Endangered Edibles (part 5)

Welcome to Endangered Edibles (Part 5). In this blog series, I’m sharing stories about wild plants and how they’ve helped my dental health. Please read, share, and enjoy!

This story begins with my extended family. A boy named Alex had recently turned ten years old. I was unable to attend this event. However, I was able to glean this incredible story of Alex and his new favorite wild plant. Our family took a trip to the mountains near the Delaware River or Lênapei Sipu to celebrate Alex’s birthday. Beautiful waterfalls crash into age-old mountain walls where they carve out pools home to many species of life.

With a smile on his face and a hop in his skip, Alex began the task that was given to him by the local forest ranger: “Go and gather something significant.”

Walking barefoot on a well-trodden hiking path, Alex came across a cathedral-like patch of glistening wineberries or Rubus phoenicolasius. In the opening where the sun reached the forest floor, Alex leaped with joy and began gobbling up the sweet and tangy fruit, feeling the seeds crunch between his new adult teeth. After gorging for time and when he could no longer consume more fruit, he began his trek took him a long time.

He enjoyed walking, but he knew how this was healthy for his body, and he could hear, but he didn’t care, for he enjoyed the company of the singing birds, the whistling winds, and the occasional stare into the distance, where he saw New York City. Alex returned to the base camp with his handmade basket of freshly picked wineberries glistening with the setting sun.

Stepping gently over the fallen oak tree that demarcated the outskirts of the village, he found the ranger standing around the raging campfire. He handed a few berries over to the prim and proper-looking ranger. With a look of disbelief by the mustached young man, Alex could tell something was up. Finally, the mouth of the ranger began to move, and out came, “Oh no, we never pick plants from the wild.”

“Huh?” asked the puzzled Alex.

“It’s just there to look at and appreciate,” the ranger responded with a sense of normalcy on his blank and half-smiling face.

“But I am appreciating it!” continued Alex as he courageously popped another into his mouth.

Watching the scene unfold, Alex’s mother, Aqua, came running over and pulled the ten-year-old Alex close, whispering, “Leave the ranger alone. He doesn’t know.”

“Mom!” Alex cried, “He’s not a real ranger.”

Leave No Trace, a leading conservation organization, writes on its website, “Wildlife should be just that – wild. Providing access to human food, or even approaching too closely, is more harmful than most people imagine.”   

I do not doubt that this ranger had a worldview that received pieces from the prior organization. Who’s to say that Alex isn’t wild, and if so, has the right to eat from the landscape, just as other wild organisms do. It may have been better for everyone if the ranger simply tasted a fruit picked by Alex, smiled, and remembered that Alex is the future of wildlife conservation, and he should know that this species isn’t on the endangered species list. But that’s not what happened.

Go ahead, Alex, I say. No more hiding that red juice that drips from your face, staining your hands and clothes, and providing you with the most profound nutrition that our planet can provide. You are wild. I am wild. We are wild. There’s medicine in the world, and we must remember where to find it.


Common name:

Wine raspberry

Latin name: Rubus phoenicolasius


  • It’s relative; Rubus idaeus can suppress oral cancer cells
  • Another close relative, Rubus coreanus M., inhibits the growth of Candida albicans.
  • A set of researchers in Italy recommended adding the extract of Rubus ulmifolius to mouthwash and toothpaste formulas, given its antimicrobial activity
  • A  species in the genus Rubus even inhibits Streptococcus mutans!


The Genus Rubus has been used for centuries by tribes throughout the world. According to the North American Ethnobotany Database, it retrieved 842 matching queries when searching Rubus. In other words, mostly likely, wherever this plant grows, it’s used ubiquitously by humans (you can find it in your grocery store).

Some of the documented uses include food, antidiarrheal, antirheumatic (internal), dermatological aid, hemorrhoid remedy, oral aid, stimulant, throat aid, tonic, urinary aid, venereal aid, beverage, and of course, as a fruit.

Conservation Status:

There are some 1,350 different species within the Genus Rubus. Within the genus, only species are on the IUCN Red List. The first, Rubus laegaardii, is considered Vulnerable and is only found in Ecuador. The second, Rubus azuayensis, is considered Vulnerable and is too found in Ecuador.  

Max Gordon

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