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Plant Spirit Ally Challenge Day 1: Choose an Ally

May 1, 2019

I realize many of you chose your ally (or were chosen by her!) well before this challenge began, and that's all right! I've known since this challenge was conceived I'd be working with the plentiful patches of feral lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) growing in my back yard.

 

 

But if you aren't sure which plant to work with, here are several ways you might choose a Plant Spirit Ally.

 

CHOOSING AN ALLY

 

Nursery

 

Visit a nursery and look for a plant that is beautiful to you. 

 

Pros of this method: 

  • Plants are clearly labeled, which is helpful if you aren’t familiar with plant names. 

  • A variety of herbs is usually available at nurseries. 

  • Your plant ally will come with growing instructions

  • Nursery staff can answer any questions you might have about the plant

 

Cons of this method: 

  • You might have to spend money on a new plant in order to work with it. 

  • You probably won’t meet many weeds or wild plants. 

  • Native plants are sometimes hard to find at nurseries. 

  • The plants for sale usually haven’t reached full size, so you might not get a realistic idea of what the mature plant looks like.

 

Your Yard and/or Garden

 

Go out into your yard and see which plant or tree you are attracted to, then find its identity if you don’t know it already. 

 

Pros of this method: 

  • It’s free! 

  • It’s easiest to work with a plant if you don’t have to leave home to do so. 

  • You can observe the plant in its habitat right from the start. 

  • You can be sure your ally will grow successfully in the conditions in your yard. 

  • You’ve got a good chance of making friends with something wild, feral, or native to your region.

  • You’ll probably be able to find privacy for meditation. 

 

Cons of this method:  

  • It only works if you have a yard. 

  • You might have to do a lot of research to identify your new plant ally.

 

The Park

 

Go to a local park to find a plant that calls to you. 

 

Pros of this method: 

  • It’s free! 

  • You can observe the plant in its habitat from the start. 

  • You might meet something wild, feral, or native to your region. 

  • The plants will be used to hanging out with people and will probably be friendly. 

  • More accessibility: many parks have paved paths which can be navigated in a wheelchair or by those with mobility issues, or with a stroller and/or small children. 

  • If you have children, it will probably be as enjoyable for them as it is for you.

 

Cons of this method: 

  • You might have to do a lot of research to identify your ally. 

  • You’re unlikely to have privacy or uninterrupted time and space for meditation.

  • You might not be allowed to harvest parts of your new ally.

  •  

Draw a Name out of a Hat

 

Write the name of several plants you know on slips of paper, and draw one out of a hat. 

 

Pros of this method: 

  • It requires zero intuition or psychic ability to use—helpful if this is all new to you and you’ve never tried talking to plants before. 

  • You can limit the number of possibilities to plants you feel comfortable working with, ruling out anything poisonous if that’s important to you. 

  • It isn’t dependent on nice weather. 

  • It’s very easy. 

  • Easy for people with any kind of mobility issues or with health issues that limit energy or physical stamina.

  • Easy for people with small children.

Cons of this method: 

  • You need to know the names of at least a few plants in order to do it, so it’s not as useful for absolute beginners.

  • With fewer plants to choose from, this method limits the opportunities for synchronicity and unexpected magic.

 

Let a Plant Choose You

 

Sometimes it’s very obvious when a plant is calling to you, especially if you’ve already honed your intuition or psychic abilities. Other times the hints are more subtle. See the following article if you want to try this method and need a little help:


Six Signs a Plant Wants to Make Magic with You

 

PLANT IDENTIFICATION

 

What if you find a plant ally, but you aren’t sure of its identity? Here are some ways to figure it out:

 

 

Social Media

 

Post a photo (or photos) of your mystery plant on Instagram or Twitter using #plantidentification or #plantid (or both), someone is likely to know its name. There are also several groups on Facebook dedicated to plant identification who could probably help. This could be especially useful right now, with other people participating, so you could add the #PlantSpiritChallenge hashtag for more results.

 

Search Engines

 

This is especially useful if your ally is flowering. Type the color of 

the flower and your region into a search engine (for example, “Blue flower Portland, Oregon”), then click on the images tab to look through the pictures. If that doesn’t work, try describing the flower in other ways—for example, “Tiny blue flower shade”, or “Small blue flower five petals”. 

 

You can also use details about where the plant grows to aid your search: indicate if it grows in the shade, in wetlands, in a field or a ditch. You can also use details of its appearance and growth habits, such as creeping or trailing, spreading or upright, etc. If the plant is fuzzy or rough, woody or tender, try using those terms too. So for example, you might search for “creeping, fuzzy shade plant Oregon” . 

 

Websites

 

Here are a few sites that can help with plant identification:

 

The Nature Mentor

 

Go Botany’s simple key for plant ID


The Arbor Day Foundation’s tree identification wizard

 

Here’s a list of Plant ID websites

 

Field Guides

 

There are many types of field guides. Some focus on weeds, some on plants of a specific region, and some on trees. Your local library should have at least a few to choose from, and of course there are many available for purchase in book stores and online.

 

Look for a guide with color photos of each plant, detailed written descriptions of each plant’s appearance, information on its preferred habitat, and a map of where it’s usually found. All of these factors make it easier to differentiate between similar plants.

 

Some field guides are organized according to plant family, while others are organized according to flower color. Now that I have a basic familiarity with different plant families, I actually prefer this type of organization; but if you’re new to studying plants and trees, you might prefer guides which are organized by flower color.

 

Once you’ve found your ally and know its name, you’re ready to move on to day two: meditate with your ally. And tomorrow the lovely M.A. Phillips of Ditzy Druid will share her insights on the subject. We’ll post a link to her article on the main challenge page tomorrow, so be sure to check back!

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