The Roots of Autumn 1

Autumnal Greetings from Central Otago, NZ.

March 25th, 2018

This week;

  • The first post on Autumnal Roots
  • My travels to North America and the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference
  • A link that did do quite a good coverage of what my ‘worldview’ is these days.
  • And a brief visit to a beautiful ‘Flower Power’ shop in Manhattan, NY.

The quote ‘Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ in his ‘To Autumn’ by John Keats must have taken root in my mind somehow and as the light changes so dramatically, some snow remaining on the higher mountain ranges after last weeks cold snap, mists that envelop, dissipate in the early morning warmth.  It is so beautiful.

This is indeed a time to investigate that which lies beneath, those roots that have taken hold somewhere. Roots that I am excited to be looking at and to be gathered again.

They are all so different;


The Arctium lappa, Burdock, with roots that penetrate deep within the Earth in a somewhat defined way (or should I say ‘purposeful’ way). One recent course participant saw Burdock as being the plant ‘Buddha’, solid, stable, present, commanding, all knowing, bringing insight’. I think now on reflection that it does exactly that when the ‘Healing Relationship’ is respected. It is not about how the plant can be used for this or that condition but more what it is about in its world that we can learn from.

That is a shift!

Burdock has a short life, 2 growing seasons depending when it germinates, if late in one it may extend into a third season, flower, spread abundant seeds and die. The roots however are best at the end of a full growing season, not when it develops its flowering head. And what nourishment they offer.

I make sure the ‘mother plant’ expresses herself fully, spreads abundant seeds and equally abundant new plants.   I also leave plenty to seed the next season.

Burdock is one of the plants I included in ‘The Biophilic Garden. Connecting People, Plants and Inscape’.

I made a delicious Burdock soup from young roots this year that germinated outside my door.

I slice and cook them in a little water with a diced potato.

In a separate pot, sauté onions, garlic, leeks, carrots, all in small pieces in a little olive oil until starting to brown. Cover well with hot water. Add the cooked Burdock, 1 tbsp of Tomato puree, salt and pepper and a chilli. If I have the rind of Parmesan I will add that as well.

 I add a chopped bunch of parsley, some dried Thyme and a few sprigs of Seaweed at this point – Nori types or in NZ ‘Karengo or Parengo’. This is such good ‘Food as Medicine’ not to mention delicious.

More roots next week.


♣ I will be teaching a 3 day ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ prior to the Mid-West Woman’s Herbal Conference at Camp Helen Blackman, Wisconsin.

♣ I will also be presenting a keynote at that Conference on ‘The Plant/Person Relationship’, (stories, experiences and insights), a couple of mornings engaging the plant world at sunrise and a slightly different take on Case note taking as a Practitioner.

I hope you can join what is an amazing Conference for women of all ages and stages.

♣ I was delighted to be interviewed by the Women’s Liberation Radio News as a part of the Conference.

That interview can be listened to here;
Flower Power A perfect name for a great shop in New York. I will be there briefly – exact time to be confirmed. Check with Lata

Lastly I would like to take this opportunity to say how much I am looking forward to ‘Tulsi Queen of Herbs’ by Tish Streeten and her team. Tish is the film biographer of the grand mother of many of us, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, called ‘Juliette of the Herbs’. This next film is of a different kind, of the Plant ‘Tulsi’ the sacred basil.


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A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete Volume II

Book Launch Dec 18th, 2020 at Viriditas, Central Otago, New Zealand

Mary Allan and I launched our second volume of ‘A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete’, in the Viriditas garden along with 40-50 plant people, gardeners, herbalists, friends and family. What an amazing gathering – there were some extraordinary growers and gardeners and it was fun.

WE served Elder Flower fizz, Terra Sancta’s Aperitivo Botanica, (thanks to Sarah Elliot), a delicious Anthocyanin loaded purple/red alcohol free cool drink, but it was Anna Mathieson’s finger food (vegan) that excited taste buds. It is rare that I, in all my 40 years of offering courses about plants that a course participant has brought such amazing Vegan food to our shared lunches. Anna I believe, just has an innate instinct for what works. I also believe that any non-vegan would be astonished.

I don’t normally read a book after it is published but I have with this one. Yes, there are disappointingly, a few grammatical errors and ambiguities BUT today after spending time with my ‘go to’ tree and small water pool, I realised that I was looking for/reading for something else.

I wrote most of these ‘Plant Journeys’ during Lockdown in NZ in April, 2020, and the ensuing months of Covid restrictions. I became quite sensitized to this ‘Inscape’ and its complex relationships, writing as I was experiencing each plant, each journey, searching for each plant’s wholeness, its mystery, and doing my best to connect, respect and consider.

I see it now. Each plant is unique. Connecting with each plant is a journey. Each plant has its inner world and outer  in-forming.

Mainstream Science analyses a plant’s chemical complexity but its inner world is more, much more. In holistic Science all of the individual plant’s relationships are taken into consideration and what the plant expresses in terms of itself. Ginkgo written in this Volume II expresses this so well.

Quote from Volume II re Ginkgo Biloba

Lifting the ‘veil’?

You are able to withstand the assaults on the wellbeing of all that lives (nuclear fallout, pollution) your leaves are tough (not surprisingly), but to me you represent the brains of all mammals, divided but one. There is always a dual conversation that goes on in the human brain, the right side – creative, the left side – analytical. I am seeing that you bring these two sides together, as one. The economic world that sees that they can make profit from their products, harnesses one side but if we understand or at least try to then we might just glimpse what Goethe saw that we are one and two. This brings tears to my eyes. I see Gingko biloba as an ancient one bringing understanding from the past into today’s world, being a plant of healing for our time of the dispirit ways, a time to bring together the two sides of us, the right – seeing/thinking/creating and left – analytical. I now think it is a plant for today’s world, to cross the Natural world/Human world interface, the past/present understandings.

Ka kite ano, Isla

(More on 2021 offerings – next post SOON.)

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A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete Volume 11


November 2020
A knowledge basket is by its nature an offering for all

One of the pluses about this very unusual year was to write a companion volume to

‘A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete’ A DIY Guide. Mary Allan designed and edited as for volume 1 and has transformed it into a beautiful production.

It is now with the printers and will be in our hands by December 15th, 2020

This book develops further immersions into the plant world with a focus on Women’s Wellness including nutritional and herbal help for women of all stages and ages. Case studies are included to provide further insights. Its essence is one of always considering ‘wholeness’ whether it be about a plant or a person with a health issue.

Volume 11 does refer to the first Volume and while there is much that allows it to stand alone, these two books go together beautifully and would make a wonderful gift! 

“It feels you have revolutionised plant fact-sheets by creating a ‘fact-sense-sheet’. It opens up more curiosity rather than providing concrete, fixed answers. Fantastic!”
Roland Playle
Àiteas, A Delicate Empiricism: belonging and the Natural World

You are able to pre-order your copy from

Price: $40.00 (incl P@P) for NZ and Australia. For others please contact me directly.

If ordering both volumes the cost will be $60.00 – a saving of $10.00 (shipping will be included).

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Gathering Your Knowledge Basket (Kete)

Viriditas LogoI am happy to announce my first on-line workshop. I must thank Linda Conroy for the inspiration to do this in these times where finding ‘Not Knowing as a Place of Ease’ is so needed – at least for me.
This on-line workshop is to bring participants into my kitchen and take you through preparing some of the amazing gifts that the Natural World offers. Linda will be present also asking questions, clarifying and you will also be able to ask questions.
The course fee of US$48 for this workshop that includes  a recorded interview that Linda made with me on the topic of Biophilia (the subject of my 2nd book The Biophilic Garden). She came here to participate in a ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration ‘ retreat. Your course fee will include a copy of my third book:  A Women’s Health and Well Being  KETE A DIY Guide  by Isla Burgess and Mary Allan.
The book will be shipped to those in the US and New Zealand at no extra cost. For those in other parts of the world there will be a fee for shipping. 
This is a great opportunity to be a part of this workshop with us both.
We are two plant lovers, two Herbalists, gardeners and medicine makers’.  More than than that we care about the Natural World.
The Workshop will deepen our understanding of herbs and their qualities that can nourish and build health.
Some of the inquiries we will make include:
~Why do we need more Silica as we age? What plants have this in abundance? How do  we extract it with respect to the plant?
~What are Anthocyanins? How can you prepare a super rich Anthocyanin drink?
~Can you make your own Cannabis root oil? Why would you want to?
And much more….
I hope you will join us.
Please register with;



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April 30th, 2020

Today as I write this it is Samhain (Sowan), one of the two Celtic Fire Celebrations that later became all Souls Eve. That seems quite an important memory to hold for this ‘changing’ world when so many souls are departing the Earth.

It is also the celebration of the harvest, the end of Apple gathering and I can attest that the Rosehips – same botanical family – are best gathered before this day.

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Photo – Rosehips

It is also the time of root gathering and preparing.

Today in the Southern Hemisphere we welcome the dark nights and shorter days, but with ‘fire’. The fiery colours of deciduous trees and herbs (Rosehips, Witch Hazels), the fiery nature of many roots and fruits (Horseradish and Cayenne peppers) that are so important for our health and wellbeing.

Holding that thought, my latest book (A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete, a DIY Guide) that Mary Allan transformed with her editing, design and photographic skills into a book that has beauty and grace and is I am happy to say, popular, with over 200 copies sold. Thank you to all of those readers.

This book is a beautiful photo-rich A-Z guide expertly written to inspire women to look to their garden and into the wilds for plant medicine that will inspire, empower and uplift them, carrying them into a place of improved wellbeing.

This book is for:

  • The gardeners, plant lovers and plant medicine makers
  • Those who offer plant focused teachings and workshops and those who attend them
  • All those who wish to enhance their own health and that of their families
  • For Women at all ages and stages

COVER FINAL DRAFT webPhoto – Cover

We are planning on Volume Two.

You can order your copy from;

In NZ and Australia

Mary Allan

Isla Burgess

In North America;

From Linda Conroy www.

Elsewhere, please contact us.

The ‘thinning of the veils’ between worlds at this time and again at October 31st, is a time to re-think our contribution to the Natural World’s demise, maybe it is also an opportunity to consider how to take time to connect more intimately with the other life forms that we share the planet with. I hope so.

Arohanui to all,



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“Not Knowing as a place of ease”

With Isla Burgess, Viriditas Herbal Resources and Publishing

I am reminding myself of this daily as my ‘safe havenising’ continues; for me this is week four. There is chaos, complexity and entropy manifesting globally.

I am making the most of the extra time I find I have, to gather, prepare, preserve, pickle and freeze both plants for medicine as well as food. The garden here, (for those who have read my regular blogs in the past and have continued as my life got busier and blog writing irregular), is now incredibly productive. I see the idea of what I wanted to co-create starting to evolve. There are more than 150 medicinal plants growing here now, planted, native and newly naturalised. Fruit and nut trees, and a myriad of food plants are now well established. Just in time I feel for this extraordinary challenge ahead.

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The ‘Traditions, Art and Science of Herbal Medicine’ courses I offer here at ‘Viriditas’and the retreat in March, do have as a focus knowing what plants grow around us, knowing what healing they offer and how best to access that healing. This the plants offer, for the exchange of mutual respect and due consideration to their long-term survival. That is I think, how the land here, in the wilds of Central Otago attracts so many course participants.

During my time here I have written ‘The Biophilic Garden. Connecting People, Plants and Inscape’ and last year ‘A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete A DIY Guide’. The latter with Mary Allen, Herbalist, Photographer and great Editor. They are both available from my website. Books


I have been thinking about how to be more pro-active in this time when we are shielding ourselves from an invisible kind of life form that needs living cells to survive.

I have written the following for anyone who might just find it useful. It is available using the following link;

Staying Well in a Changing World

Isla Burgess, Viriditas Centre for Herbal Resources and Viriditas Publishing.

Stay well.

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A Changing World

April 10th 2020

Some thoughts on today’s world.

Viruses such as Covid – 19  don’t just mysteriously materialise from nothing – human’s have a hand in its emergence somewhere along the line.

Whatever we think about cause does in some way depend on our ‘world view’.

Is it that the endangered Pangolin illegally trafficked carried the virus?

Is it that the virus escaped from the research facility near the market in Wuhan?

Is it one country’s plan to destroy others economic power (or other conspiratorial theories)?

Is it that the warming of the climate triggered an epigenetic change in similar viruses?

Is it that ‘Gaia’ has simply had enough of the damage human’s have inflicted on her wellbeing?

Whatever the trigger, this time of having our freedom curtailed in some way, our way of life changed, does give us time to reflect, hopefully on how we contribute the wellbeing of the whole of the Natural World.

Knowing the plants that grow around us, how to sustainably gather those plants, how to best prepare them has never been more important. That weedy patch in your back yards likely contains more nourishment that any vegetable you buy from the supermarket.

The enormous range of nutrients in the following ‘pesto’ is a reminder of just how easy this can be;

Autumn Herb and Wild Weed Pesto



A great way to consume as many plants as possible.

The secret here is to only have 1-2 leaves of stronger tasting plants and more of others.

Yesterday I picked a few leaves of Dandelion, Rocket, Baby Silver beet, Puha, Parsley, French sorrel, Chickweed, Basil, Chives, Garlic chives, Beetroot leaves, Kale leaves, Nasturtium leaves, Mint leaves, young Celery stalk and a few Calendula flowers;

2-3 leaves of Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Yarrow, Wild Mallow, Fennel, Evening Primrose leaves, young Horseradish leaf.

These are chopped and added to a blender with ½ cup of lightly toasted Sunflower seeds or Sesame seeds and 2-3 cloves of Garlic. I add 1/4c vinegar to ¾ olive oil and blend until smooth. My neighbour’s young children loved it as do all course participants that visit here.

It is hard to believe how such a mix could taste so good, as well as being totally nourishing. Eat with cheese, on salads, as a dip with carrots or crackers, with fritters or fish. Used as a spread in place of butter or avocado.

Stay well, the impact on the planet of this reduction in movement around the world, reduction in the use of Earth’s resources, might just allow us to survive as a species.



Thought for today

How can we be well if we cause suffering to other life forms?”

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A new book and upcoming workshops


I am excited to launch this new book with Mary Allan as both Editor and Designer/Photographer. Mary has aded beauty and grace to the writing, it has been a pleasure to work with her 
This book is for
– The gardeners, plant lovers and plant medicine makers
– Those who offer plant focused teachings and workshops and those who attend them
– For those who wish to enhance their own health and that of their families
– For Women at all ages and stages
A knowledge basket is by its nature an offering for all
Publication date:
We should have it before Christmas, it is currently with the Printers.
Available from me at
Cost approx. $25.00 plus P&P
Also announcing a ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ Workshop in
Tasmania in February 22nd and 23rd. 2020

Held at Pindari Farm, Longford, Tasmania!

This two-day plant directed workshop is about relationship

the relationships the plants that grow around us have with us and we have with them. It is also about both our relationship with the planet. We set the scene so we can be a participant in those relationships and not just an observer.

Whether you are a gardener, plant lover, grower, herbal medicine practitioner or student. If you are interested in how to live in a wholistic relationship with the world around you. All say they are inspired and experience something they have not previously experienced?

It is Practical, Participatory, Transformational and Experiential!!

Cost #345.00 (includes onsite accommodation)

For further information or enquiries, contact Jayne on 0455379595 or

email: or via Community Apothecary FB page


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Sustainable Herbal Medicine

 Choosing plants as an option in health and healing is being ‘green’ isn’t it?

Well, actually, not in today’s world.

There is somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 medicinal plants at risk of extinction today largely due to human activities.

OTC’s (Over the Counter) Herbal Medicines are now BIG business globally but how often are the following questions asked?

  • How at risk of extinction are the plants we use – are you a small but contributory trigger for that?
  • Is growth in the whole Herbal Industry and the way it is occurring, sustainable?
  • Many of these medicines are tested on animals, should we support animal testing just to provide a mainstream reductionist ‘Evidence base’ to the plants we use? Does quoting these studies mean we support that testing?

 “I believe that knowing the plants that grow around you well, how they grow, what their requirements are, how gathering affects them, what their affinities are in the Plant/Person healing relationship, are  Conservation and Sustainable actions, much needed in today’s world”.

When we live among our local plants, watch daily their growth pattern and responses, we know just how much we can gather in the current year. We notice how different seasons affect their nature and over time how they are adapting to change.

The 4 C’s are worth remembering;

Consideration – with regard to what plants are used for medicine, where they come from and how they are gathered and prepared. Ask questions.

Choices – choosing the more locally common over what comes from elsewhere.

Care – when gathering from wild populations and how you do that.

Cultivation – wherever possible.1

WE have many local plants that are ‘Wild Crafted’ increasingly.


With an abundant plant such as Rosehips (Rosa canina), over harvesting is not really a concern. When we travel through Bannockburn, Central Otago, it is easy to think the same of the wild Thyme (Thymus vulgaris).




Last year though, I was horrified to see that harvesters had just cut out whole centres of the bush – a sure way to kill a plant. A Thyme plant should not look too different before and after gathering, a sustainable way is to thin it out.


Many come here for gathering the flowering tips of St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). If all in an area are gathered then don’t be surprised if the next year you come back to the same spot and they have disappeared. A sustainable guide is to leave the plants that are sparsely flowering – they will be stronger the next year and only to gather the full flowering tips.

Just now the gorgeous Hawthorns (Crataegus ssp) and Elders (Sambucus nigra), are in full flower. It would be difficult to imagine either becoming extinct especially as we gather flowers and berries. We do of course need to be mindful that the Elder berries are food for birds as well as us. I try to only gather flowers from higher up but leave enough for the birds later.

In your garden…

Annual herbs Gathering your own seed allows the plant to develop its own adapting qualities.

Always leave approximately 25% to seed.

Biennial We are usually gathering the roots of these plants at the end of the first growing season so leaving at least 50% to go to seed is important.

Perennial plants Depending on what part is used and how they are best propagated (either by root division or seed) will guide your gathering. Replant root crowns and rhizome pieces. 25% though is the minimum.

In the wild there are some golden rules;

♣ Don’t overharvest. Consider all beings who visit these areas.

♣ Leave an area as beautiful as you found it.

♣ Learn which plants not to gather, including endangered, overharvested and scarce plants.

♣ Teach/talk responsible wildcrafting ethics.

♣ Teach/Learn about the most prolific plants, especially the common weeds.

♣ Rescue plants from areas that are going to be developed or destroyed.

♣ Gather seeds and replant them.

♣ Encourage the use of locally common plants wisely as medicine.

♣ Wildcraft from organic gardens and farms. These places often have an abundance of medicinal plants such as dandelion, burdock, alfalfa, and red clover.

♣Leave some of the strongest and most lush plants from an area you are wildcrafting.

Adapted with thanks from;

Wildcrafting for the Practicing Herbalist

Northeast School of Botanical Medicine ,USA. by 7Song, Director

1The Biophilic Garden Connecting People, Plants and Inscape’ Viriditas Publishing. Available from

Isla runs Viriditas, Centre for Plant Directed Learning and Herbal Resource Centre and gardens, Central Otago, and offers workshops locally.

Her website has free downloads, books, workshop details and a link through to her Blog.

Documentaries: ‘Earth Whisperers Paptuanuku’ (New Zealand) and Numen (USA).

Books: ‘Weeds Heal. A Working Herbal’. ‘The Biophilic Garden. Connecting People, Plants and Inscape’.





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Stunning Salvias


This week I had the pleasure of having an ½ hour ‘chat’ with Susun S. Weed on the Wise Woman Radio. You can listen to that on

The workshops I offer here in Central Otago, New Zealand, (at Viriditas Centre for Plant Directed learning, Herbal Resources and Gardens) are underway and full. I am taking expressions of interest for ‘The Traditions, Art and Science of Herbal Medicine’ beginning October 2019 and the 5 day ‘Plant Immersion Retreat’ in January 2020.

It will be a pleasure to have Linda Conroy of   USA, share this retreat with the group in 2019. A Wise and knowledgeable Herbalist, great cheesemaker, expert on vegetable ferments, and on responsible/ethical wild gathering of food and medicines.

I have added some new FREE downloads onto my website under ‘Resources’.

***Also new***

I am welcoming several new Salvias into my garden this Spring.


Salvia multiorrhiza Dan Shen

Salvia off ‘Grete Stolzle’  (From Cromwell Polytech)

Salvia divinorum Divine sage

These are being added to the already much respected

Salvia officinalis (local ssp) Green Sage. I call it the Miners Sage as it is said they brought it to Central Otago along with the Thyme.

Salvia off. purpurea Purple sage

Salvia sclarea  Large leafed Clary Sage

Salvia apiana White desert sage or sacred sage


I love these hardy, easily grown, pungent and beautiful plants.

A more generalised view of their ‘affinities’ (see below for an explanation), would be that they are all protective in some way.

From the mental/emotional/spiritual protection triggered by the Salvia divinorum and Salvia apiana to the antioxidant effects of  Salvia multiorrhiza, Salvia officinalis,

Salvia off. purpurea and the skin protection  offered by Salvia sclarea , they all have anti-microbial activity as well.

More specifically, there is not a system in the body that Salvia multiorrhiza doesn’t have some affect on including the reproductive system.

As with Salvia officinalis the S. multiorrhiza has been said to trigger oestrogen receptors. Could be useful for women going through Menopause although I have not read that specifically (its well documented use to reduce Blood Pressure and Palpitations, improve circulation to the brain and support liver function could also be useful here).

This is my plant to focus on this year, I watch it every day, draw it,  look forward to living with it, getting to know ‘who’ it is and what it is about. Getting to know its ‘wholeness’ its ‘affinities’ its ‘Mauri’.

Affinities…I am now using this term instead of actions. I believe that describing a plant’s actions is akin to how we see Pharmaceutical drugs and their effects, the ‘this plant does that…’ A plant is a hugely complex being, diverse in the way it works when we use as medicine. Affinities therefore, better describes its ‘wholeness’.

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