Essential Guides

Essential Guides

Our Essential Guides are more in-depth explorations and discussions – click on the title for a downloadable file.
Looking for info a bit more brief and to-the-point? Take a look at our QUICK FACT SHEETS

  • (73-pages)
    The genus Artemisia is a member of the Asteraceae (formerly Compositae) family and is reputed to have hundreds of species, cultivars, and hybrids. Depending on which reference one consults, two hundred to four hundred varieties are spread from Siberia through Asia on into the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and finally North America. South Africa claims a few, but with the exception of several in tropical environs, this genus originated and belongs to the drier climes of the Northern Hemisphere.

  • (49-pages)
    The genus Asclepias spp. are members of the Apocynaceae a large, widespread family of woody and herbaceous plants which also includes oleanders. Until recently, they have been in Asclepiadaceae, a separate family.

    Milkweeds are so named for the milky juice contained in the stem. Butterfly weed A. tuberosa is an exception. Milkweeds have complex flowers with five sepals and five petals, all reflexed. Above the petals is a corona or crow of five upright tubular or scoop-shaped bodies, colored like petals and having a horn (curved). The horn is the most conspicuous part of the flower. Clusters of fragrant, usually purplish flowers bloom in June through August.

  • (45-pages)
    Basil belongs to the genus Ocimum and is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). The genus includes over sixty species of annuals, non-woody perennials, and shrubs native to Africa and other tropical and subtropical regions of the Old and New World. This guide will take you through chemistry, nutrition, history, folklore, art, literature, growing, pests, harvesting, and its many uses. READ MORE...

  • (43-pages)
    Bay is an aromatic robust plant with glossy, dark green leaves that are smooth and leathery. Begin your journey understanding this under used herb. Discover the history, medicinal values, culinary uses, and varieties. As you peruse this guide, you will find some valuable growing tips as well as new ways to use bay. Its resistance to most pests and diseases makes bay a desirable plant to grow, producing a bountiful harvest each year.

  • (54-pages)
    Regardless of what you call it – calendula, Mary’s gold, pot marigold, or poor man’s saffron – this plant has a story to tell. Unlike many herbs where the foliage is aromatic, calendula boasts its beauty in the flowers of many colors and shapes. Calendula offers something for everyone – color in the garden, flavor in cooking, potpourri and in medicine, both past and present. It is the intention of this guide to be a resource for those who currently garden with calendula or wish to incorporate into this years' garden. READ MORE...

  • (32-pages)
    Anethum graveolens is believed to have its beginnings in the Mediterranean region. The plant has a long and ancient history in many countries as a culinary and medicinal herb. This guide will walk you through the taxonomy, cultivation, propagation, chemistry, cultivars and the many uses both in culinary and medicinal. READ MORE...

  • (57-pages)
    Although its exact place of origin is unknown, most experts agree that the garlic cultivated today originated somewhere in Central Asia, and may have evolved from a wild ancestor. Records of garlic’s use date back about 5,000 years in China and the Sumerian civilization of ancient Mesopotamia. Traders brought garlic to Egypt, India, Europe, and other parts of the world introducing garlic to a new audience. Over the years, garlic has gone by many names including the “stinking rose” and poor-man’s treacle (or cure-all). The Latin name, Allium sativum, means “cultivated onion” which suggests that garlic may have been one of the earliest plants to be cultivated by humans. Read more about the history, cultivation, and uses of this versatile and valuable plant. READ MORE

  • (102-pages)
    The story of Sambucus, elderberry, goes back into early history. Believed by some, that this plant may have been deposited in present day Europe, Asia and the North American continent by the retreating Ice Age, 12,000 to 9,000 B.C.E. As time goes on it's easy to see how this plant has been revered as "magic" and generated so many stories that still persist today. Read more about this intriguing plant and discover more fascinating history, cultivars, garden use, and household applications using elderberry. READ MORE

  • (44-pages)
    On first glance horseradish may seem to be a lackluster plant with not much to recommend. However, appearances can be deceiving and as a wise man once said, “it is not what is on the outside, but what is on the inside that counts.” Those who endeavor to learn more about horseradish might be surprised to find that this holds true. This essential guide will open the eyes of the reader to discover why the seemingly lackluster horseradish plant is worth a second look. READ MORE

  • (43-pages)
    A member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) belongs to a genus which includes five species of perennial herbs native to Europe, central Asia, and Iran. Over the years, many common names have been associated with M. officinalis, including balm, English balm, garden balm, balmmint, common balm, melissa, sweet balm, heart’s delight, and honey plant. Lemon balm is probably one of the easiest herbs to grow and is ideal for beginners. This perennial grows well but can spread quickly. Discover the uses, history, and enjoy the many recipes that use this versatile herb. READ MORE

  • (66-pages)
    Sometimes called the “prince of herbs”, the name Origanum was first used by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.) and is thought by most authorities to have originated from the Greek words for mountains (oreos) and brightness/joy/beauty (ganeos). Oregano and marjoram were commonly called “joy of the mountains” due to their beauty and abundance. There are four species that stand out in Origanum history and folklore: sweet marjoram (O. majorana), wild marjoram/oregano (O. vulgare), dittany of Crete (O. dictamnus) and Syrian oregano (O. syriacum). This essential guide with take you on a journey exploring these two interesting and useful herbs. READ MORE

  • (73-pages)
    The genus Pelargonium includes annuals and herbaceous perennials, shrubs and subshrubs, and both evergreen and deciduous plants, but most of the scented-leafed species or “scenteds” are succulent perennial shrubs in their native habitats. Confusion has surrounded Pelargonium nomenclature since the dawn of taxonomic classification and continues to this day. The common name geranium is associated with hardy North American and European plants from the genus Geranium as well as tender South African plants from the genus Pelargonium due to a very early misclassification of the genus. Explore the world of "scenteds" for a new adventure in gardening, cooking, and crafts. READ MORE

  • (104-pages)
    Gertrude Stein’s “A rose is a rose is a rose” strikes us as pitifully naive when you consider that the genus Rosa includes about 100 species from temperate regions to tropical mountains and thousands of different named cultivars. The genus Rosa derives its name from the Latin, rosa, in turn from the Greek, rhodon, which, in turn, was derived from the original Indo-European root-word, ward, still retained in the Arabic. Man has had an intimate relationship with roses that have persisted throughout history. They are one of the oldest flowers known to man, yet still one of the most popular. Learn the deep history, uses, and cultivation of this fascinating and often times frustrating plant. READ MORE

  • (29-pages)
    From the blackberry tangled verges along country lanes to the new smaller, thornless raspberries being bred for today’s gardeners, the genus Rubus is a diverse one – feeding us and ornamenting our gardens and providing food and protective cover for wildlife and pollinators alike. From a rare bramble species on the Isle of Sicily to the west coast native Salmonberry – pioneer of stripped logging sites – the species within the genus number into the hundreds. Although writing about another genus altogether, plant hunter Reginald Farrer’s description as ‘entangled, confused, and difficult to decipher... all differentiable, but not always easy to differentiate’ (Rainbow Bridge, 1921) could apply equally to Rubus. In all that complexity, an abundance of uses and a wealth of delights await us in Rubus, Herb of the Year™ 2020. The Herb of the Year™ Essential Facts Committee has compiled a selection of articles relating to Rubus for the use and delight of our members.

  • (60-pages)
    We will focus on a variety of plants that are commonly called savories. The main genus of plants we will be focusing on is Satureja, to which the important culinary plants commonly known as summer savory and winter savory belong. Many other plants through time have been referred to as savory; some of which have at one time belonged to the genus Satureja, and we will cover some of them as well in this guide.

  • (28-pages)
    Growing along our roadsides, at forest edges, and filling vacant fields, the seventy-seven species of goldenrod across North America, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico make Solidago a truly American genus. There is not a single state devoid of at least one native goldenrod species, and many have multiple species growing within their boundaries.

  • The Use and Methods of Making a Herbarium/Plant Specimens: An Herb Society of America Guide (MEMBERS ONLY) PDF document

  • (10-pages)
    Featuring judging herbs for planners, judges & exhibitors.

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