That May be Helpful in Surviving the Post-Apocalyptic Midwest


Plants are moving north // Apocalypse through Earth-self-immolation approaching

Landscape architects, horticulturalists, gardeners and other plant-types noticed a while ago that the Plant Hardiness zones put forward by the USDA seemed to shifting northward.  Plants that couldn’t survive colder northerly climates suddenly found, for example, southern Minnesota to not be all that bad, as global temperatures rose ever so slightly.  The USDA has officially acknowledged this with their new Plant Hardiness maps.  

Here is a super fun toy by the Washington Post to see if hardiness zones have changed in your area. 

The USDA hasn’t admitted it, but this is clearly a harbinger of global environmental change collapse and impending doom.  Global warming/climate change has altered our atmosphere significantly–temperatures are rising, frequency and intensity of meteorological events are increasing.  It’s only a matter of time before freak tornado attacks,  spontaneous raging fires and either endless ice age-ic winters or infinite burning droughts engulf us.  

If we survive these clearly cumulating climactic climatic catastrophes, though, we will need to take a few things into account.  There may be new plants we need to learn to identify in our regions due to the hardiness zone shift, new species with useful traits. This also might push some of our trusted plants north, however.  The changes in temperature will also increase the growing season, which could mean that it won’t be as nearly impossible to survive a winter filled with slow starvation (and zombies).  Or, perhaps the warmer temperatures will increase the rate at which the zombie virus travels. Maybe we’ll be slammed by a double-whammy end-of-times as our own ecological naivety causes the atmosphere to burn and suffocate us, while meanwhile the zombie virus we foolishly thought we could control rampages across the globe…

Either way, check out the cool map


Yellow Wood Sorel (Oxalis stricta)

Survivor’s Notes:

Wood sorel is a common ground cover found in most parts of the Midwest. It especially thrives in degraded habitats, so it should be easy for the wandering survivor to find in deforested areas along power lines, along roadsides, in abandoned gardens, etc.

The leaves of wood sorel are edible and have a sweet to sour taste. They also contain Vitamin C, which may become a rare nutrient for post-apocalyptic survivors once stockpiles of fruit and juice have diminished.

Of Note to Pre-Apocalyptic Plant People:

Herbacious perennial that can get 6 inches to a foot tall. The leaves are trifoliate, heart-shaped, and fold up when in full sunlight. Yellow bell-shaped flowers with five petals emerge from the leaves, sometimes with a red center.

Very common plant found in many habitats, including woodland clearings, mesic black soil prairies, savannas, limestone glades, fields, lawns, edges of paths and driveways, and waste areas.

Full or partial sun. Prefers rich loamy soil, but can tolerate clay, gravel, and sand. Prefers moist to slightly dry conditions. Cannot tolerate hot and dry parts of mid summer and becomes dormant during these conditions.

Wood sorel is very ubiquitous and often not considered in design, although it could be used as a ground cover with some yellow coloring from its flowers. Wood sorel is not often planted; it spreads easily.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.)

Survivor’s Notes: 

Daylilies are a very prevalent plant in urban garden plantings. People (before the apocalypse) love(d) these things.

There are over 60,000 registered cultivars of daylilies. Luckily for the survivor wandering deserted urban areas and spotting these hardy flowers, they can be a food source. The flowers are edible and can be dried and saved for later. Young leaves and tubers can also be eaten.

If harvesting from an urban landscape, however, be sure to avoid plantings near what were once heavy traffic areas where contaminants and runoff would likely be absorbed by the plants.

Daylilies for Pre-Apocalypse Folks:

Most daylillies occur in clumps 1 to 4 feet high. Linear leaves grouped in opposite fans. Flowers generally have three petals and three sepals. Mostly used for colored flowers. Can be used as a perennial flower border, planted in large masses, or as a ground cover on slopes.

Daylilies can grow in many environments, but are often distanced from trees or shrubs that would compete for moisture and sunlight. Best in full sun, can tolerate light shade. Can tolerate most soils but do best in slightly acidic soil high in organic matter. Prefers well-drained but moist environments. Can spread aggressively.

Can be planted almost any time soil can be worked. Dig hole large enough for the roots without bending them.

Wild Plum (Prunus americana)

Survivor’s Notes:

Wild plums are a great source of food for a survivor. They can be found in many habitats, and trees or shrubs often produce hefty amounts of fruit. The plums can be dried and stored, or eaten raw. The Omaha Indians also would use a lotion made from the bark and roots of wild plum on abrasions to help healing.



Of Note to Pre-Apocalyptic Plum-Growers:

Large shrub or small tree with thorny branches and a broad crown, blooming in mid spring. Usually forms thickets. Alternate, oval leaves with dark green upper side and pale under side. Small white flowers occur singly or in clusters. Fruits are spherical, about 1 inch in diameter, and reddish-purple.

Common in oak woodlands and savannas and lower elevation grassland prairies, as well as riverbanks and along roadsides. Can tolerate shade. Coarse to medium, but not fine soils. Requires well-drained soil. Winter hardy but intolerant to flood or fire. Ornamental/decorative and fruit-producing.

Easy to plant from seed or transplant, but not from cuttings. If propagating from cuttings, material should be taken from healthy, moderately vigorous stock plants and grown in full sunlight.

Gooseberry (Ribes sp.)

Survivor’s Notes:

Gooseberry may look like an intimidating plant and not a safe food source with its spiny fruit, but it can be a healthy and tasty snack for the casual zombie fleer.

The fruit should be harvested when fully mature, but before it ripens. Gooseberry is a great fruit to make jam (if the survivor has appropriate canning materials with them) and store for the long, cold, hopeless nuclear winter.

Prickly Gooseberry (Ribes cynobasti) is one species found in the Midwest, details on which are listed below.

Prickly Gooseberry and the Landscape Architect:

Shrub, anywhere from 2-10 feet high.

Thorny leaves and branches. Leaves are scalloped with five distinctive lobes. Fruits are greenish with vertical stripes. Tubes of flowers hang from each fruit. Gooseberries can be found in rocky and wooded areas, slopes, and borders, as well as limestone bluffs. Half to full sun. Grows best in soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7. Cannot survive in very dry environments.
Flowers bloom in very early spring and can be harmed by late-winter freezes. Hardy, very productive. Also used as ornamental tree or shrub. Addition of comport or other organic materials helps plants settle when planted. Can be propagated from cuttings or through mound layering. Plant at least 4 feet apart.

Common Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

Survivor’s Notes:

Common chokecherry can provide the survivor with a food source through its fruit. The small berries are bitter but edible. They can be dried and stored for later use, or eaten raw. If the survivor has an established base of operations with no fear of invading zombies, he or she could even attempt to ferment the cherries into chokecherry wine. The pits of the cherries are poisonous, however, and should be avoided.

The bark and leaves of chokecherries have been used medicinally as well, and a tincture of chokecherry could help alleviate suffering from fever, pneumonia, sore throat or gastrointestinal problems. It can also be used as a rinse on burns and open sores. If using as a salve, the plant should not be boiled–the medicinal properties can be boiled away.

Of Note to Pre-Apocalyptic Landscape Architects:

Tree or shrub, less than 30 feet tall. Leaves are alternate, serrated, oval in shape, and glabrous, growing 1 to 4 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. There are two small glands on the petiole at the base of the leaf. Young trees are marked by horizontal lenticels on their bark, which grow into grooves in maturity. The fruit are small, dark red cherries. Also grows cylindrical clusters of white flowers in spring.

Grows abundantly in many habitats and communities. Grows in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 7. Prefers full sun–not an understory shrub. Occurs in wide range of soil types including both silt and sandy loam, a range of acidity/alkalinity, and depth. Does not do well in poorly drained or clay soils. Can withstand dry and moist soils but cannot withstand frequent flooding or poorly drained soil. Well adapted to fire disturbance–can spread from rhizomes, and seeds germinate better when heated. Grows quickly to mature size and has white flowers in the spring. Attracts birds and can produce a fragrance like almonds. Can be used as noise barrier and does well in urban areas. Seeds can be placed ½ inch deep, but should be pre-chilled for 3 months prior. Saplings are intolerant of weed competition.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Survivor’s Notes:

Despite the fact that stinging nettle can cause skin irritation upon contact with its hairy leaves and stems, this plant can be useful both as a food source and as a medicinal herb. Nettles can often be found in pastures, fields, overgrown yards, waste dumps, roadsides, floodplains, ditches, and along roads, so they should be easily locatable in an overgrowing, abandoned world of the future.

The leaves of stinging nettle can be eaten, and taste somewhat like spinach. Be sure to either soak the leaves in water or cook them before touching them with bare hands or eating them, in order to remove the stinging chemicals.
The leaves are best eaten when young and tender, but if collected anytime between June and September, they can be used for medicinal purposes. As an herb, nettle is an astringent tonic, and can have positive effects in cases of hemorrhages, nosebleeds, diarrhea, dysentery, and fevers. In case you are unfortunately suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or eczema while surviving in the future, nettles can help with those conditions as well.

Of Note to Pre-Apocalyptic Landscape Architect Types:

Leaves grow oppositely on vertical stem, and are serrated with a pointed tip. Leaves and stems are hairy. Flowers are small and brown or green. Grows 1 to 2m tall. Moist fields, forests, or shorelines. Full to partial sun. Prefers moist, rich environments. Does not thrive in phosphorous-deprived soils; prefers nitrogen rich soil. Prefers damp environments. Cannot tolerate saline environments. Often considered a weed, but can be useful in a garden. Nettles make good companion plants to many vegetables including broccoli, tomatoes, mints and other herbs. Can thrive in areas rich in poultry droppings. Cuttings can be used as compost activator (with high nitrogen content). Can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or root division.