That May be Helpful in Surviving the Post-Apocalyptic Midwest


Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

Survivor’s Notes:

Black chokeberry is helpful as a food source.  The berries, although astringent in taste, are edible.  In addition, they are a common food source for wildlife in late fall, and the survivor can use the shurbs as a lure for squirrels or birds (thus providing even more food).

Black chokeberries have also been shown to provide a defense against colon cancer.  (Nobody wants to survive a global epidemic of contagious disease, only to die of colon cancer).

Of Note to Pre-Apocalyptic Landscape Architects:

Alternate, finely serrated leaves. Black berries in late fall, each containing many seeds. Red buds on winter twigs. Often found near rivers, in moist woods, or on bluffs or hillsides. Full to partial sun. Thrives in a variety of sites, including moist clay and dry, alkaline sand/rocky soil. Prefers moist, well-drained soil. No serious insect threats. Continuous moisture can cause fruit to rot, spreading disease. Establishes quickly, good fall foliage, winter berries. Plant sparingly; strong tendency to sucker and colonize nearby areas.



Survivor’s Notes:

Cattail is a ubiquitous plant that grows near many bodies of water, and can prove useful to the survivor in many ways.  The roots and inner stalks of the plant are edible, as is the distinctive flower head if harvested early enough in the season.  The roots and stem can be eaten raw or boiled, while the flower head can be cooked over fire like corn.

Flour can be harvested from parts of the plant (if the survivor is very determined to make bread), the whole plant can be used as a thatching or matting for structures, and the flowerhead can also be set aflame and used as a torch (it acts like a wick, but would need oil or something flammable as fuel).

Two species of cattail are commonly found in the Midwest; Broad-leafed Cattail and Narrow-leafed Cattail (Typha latifolia and Typha angustifolia, respectively).  The former is native, whereas the latter was introduced from Europe, but for our purposes they are extremely similar.

Cattail may be one of the primary plants used by survivors in the post-apocalyptic world, due to its plethora of utilities and its widespread prevalence.  Also, many survivors will have to seek out fresh drinking water, and in their search they will most likely encounter Typha as well.  Cattail in urban areas, however, may contain pollutants and toxins from urban runoff, and the survivor may prefer to harvest cattails in more rural or wild settings.

Landscape Architects notes:

Wikipedia image of Cattail

Key identifying characteristics: Cattail grows up to 5 to 10 feet tall with long, flat, erect, glabrous, spearlike leaves growing vertically from the base. The flower head is distinctive with its “hot dog”-like pistilate section and stamen protruding

out above.

Habitat/plant community: Cattails thrive in moist environments, often bordering water bodies like ponds, lakes, rivers, canals, and ditches, often in communities with bur reed and various grasses.

Light requirements: Full sun.

Soils: Grows in very wet soils, often in shallow water. Prefers low-salinity environments.

Moisture requirements: Prefers very wet environments, growing in water as deep as 32 inches.

Environmental sensitivities: Can tolerate flooding, reduced soil conditions, moderate salinity.

Functional/design uses: Often considered invasive/weedy, but can be used as a bioremediator. Typha is edible and has also been used as thatching, insulation, and as a torch.

Planting techniques: May be planted from rootstock, from seedlings, or be directly seeded (if there is no moving water).

Common Burdock – Arctium minus

Survivor’s Notes

Common Burdock burs The survivor will become familiar with common burdock most likely by peeling the bur-like seeds off his or her clothing after fleeing zombies through an overgrown pasture.  After removing the burs, though, he or she should stop and take note of the plant.

The taproot of burdock is edible, as is the interior of the stem, and can be collected and cooked.  Flour can also be made from the taproot, but that might be tricky in the blender-less future after doomsday.  Burdock is a useful plant to know, though, because it grows well in disturbed areas, especially along roadways, paths, railroads, etc., which may be areas a post-apocalyptic survivor would find herself as she wanders the wastelands.

Also, in case society rebuilds itself, a survivor should know that burdock seeds were the initial inspiration for Velcro, and can study the hooks-and-needles form of the hairy burs to reinvent Velcro in a future where humans have learned from their mistakes in the past.

Notes for the Landscape Architect
Key identifying characteristics:  Large, downy leaves with a purplish base.  Plant has a ridge along the stem and a large taproot.  Seed head has burs that stick to animals and clothing.

Habitat/plant community:  
Woodland edges, field edges, savannas, pastures, weedy meadows, along roads and railways, and in waste areas.

Light requirements:  Full to partial sun.

Soils:  Loamy, fertile soil.

Moisture requirements:  Slightly moist to mesic conditions.

Environmental sensitivities: Intolerant to flooding

Functional/design uses:  Considered a weed in many settings, but could be planted

Planting techniques:  Should not be planted; instead, removed in most garden settings.  Spreads by seeding itself, can form colonies of various sizes.


Photos pulled from

Notable Plants That May Be Helpful In Surviving the Post-Apocalyptic Midwest

We all know that the apocalypse is fast approaching. Be it nuclear fallout, global warming, total depletion of energy resources, or a zombie epidemic, the end of the world is most likely going to happen within 3 to 16 years. While many human beings will perish in the oncoming catastrophe, many of us will have a chance at extended survival.

These survivors will need every resource available to them in order to find shelter and food, treat injuries, stay healthy, and fend off zombies or lawless gangs of cannibals. This blog aims to educate the reader on one of the primary resources immediately available to survivors who happen to be roaming the upper-midwest geographical region, especially in the areas surrounding the Twin Cities, Minnesota (where I live): plants.

Assuming that the apocalypse does not come in the form of nuclear winter (in which case the sun would be blocked out and all vegetation would die, rendering this whole exercise useless), local vegetation will become invaluable for survival. Many of the plants we see every day are edible, have medicinal qualities, can be harmful or have some other utility. Being aware of these plants and their properties will not only prepare the reader to take advantage of them, but doing so will also give any survivor an edge against his or her competitors.

Since we all know, once we have entered the end of times, Cormack McCarthy style, it is every man or woman for him- or herself.