, Pasqueflower

15. Matteucia struthiopteris, Ostrich Fern


How did you do? If you'd like to learn more about edible plants (mostly native ones to North America or naturalized), their uses, lore, and even toxic properties, an excellent recent reference is The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America, Francois Couplan, PhD., Keats Publishing, New Cannan, CT, 1998. The author writes from decades of first-hand experience with these plants, a scientific background, and living with native peoples around the world.

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