Edible Native Plants of Texas

Texas is a state diverse in both native plants and wildlife. Almost anyone that has spent time in the beautiful outdoors of the Lone Star State has probably thought more than once about the edible plants of Texas. Using native plants for human consumption is not only cool in my opinion, but there is something to be said of having natural foods in our diets.

First, let me say that before consuming any wild food, be absolutely certain of its proper identity. Many plants have look-a-likes that appear very similar. So when in doubt, do not eat it. So after doing a little research, here are some of the edible Texas plants you can enjoy:

Wild onion (Allium canadense) – There are many bulb forming plants that resemble wild onions, some are toxic. Only harvest plants with the distinct odor of onions. The chopped green leaves can be used like chives and the bulbs are cooked as any other onions. Perennial.

Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) – Flowers used for seasoning. Perennial.

Chile pequin (Capsicum annuum) – Small and very hot red pepper. Perennial.

Pecan (Carya illinoiensis) – Edible nuts. Tree found along drainages and over sandy loam soils.

Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana) – Sweet black fruit. Small tree or shrub found on limestone soils in the western portion of the state. Common in the crosstimbers and the Edwards Plateau/Hill Country.

Eastern persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) – Sweet orange fruit. Small tree found primarily in the eastern portion of the state.

Anacua (Ehretia anacua) – Yellowish orange fruits are sweet and good for jams. A tree found in South Texas and the more arid regions of the state.

Mock pennyroyal (Hedeoma drummondii) – Leaves and flowers used for flavoring foods. Perennial.

Little walnut (Juglans microcarpa) – Small edible nut. A tree found throughout the state.

Black walnut (Juglans nigra) – Edible nut. Tree.

Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) – Sweet red berries that are great raw, put into cobblers, or made into jelly. A shrub found in Central Texas and north and west.

Barbados cherry (Malus glabra) – Bright red fruit that are high in Vitamin C. Shrub.

Blanco crabapple (Malus ioensis) – Yellowish green 1 inch diameter fruit that are good for jelly and cider. Small tree or large shrub.

Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) – Bright red fruit that are bland but colorful. Perennial.

Horsemint (Monardo citriodora) – Leaves used raw or cooked for flavoring in salads, cooked foods, and for tea. Annual.

Pink Evening Primrose, Showy Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) – Cook as greens or in salads. Best flavor when collected before flowering. Perennial or annual.

Prickly pear (Opuntia ellisiana or Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri) – Edible fruit, tender new pads are also edible when cooked as “nopales” or “nopalitos.” Cactus.

Wood sorrel (Oxalix spp.) – Add a few leaves, flowers, or green seedpods to a salad or soup as you would French sorrel. The flavor is strong and sour, so add sparingly. Rich in vitamin C, it also contains high amounts of oxalic acid. Similar to spinach, when eaten in large amounts, may tie up calcium. Perennial.

Corona de Cristo passionfruit (Passiflora foetida) – Fruits are mildy sweet, sometimes tart. Young leaves and plants tips are edible. Perennial vine.

Maypop passionfruit (Passiflora incarnata) – Fruit with edible pulp. Perennial vine

Yellow passionvine (Passiflora lutea) – Small edible fruit. Perennial vine.

Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana) – Fruit used for preserves and cooking. Tree.

Dewberry or Blackberry (Rubus spp.) – Fruit used for table, wines, cobblers, pies, and jelly. Perennial vine found in Coastal, East-Central, and East Texas.

Giant spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea) – Above ground parts may be sauteed or eaten raw. Perennial.

Grape (Vitus spp.) – Purplish or blackish fruit good for table, wine, or jelly. Perennial vine.

That’s all the plants that I know about. If you know of any other edible plants in Texas please leave a comment below and share with everyone. Have fun, but be careful!

5 thoughts on “Edible Native Plants of Texas

  1. Joshua Long

    I’m thinking of growing native plants in the yard for food. I live in the Dallas area. What plants would grow best with minimal watering/care and provide the most food?

  2. Joshua Young

    Lol Prickly pear cactus hehe lol they wouldn’t need hardly any watering, but you’d have to deal with all the spines, but I’ve heard their fruit are delicious and the flowers are edible and the stems are also edible after peeling off the skin(the spines if you didn’t know are actually modified leaves and are the true leaves of cactus species, so I’m referring to the part of the plant the spines grow on, the part you might have thought were the leaves, these stems are flat and have a fan-shaped apperance).

    Lamb’s Quarter (Chenopodium album) needs very little water as well but it requires a special treatment after harvesting to remove all the water-proof stuff on it’s leaves(wich is to submerge it in water and swish it around rather roughly for a minute or too), this plant is edible raw like the Prickly Pear cactus, however raw plants should be consumed in moderate amounts due to Oxalate’s, wich interfere with nutrient absorption, I don’t know if cooking the plants will destroy Oxalate’s. This plant is very hardy and is drought tolerant, but I’d recommend watering every once in a while to avoid Nitrate Toxicosus, wich is a condition were plants build up toxic amounts of Nitrates and Nitrites becuase they do not have enough water to go through with all their chemical processes I beleive all plants can be toxic(Even corn, strawberries, everything) in this manner. Though the Nitrates or Nitrites may not kill you, theyll make you pretty sick. Lamb’s Quarter may not be native but it grows everywere and is one of those plants that can’t be controlled or exterminated.

    Nut sedge (Cyperus esculentus) and similar species are also very easy to grow, though I’m not sure what part is edible. I beleive this plant is not Native to North America either, but it grows everywhere.

    Mexican Olive (Cordia Boissieri)This tree will only grow to be about 15-20ft. at the most and will fruit profusely once well established. The fruit is edible and can be used for preserves and wines. Though you should be cautious with the seeds and leaves, seeing as some trees like cherry trees have edible fruit but toxic seeds,leaves, and bark. May attract bees.

    Hackberry trees (Celtis spp.) I believe there are a few species native to Texas. The fruit of these trees are edible. But the seeds should not be consumed. This plant needs very little water and it’s small red berries are attractive and sweet. This tree requires a bit of trimming every once in a while to prevent branches from coming out of the base of the tree near the ground wich can give it an untidy appearance. I have seen this tree reach 25-30 ft. at the most. I have allso seen this tree grow very rapidly with adequate rainfall growing about 6ft. since this spring in my yard, in spread not really getting taller but spreading it’s branches horizontally. I’d recomend training the branches to grow towards the Earth by weighing them down with heavy objects such as a large bird feeder or wind chime, so you may harves the bearries withouth having to clime the tree lol.

    Mullberry trees I beleive are native. Perhaps you could dwarf the trees by cutting it down towards the base at about 5ft. or so and encouraging only horizontally growing branches and trimming skyward ones and weighing down the branches to also ensure horizontal growth. Were talking about seedlings of course or very young trees, and only ever allowing them to grow horizontally by trimming skyward branches. These trees can grow to 30ft. or more so the method I described would be wise if you’d want to harvest the berries. I have seen this tree have serious problems with silk worm infestations however.

    (Echinacea purpurea)Purple Coneflower is a native and threatened species, due to over-harvesting in the wild. But growing Echinacea yourself will support the regeneration of this amazing plant and give you some awesome health benefits. In case you don’t know Echinacea is mostly used as a medicinal herb to enhance and stimulate the bodies natural resistance too infection by viruses, bacteria, fungi ..etc. All parts of the plant is used and are edible. Roots an all. I grew this plant myself and it tastes great, better than lettuce, but the hairs on the leaves are a bit annoying.

    Hope I helped you out.

  3. jeff chokas

    Polk salad grows in the spring around brush piles. I am unsure why, but that’s where I find it. It should be eaten when a foot tall or so. Has a succulent purple to pale green stem with tender green leaves. The easy way to find them is to locate there tall dead white stalks from previous growth. Again usually near dozed trees. WARNING must be cooked in water and water must be discarded. Some go as far as doing this twice. Tastes as good or better than spinach and can be used similarly to spinach after draining. You can return a week or two later and harvest it again, then you should leave it be until the next spring.

  4. Pam

    A recent publication, Incredible Edibles of South Texas (What to Eat & How to Get It) by Esteban Bravo on the 29 South Texas plants that are edible. This is a well researched book and he provides a long list of some of our plant experts who helped him in his acknowledgments section.

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