By Lisa Tang

The “Foraging Bandana” created by Texas survivalist Mark Vorderbruggen, PhD is nice enough to wear, but is also useful. It displays pictures and text to help people survive in the wilderness and makes a great gift for people who enjoy the outdoors.

The bandana lists 12 edible and medicinal plants and fungi common in North America and a range of uses for each.

Identifying and foraging plants correctly is important to Vorderbruggen who consulted with Nicole Apelian of Raymond, Washington, on the bandana’s design for Wazoo Survival Gear.

Widely known by the nickname Merriwether, Vorderbruggen appears annually at venues in the Upper East Side of Texas as a speaker about foraging and wilderness survival. He’s also the expert naturalist behind the Foraging Texas website and products by Medicine Man Plant Co.

Vorderbruggen says the purpose of the bandana and other survival tools is to get people home safely. He calls them “get back home gear.”

The bandana’s field uses include cooling down, keeping sweat out of the eyes and sun off the head, bandaging wounds, or immobilizing a broken arm or ankle. The bandana is also useful for filtering water, serving as a potholder for boiling water, or even as tinder for starting a fire.

Most of the realistic botanical illustrations come from an 18th century German scientific textbook. A contemporary artist added a few drawings in the same style.

The 12 featured plants and fungi represent only a fraction of all edible and medicinal plants in North America but were chosen for ease of identification and wide availability. They include yarrow, wapato, turkey tail, maple, stinging nettle, violet, plantain, cattail, prickly pear, willow, burdock, and dandelion.

Eleven of the plants and fungi are common throughout the Upper East Side of Texas. Burdock is available along the Red River on the northeast border of Texas, but not farther south.

Yarrow is the most useful medicinal plant featured.

“Yarrow stops bleeding and is very antimicrobial,” Vorderbruggen says. “Make yarrow tea and the antibiotic effects help prevent infection in the wound.”

An inner circle around the field guide repeats the phrase, “Be Thy Food — Be Thy Medicine,” by Hippocrates. Known as “the father of medicine,” the famous physician lived more than 2,000 years ago.

Like Hippocrates, Vorderbruggen teaches and writes prolifically about natural medicine. He’s written a book, Idiot’s Guides: Foraging (2016).

He also presents the weekly online show “Merriwether’s World!” and guest lectures at schools and other venues. Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in Cherokee County and the Texas Survival School in Collin County feature his talks two or more times a year.

The bandana includes “5 Steps of Identifying Edible Plants” by Samuel Thayer, a Wisconsin-based forager, and Merriwether’s “Rules and Ethics of Foraging.”

Vorderbruggen learned about foraging while spending time in the wilds of Minnesota and later earned degrees in medicinal and organic chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

He’s now developing a line of natural medicinal products for Medicine Man Plant Co. of Houston.

Aside from bringing the Foraging Plant Bandana and a pocket knife on a wilderness trip, Vorderbruggen recommends two pocket lighters, a metal pot to boil water and a whistle.

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