I put a lot of energy into my plant hunting/photography trips. I would begin planning months ahead of time, first using paper maps in the early days then later, the internet. Searching for wild plants is not an exact science. About half of the time I failed in finding the herb I wanted to photograph. But when I did finally find the plant and acquired good quality photographs, it made it that much more rewarding! It is difficult to describe, after enduring the challenges mentioned earlier (see the "Watermarking" write-up on the "Photo Gallery" page) how it felt to finally get that photo! More than a few people thought I was crazy lol! I got a lot of ribbing from friends about driving hundreds of miles for just a few photos!
My database today contains over 300,000 photographs. I am still traveling and still photographing wild useful plants but not as much as I used to. My trips peaked in my mid-fifties when I did 29 trips in one year. Now I'm lucky to get in one or two plant hunting trips per year.
I want to thank my loved ones for their help and patience on those many trips. Either I was gone or you were with me sharing the adventure. Your laughter and companionship surrounded by indescribable natural beauty..... words cannot express!
And then there are my students.... what can I say? Over the years there were thousands of you. We had a lot of laughs! Each and every one of you was/is important to me.
If you retain anything from my classes, I hope you retain this: A strong, intimate connection to a diverse and pristine natural world is significant in growing up and living a well-balanced life. This concept is important now and will be even more important in the future.
I have few regrets. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Maybe I would add a couple more fresh Prickly Pear margaritas!
Wherever you are, you can bet Cattail Bob is somewhere planning his next trip and still searching for that next great photo! CB
Several pages out of my old Arizona trip planning atlas.
Background Photograph by David Mills
Colorado High Elevation Wild Edible Fruit
The wild fruit trees, shrubs and vines listed here are sorted by elevation, highest to lowest. The elevation range displayed below is where they have been typically found to date (2020). To plant at a higher elevation than what is listed, place your tree, shrub or vine outdoors in a protected location (more warmth/sun/moisture, with less wind). Mixing a little mulch into your soil is usually beneficial. Note - within a botanical genus, different species may have varied levels of hardiness to higher elevation sites. Nursery stock is usually not wild or native and may not be as hardy at high elevations. Research your species. Also, due to the cooler conditions, higher elevation plants grow more slowly on average. If you have questions, email me . I will be happy to answer them.
All of the plants listed below are featured, with color photos and info, in my Survival Plants of Colorado series of books which may be purchased from this website (click on “Books” in the subject bar at the top of the page to see sample pages and/or purchase). My books contain hundreds of “survival” plants and thousands of photos.
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(spp.= multiple species)
High Elevation Wild Fruit Trees
featured in my book “Survival Plants of Colorado” – Volume l
Elder Sambucus spp. Tree 5,000 – 12,000 ft. page 90 Note: The shrub, Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), commonly found at high elevations has mildly toxic red-colored fruit. Only blue or black Sambucus spp. fruit, typically found at lower elevations, is edible. These are small trees. They are not very common in the wild in Colorado.
Serviceberry Amelanchier spp. Tree 5,000 – 11,000 ft. page 38
Pin Cherry Prunus pensylvanica Tree 5,000 – 9,500 ft. page 43
Apple Malus spp. Tree 3,500 – 9,000 ft. page 37 Some Malus spp. are better adapted to higher elevations and cold winters than are others.
Chokecherry Prunus virginiana Tree 3,500 – 9,000 ft. page 41
Pinon Pine Pinus edulis Tree 3,500 – 9,000 ft. page 2 Edible nuts (remove the shell).
Juniper Juniperus spp. Tree 3,500 – 9,000 ft. page 2 Culinary berries for flavoring (gin, potato salad, etc.) and medicinal uses.
New Mexico Locust Robinia neomexicana Tree 3,500 – 8,500 ft. page 46 Edible beans when cooked.
Hawthorn Crataegus spp. Tree 3,500 – 8,500 ft. page 37
Gambel Oak Quercus gambelii Tree 3,500 – 8,500 ft. page 12 Edible acorns when processed and cooked (remove the shell). Poisonous otherwise.
Hazelnut (Filbert) Corylus cornuta Tree 5,000 – 8,000 ft. page 11 Edible nuts (remove the shell).
Plum (wild) Prunus americana Tree 3,500 – 7,000 ft. page 42
Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia Tree 3,500 – 6,500 ft. page 46
Edible beans when cooked. Listed with New Mexico Locust on page 46.
High Elevation Wild Shrubs and Vines with Edible Fruit
featured in my book “Survival Plants of Colorado” – Volume l
Huckleberry Vaccinium spp. Shrub 8,000 – 12,000 ft. page 70
Trumpet Gooseberry Ribes leptanthum Shrub 5,500 – 12,000 ft. page 33
Red Currant Ribes cereum Shrub 3,500 – 11,500 ft. page 35 Berries are not tart or sour but sweet.
Black Gooseberry Ribes lacustre Shrub 7,500 – 11,500 ft. page 35
Gooseberry Currant Ribes montigenum Shrub 7,500 – 11,500 ft. page 35 The above two currants are included under Hi-Bush Currant on page 35 in my Volume l book.
Raspberry Rubus strigosus Shrub 5,000 – 11,500 ft. page 40
Gooseberry Ribes inerme Shrub 5,000 – 11,000 ft. page 34 Berries are very tart and sour but good.
Twisted Stalk Streptopus amplexifolius Shrub 6,500 – 11,000 ft. page 8
Solomonplume Smilacina racemosa Subshrub 5,000 – 10,500 ft. page 9 Berries are very sweet.
Squashberry Vibernum edule Shrub 6,000 – 10,000 ft. page 90 Taste like cranberries.
Kinnikinnik Arctostaphylos uva ursi Subshrub 6,000 – 10,000 ft. page 70
Thimbleberry Rubus deliciosus Shrub 3,500 – 10,000 ft. page 41
Salmonberry Rubus parviflorus Shrub 6,000 – 10,000 ft. page 40
Hops Humulus lupulus Vine 3,500 – 9,000 ft. page 12 Flowers are used medicinally and for brewing beer.
Limonada (Squaw Bush) Rhus trilobata Shrub 3,500 – 9,000 ft. page 53
Tomatillo Physalis spp. Subshrub 3,500 – 8,000 ft. page 85
Golden Currant Ribes aureum Shrub 3,500 – 8,000 ft. page 34
Grape Vitis spp. Vine 3,500 – 7,000 ft. page 55
Sand Cherry Prunus besseyi Shrub 3,500 – 6,500 ft. page 42
Colorado High Elevation Wild Fruit Trees featured in my
Volume ll book “Survival Plants of Colorado”
Twinberry Lonicera involucrata Shrub 7,000 – 11,500 ft. page 105 Twin black fruits are edible (palatable?). Outside Colorado, better tasting fruit has been found.
Wolfs Currant Ribes wolfii Shrub 6,500 – 11,500 ft. page 46 Fruit should be cooked to make it palatable.
Mountain Ash Sorbus scopulina Tree 6,000 – 10,000 ft. page 47 Bright orange fruits are edible when dried or cooked.
Manzanita Arctostaphylos patula Shrub 7,000 – 9,000 ft. page 85
Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp. Shrub 3,500 – 9,000 ft. page 50
Wolfberry (Goji Berry) Lycium barbarum Shrub 4,500 – 8,000 ft. page 97
Banana Yucca Yucca baccata Subshrub 4,300 – 8,000 ft. page 7 Delicious fruit when ripe.
Hackberry Celtis spp. Tree 3,500 – 7,500 ft. page 12
Greenbrier Smilax lasioneura Vine 5,000 – 7,500 ft. page 7 Berries should be dried or cooked to make palatable. Greenbrier also has medicinal uses.
Buffaloberry Shepherdia argentea Shrub/Tree 4,500 – 7,500 ft. page 75
Tart red berries.
Peach (wild) Prunus persica Tree 3,500 – 7,500 ft. page 49
Apricot (wild) Prunus armeniaca Tree 4,300 – 6,500 ft. page 49
Honey Locust Gleditsia triacanthos Tree 3,500 – 6,500 ft. page 59
Edible beans when cooked.
Fremont Barberry Mahonia fremontii Shrub 4,300 – 6,500 ft. page 36
Oregon Grape Mahonia aquifolium Shrub 3,500 – 6,000 ft. page 36
Pear (wild) Pyrus communis Tree 3,500 – 6,000 ft. page 50 In my travels over the years throughout the West, I have only seen wild Pear twice.
Mulberry Morus alba Tree 3,500 – 5,500 ft. page 14
Nanking Cherry Prunus tomentosa Shrub 3,500 - ??? ft. This produces delicious wild fruit. It will be included in my next book, Volume lll. It can endure harsh winters.