Derived from work by Barbara R Bocek (work in progress)


This summarizes the ethnographic uses of 157 plants known to Harrington’s Costanoan informants. Organization is generally consistent with Munz (1974), with some reference to Munz (1968) and to Munz and Keck (1959), and with genera and species listed alphabetically. Nonnative species are marked with an asterisk (*). Neither collectors’ names nor voucher numbers are available (see text). California Spanish, Rumsen (R) and Mutsun (M) names are set in bold face. Information on plant usage is derived from the author’s summaries of Harrington’s field notes. The number of specimens located in the Harrington Collection is given in parentheses, following the ethnographic uses.


Fungi-taxa unknown. Ongo, hongo. Roasted on coals, sprinkled with salt and eaten.

Marine algae. Ulva, Porphyra spp. Lechuga del mar; ‘eecxen (R,M?). Used when fresh as a wrap to preserve seafoods; when dried, was eaten whole or ground into flour.

Marine algae. Laminaria, Macrocystis spp. Alga del mar. Used in the preparation of enemas.

Mosses-taxa unknown. Lama. Used for padding in cushions and beds.



Equisetum arvense L. Caftillo, caax (R?). Roots used in basketry.

E. hyemale L. Canutillo del rio. Roots used in basketry.

E. laevigatum A. Br. and E. sp. Canutillo, cañutito. Decoction used as contraceptive, for bladder ailments, for delayed menstruation, and as hair wash; silica-rich stems used in abrasive compounds.


Adiantum jordani K. Mull. Culantrillo. Decoction used for stomach troubles, to purify the blood, for “pain below the shoulders”; also taken to help expel the afterbirth, and as a general post parturition treatment.

A. pedatum L. Ssp. aleuticum (Rupr.) Calder & Taylor. Pats de gallina. Decoction given for stomach trouble and to purify the blood; used only when A. jordani not available.

Pellaea mucronata (D. C. Eat.) D. C. Eat. Calahuala. Leaves steeped and the liquid used as a wash for facial sores; hot leaves held against face in compresses; for fever, new leaves collected in early winter and a tea made, taken internally; decoction used for internal injuries, to cough up “bad blood.”

Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn, var. pubescens Underw. Manita, witt (R). Young fronds eaten, raw or cooked; decoction of root used as hair rinse, or root paste rubbed in scalp to encourage hair growth; roots used in basketry, large fronds used as umbrellas and for roofing, and to line acorn leaching pits and earth ovens.


Dryopteris arguta (Kaulf.) Watt. Yerba del golpe. Rhizomes gathered in spring and eaten; fronds steeped and liquid used as hair wash.

Polystichum munitum (Kaulf.) Presl. ssp. munitum. Yerba del golpe macho. Rhizomes eaten, boiled or baked in coals, fronds used to line earth ovens.


Cupressus macrocarpa Hartw. ex Gord. Cipres. Foliage decocted and used as remedy for rheumatism.

Juniperus californica Carr. Pina, pino; hireeni (M), xirren (R). Berries eaten, taste said to be poor; decoction of leaves taken for relief of pain and to cause sweating.


Pinus sabiniana Dougl. Piñon; sak (M), saak (R). Pine nuts eaten; pitch chewed as a treatment for rheumatism.


Taxus brevifolia Nutt. Wood used in bow manufacture.

Torreya californica Torr. Nuez moscada. Nuts pulverized, mixed with fat and rubbed on temples to treat headache; rubbed on the body to treat chills and cause sweating; nuts chewed as remedy for indigestion.


Clematis ligusticifolia Nutt. in T. & G. Barba de chivo. Compresses of foliage used for chest pain.

Ranunculus sp. Decoction used to wash wounds.


Juglans californica Wats. Nogal. Nuts eaten; leaf decoction taken for thin blood.


Acer macrophyllum Pursh. Torote. Seeds eaten occasionally.


Phoradendron tomentosum (Engelm. ex Gray) ssp. macrophyllum (Engelm.) Wiens. Tuje, tujo. Unspecified medical use.


Alnus rhombifolia Nutt. Alamillo; tcum (M). Inner bark eaten; juice used as a dye.

Corylus cornuta Marsh. var. californica (A. DC.) Sharp. Albellana; sirak (M), sirrak (R). Nuts eaten, but only late in season; wood used for basket rims, arrow shafts.


Lithocarpus densiflorus (H. & A.) Rehd. Cascalote; xoppow (RM). Acorns eaten; bark used to prepare dye, a wash for face sores, and a liquid held in mouth to tighten loose teeth.
Quercus spp. “White oaks” known as roble; ‘arkx, rapk (R); sirxen (RM). “Black oaks” known as encino; yukis (M); yuuks (R). Acorns of many species were eaten, although those of Q. agrifolia were preferred; decoction of bark or insect galls used for toothache and to tighten loose teeth; water from acorn leaching process used as diarrhea remedy; wood used in various utensils, including bowls and mortars; bark used as tinder. Q. agrifolia, Q. douglasiana.


Populus sp. Alamo; porpor (M,R). Inner bark eaten; syrup made from outer bark used in setting broken bones.

Salix lasiolepis Benth. Sauz de la oja finita; tarhasan (M), tarxasan (R). Shoots used in basketry; bark or young leaves steeped in water for a cold remedy, flowers decocted for a tea, also a cold remedy.

Salix laevigata Bebb. Sauz chino; riipin (MR). Fever remedy made from bark.

Salix hindsiana Benth. Sauz cenizo; pays (R). Shoots used in basketry; twigs collected and prepared for kindling.

Salix spp. Sauz. Leaves prepared as a paste, rubbed into the scalp for treatment of falling hair, leaves steeped and used as a hair rinse. Bark braided into rope; willow poles the basic element of house construction.


Myrica californica Cham. & Schlecht. Wax collected from fruits; uses not known

Lauraceae Umbellularia californica (H. & A.) Nutt. Laurel; sokkochi (M), sokkoch (R). Fruits eaten raw or boiled; kernels either roasted, or ground into flour for cakes; leaves hung in bunches to “freshen air”; smoke from burning leaves used to rid one of fleas, also to drive ground squirrels from burrows. Leaves dampened, stuck on forehead for headache; decoction used as a wash to treat poison oak dermatitis.


Platanus racemosa Nutt. Aliso; maar (M,R). Inner bark eaten; leaves used to wrap bread during baking; tea of unspecified part of plant used as a general remedy.


Eremocarpus setigerus (Hook) Benth. Yerba del pescado. Root decoction used to treat dysentery; pounded roots thrown in freshwater pools or dammed streams to stupefy fish.

Euphorbia maculata L. Golondrina. Milky juice applied to pimples; an infusion of foliage used as hair-wash; decoction used as eyewash, or to wash cuts; tea drunk to purify the blood.


Eriogonum fasciculatum Benth. Patita de venado. Decoction used to treat urinary problems; boiled plants made into poultices, presumably for same condition.

E. latifolium Sm. in Rees. Tibinagua. Decoction of root, stem and leaves taken internally for colds and coughs.

Rumex crispus L.* Lengua de vaca; looputuk (M), loopotk (R). Seeds prepared as pinole; leaves used as greens; decoction of some part of plant used for urinary problems.


Chenopodium californicum (Wats.) Wats. Jamatay, raiz de lavar. Roots scraped and water added to produce detergent foam; decoction of root used in compresses for numb or paralyzed limbs.


Adenostoma fasciculatum H. & A. Huichuta; puusen (R). Wood used in arrow foreshafts and basketry.

Amelanchier pallida Greene. Fruits eaten raw.

Fragaria spp. Maduce. Fruits eaten raw.

Heteromeles arbutifolia M. Roem. Toyon; totchon (R), t’ott’oni (M). Fruits eaten toasted or dried.

Prunus ilicifolia (Nutt.) Walp. Islay, pooker, pokker (M,R). Fruits eaten occasionally, more commonly, pits were cleaned, dried and opened, with the inner kernels soaked and roasted and then eaten. Wood occasionally used in bows.

P. virginiana L. var. demissa (Nutt.) Sarg. Fruits eaten, late in season only.

Rosa californica C. & S. Mamauco, mamacua, rosa; mamakwa (M). Fruit’s “hips” decocted for indigestion remedy and for sore throat, fever, colds, rheumatism, kidney ailments, and as a wash for scabs and sores.

Rubus leucodermis Dougl. ex T. & G. Madunza. Fruits eaten raw.

Rubis vitifolius Cham. & Schlecht. Mora, zarsamora; ‘een, eenena (R,M). Fruits eaten, a favorite food; roots used in treatment of infected sores; root decoction considered most effective dysentery and diarrhea remedy.