WILD MEDICINE: MUGWORT, MULLEIN, and MALLOW
Eco Mural Project 15: Wild Medicine: Mugwort, Mullein, and Mallow at 5050 Baltimore, Philadelphia, PA. 19143
Nestled between tree roots, sprouting along riverbanks, and dotting wide open fields, a careful eye will find precious gifts of nature—wild medicine. Philadelphia is gifted with a great variety of edible and medicinal plants and fungi. Our neighborhoods provide a landscape for foraging natural treasures like fruit trees, nuts and berries, and wild plants—often mistaken for “useless weeds.” For centuries, local flora has provided medical benefits and sustenance that soothe maladies from ear infections to high blood pressure, and boost wellness by aiding sleep, relaxing muscles, and more.
In celebration of these useful natural tools, Hagopian Arts created Wild Medicine: Mugwort, Mullein, and Mallow as no. 15 of the eco mural series. Hagopian Arts Lead Artist Kala Hagopian honors and re-imagines the Armenian knot pattern, a nod to her heritage, by combining local medicinal plants and sacred geometric patterns. A symbol of interconnectedness that draws on the bond between our natural environment and the community, the Armenian knot’s ancient geometry has been adapted to embellish and strengthen goods from fishing nets to decorative rugs. Just as the imagery in the Mugwort, Mullein, and Mallow mural reflects the biodiversity and beauty of West Philadelphia, the richness is also mirrored in the diversity of our community. The hope of the project is to reconnect residents and passersby with local ecology and inspire the community to engage with plant life in a new and beneficial way.
Wild Medicine: Community Education and Engagement
For this mural project, Hagopian Arts extended its outreach into local elementary schools and community-based organizations to introduce ecological awareness to youth ages 3-18 within traditional and nontraditional learning settings. Hagopian Arts provided community partners with 20 coloring illustrations that depict the local flora represented in the Wild Medicine mural. Community partners led students through a lesson plan and coloring activity to promote understanding of the basic characteristics of local flora, safe foraging practices, and the various medicinal benefits to support health and wellbeing. Hagopian Arts created a foraging guide for community members with a selection of coloring pages from our youth participants. The foraging guide was disseminated during the mural unveiling to support the residents’ connection to wild plants within the ecosystem and empower safe consumption in their daily lifestyles. Keep reading to enjoy your own local foraging guide!
Hagopian Arts partnered with local herbalist Melaney Gilchrist to host an interactive workshop during the mural unveiling. She engaged community members and expounded the content from the foraging guide to enhance understanding of the medicinal benefits of local flora. Focusing on two local plants, peppermint and mullein, she highlighted internal uses like a refreshing tea and herbal medicine. Gilchrist guided participants in hands-on medicine making or herbal preparations and connected community members with additional resources for continuous learning. Audiences learned how these plants can be used as safe and natural solutions for everyday uses. Overall, Gilchrist provided a safe space for community dialogue and peer-to-peer learning.
Download a .pdf with participant coloring pages, field guide, and plant uses below.
Foraging is an amazing way to connect with your environment and bring plant medicine and local ingredients into your daily routine. There are some best practices to follow before venturing into the park, woods, or your neighborhood. These are a few tips to keep you safe on your wild foraging adventure!
Don’t take more than you need. For other animals and foragers to enjoy these gems of nature, only take what you need and will use. Most of the time, edible plants and wild mushrooms have a short shelf life and only demand small quantities to be effective- so if you don’t plan on cooking with them immediately or preserving them, it’s best practice to leave most of what you find behind.
Don’t harvest in areas you think may be contaminated. Especially if you live in a city, toxic areas can be abundant and are best to avoid. Toxic areas include anywhere that might have been sprayed with pesticides, near or around dog parks, or along busy roadways. These areas can make edible plants no longer edible.
Don’t forage plants that appear unhealthy. Plants that don’t look like their normal, healthy selves are not safe to eat. This will range from plant to plant, so always be familiar with a plant’s healthy appearance and discuss with your foraging mentor or a trusted online platform before foraging.
Foraging is a community activity. Foraging is an activity that is best and safest when done in groups. Whether it’s a tour group, with a mentor or a friend, be sure to grab your foraging buddy before venturing into the wild. Two sets of eyes are always better than one and can help to ensure that you are safely foraging. One of the best ways to work in a kitchen is in a team, and the same can be said for foraging!
Err on the side of caution. Consult with an expert or trusted online platform before you eat anything to be sure you are accurately identifying the plant you’ve harvested. Always consume small quantities first to ensure that you are not allergic to anything. When ingredients are found in the wild, you never know what you could be allergic to or what happened to the plant before you found it.
A Guide to Local Medicinal Flora
Burdock has purple heads, with leaves that are large triangular and dark green, and stems ranging from green to reddish-purple. It is full of antioxidants, helps regulate blood sugar, aids with coughs and colds, and acts as an anti-inflammatory to relieve aches and pain.
Chickweed leaves are broadly egg-shaped, pointed and mostly hairless, arranged opposite to each other along the stem. Their flowers display five deeply notched, white petals. The plants are full of vitamins C, D, and B complex, and contain other minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc.
Comfrey has simple, alternate leaves without teeth or lobes, and bell- shaped, yellow, or blue flowers with five petals forming distinctive curled clusters. Comfrey alleviates joint inflammation and contains an active ingredient that allows rapid pain relief. For your safety, limit consumption to small amounts.
Dandelions have jagged leaves with deep lobes, and flowers that are disk shaped, feathery, and bright golden yellow. The stems are naked and hollow with a milky sap. Dandelions are full of potent antioxidants, may reduce inflammation, and can act as a natural diuretic and a mild laxative. Its potassium salts prevent potassium depletion.
Echinacea flowers are drooping, petal-like, and pinkish purple with an orange-brown central cone. Its leaves broadly narrow into an oval shape that tapers to a point at each end. Echinacea root has immunity-boosting power, and the flowers, leaves, and stems possess anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. This plant can be used as a mild laxative to reduce bloating and improve skin collagen.
German Chamomile leaves are very thin and feathery, and each leaf divides again into smaller leaf sections. Its stems are somewhat hairy, and the flowers have white petals circling a cone-shaped yellow center. German Chamomile can be used as a sedative, to treat spasms, has antiviral properties, and may relieve itching and inflammation when used topically.
Hawthorn bark is gray or reddish-brown bark, with simple leaves that are usually toothed or lobed. Clusters of white or pink flowers and small, apple-like pomes (fruit) can appear in a range of colors like red, orange, blue and black. Hawthorn contains vitamins B and C and can be used to aid blood circulation and to lower blood pressure.
Jewelweed leaves are coarsely toothed, oval-shaped, and bluish green in color with a whitened underside. It features distinctive yellow-orange flowers and a large, pouch-like structure that has a long spur. Its long pod stores most of the seeds. Jewelweed can be crushed and used fresh as a poultice to for skin rashes and allergic reactions.
Linden’s heart-shaped, coarsely toothed leaves are lopsided at the base. Clusters of yellowish flowers = hang down on a long stalk attached to a leaf-like wing. Leaf color shifts from light green to glossy dark green to yellow. Linden leaves and flowers nourish and support the central nervous system.
Mallow leaves vary between circular and kidney-shaped, and are toothed and shallow, with short hairs present on the upper and lower leaf surface. It possesses five-petaled white flowers, with either a pink or purple petal vein. Mallow contains ample vitamin C and E. It can be used to soothe inflammation of the stomach, respiratory system, or urinary tract, and is helpful in treating acne and skin irritations/diseases like eczema and psoriasis.
Mint leaves are positioned opposite on the stem and are finely toothed. Its flowers are small clusters of pale purple, pink, or white with four petals in terminal spikes. Stems are erect and branching. Mint has antibacterial and pain-relieving properties, can relieve headaches and sinus congestion, and help with digestion.
Mugwort’s leaves are arranged alternately along the stem, shallowly lobed when closer to the ground, and contain a silvery fuzz of tiny, densely packed, woolly hairs on the underside. Flowers are clustered and colored yellow, or reddish-brown, but lack petals. Mugwort is rich in vitamin C and unsaturated fatty acids. This plant has hemostatic properties to support heavy, painful menstrual periods for women.
Mullein’s Long leaves flow into the stem, with small, yellow flowers that contain five petals in a long, spike-like cluster. Mullein is a natural antibacterial that can soothe and relax the muscles in the respiratory system. When infused in oil, Mullein can be used for ear infections to kill bacteria that cause staph infections and E. coli. The soft leaves can be used as a poultice on the skin
Passionflower’s three-lobed, deciduous leaves are dark green above and whitish below. The fruit is a large, orange-yellow berry with edible pulp. Passionflower can reduce anxiety, enhance mood, relieve pain, and promote better sleep.
Broadleaf Plantain leaves are green with shape ranging between oval and egg-like. They are hairless, grow in a rosette, and contain stems with five to seven prominent string-like veins. Flower heads are leafless, slender spikes of flowers clustered densely. Broadleaf plantain is high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. It is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties and boosts the immune system.
Raspberry Leaves are oval leaflets with serrated margins and light gray, hairy undersides. Stems are arching, prickle-covered; flowers are white or greenish-white and appear individually or in small cluster. Raspberry leaves are full of vitamins B and C, potassium, magnesium zinc, phosphorus, and iron, have great antioxidant properties, and are aids in alleviating diarrhea and excessive menstrual flow.
Shepherd’s Purse leaves extend beyond the stem and vary from smooth or hairy and toothed or lobed, with triangular or heart-shaped seedpods. Shepherd’s purse can soothe diarrhea and lower high blood pressure. This plant can also be used for its anti-inflammatory properties and coagulant benefits.
Stinging Nettle features oval, toothed leaves. It has visible hairs along its stem, with drooping, catkin flowers. Stinging nettle may reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar, relieve allergies, and serve as a natural diuretic. It can flush toxins out of the body to help clear skin and eliminate urinary tract infections.
Wild Violet leaves are heart shaped and serrated, without hair that wraps around the stem. Flowers are drooping in shape with five dark-purple petals. Tea derived from wild violet can soothe cold and flu symptoms and can aid sore throats and bronchial conditions.
Yarrow Leaves are lanceolate (a narrow, oval shape tapering to a point at each end) and finely cut with fine white hairs and alternative leaf arrangement. Flowers are small, white, flat-topped clusters. Yarrow can be used fresh, dried, or powdered as a styptic to stop a wound from bleeding.
Our Project Partners
The Wild Medicine: Mugwort, Mullein, and Mallow Eco Mural is a partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia and Spak Group with generous support from Arthur & KC Baldadian, and Jeanne & Donald Bedrosian. The wall for this mural is provided by Spak Group, the developer of the new mixed-use and “inclusionary housing” building at 5050 Baltimore Avenue. Through collaboration, Hagopian Arts led a multifaceted community outreach approach to connect residents across generations and within various settings to native plants, as well as promote every human’s responsibility to establish a safe and healthy relationship with the environment. Hagopian Arts aims to use a community-based approach to increase awareness and education on individualism within an ecological system.
A special thank-you to our community partners and youth participants from John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Wye River Upper School, Lansdowne Friends School, Bartram’s Garden, Community Partnership School, Children’s Community School, and Philly Free School.
Meet our project partners:
The Spak Group is a Philadelphia-based Equitable Real Estate Development company that vertically integrates ownership, development, construction, and management to provide high-quality residences, amazing commercial spaces, and outstanding customer service along with dynamic community engagement. From providing affordable housing with its Inclusionary Housing Concepts to funding / supporting public art, Spak Group remains dedicated to being equitably driven and community focused. Our commitment to the Philly Art scene can be seen by Spak Group’s financial support and dedication to the Mural Arts Program and Philly Mural Artists across the city.
Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program, dedicated to the belief that art ignites change. For over 35 years, Mural Arts has united artists and communities through a collaborative process rooted in the traditions of mural-making, to create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives. Mural Arts engages communities in 50 to 100 public art projects each year and maintains its growing collection through a restoration initiative. Their core program areas—art education, environmental justice, porch light, and restorative justice—yield unique, project-based learning opportunities for thousands of youths and adults. Each year, 15,000 residents and visitors tour Mural Arts’ outdoor art gallery, which has become part of the city’s civic landscape and a source of pride and inspiration, earning Philadelphia international recognition as the “Mural Capital of the World.”
Melaney Gilchrist is an herbalist, professional hairstylist, instructor, and makeup artist. Gilchrist is the proprietor of the popular De’Ja’Vu Salon & Day Spa in Philadelphia, PA, and KnowThySelf100%Naturals, a full garden and herbal apothecary developing natural hair and skincare products. Her wellness and sacred healing courses take a holistic approach, recognizing that overall well-being and beauty are one and the same and can heal all aspects of ourselves. Gilchrist’s holistic approach draws on her experience with anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, botany, sacred rituals, astrology, nutrition phytotherapy, pharmacology, naturopathy, medicine making, homeopathy, aromatherapy, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, African Dawa, Aboriginal medicine, women’s health, men’s health, and midwifery.
Bartram’s Garden aims to create equitable relationships among people and nature through immersive, community-driven experiences that activate the Bartram legacy, garden, and house on land and on the Schuylkill River, in Southwest Philadelphia.
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education inspires meaningful connections between people and nature. The Schuylkill Center uses our forests and fields as a living laboratory to foster appreciation, deepen understanding, and encourage stewardship of the environment. As a leader in the next generation of environmental education, the Schuylkill Center will create a world where all people play, learn, and grow with nature as part of their everyday lives.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum was established for the purposes of preserving, restoring, and developing the natural area known as Tinicum Marsh. In addition, the refuge was established to provide environmental education and an opportunity to study nature. Today, the refuge leads by example in providing environmental education and recreational programming in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties.
Wye River Upper School is on a mission to change the lives of high school students who think and learn outside the box. Wye River Upper School is a college-preparatory high school that offers a high-quality education to students that face learning challenges including dyslexia, ADHD, and more. Most families have come to Wye River Upper School feeling frustrated and discouraged, because in previous school settings their loved one struggled or fell through the cracks. Upon entering Wye River Upper School, students find the academic support they need within a supportive and nurturing environment.
Lansdowne Friends School provides models and opportunities for children to develop academically, socially, and spiritually. Lansdowne Friends provides opportunities for self-directed learning and for the application of that learning. Lansdowne Friends teaches life skills needed to preserve good health, to serve the community, and to settle differences peacefully. Lansdowne Friends School challenges and supports children in their growth as creative and capable human beings. Children and teachers work in developmentally appropriate formal and informal learning settings. Together they strengthen and refine problem-solving, decision making, and academic skills. Lansdowne Friends builds on the natural curiosity our children have for their immediate surroundings and supports the exploration of their ever-unfolding world.
Community Partnership School is an independently operating PAIS-accredited school that provides a well-rounded, affordable education, while fostering a supportive network among students, school, family, and community. This partnership prepares our graduates to flourish in some of the highest performing middle schools and high schools in the region—academically, socially, and emotionally. Community Partnership School was founded in 2006 through a philosophical partnership between Germantown Academy and Project H.O.M.E. to attend to the educational needs of children from an underserved North Central Philadelphia neighborhood characterized by high rates of poverty and low rates of graduation.
Children’s Community School creates collaborative community of young children, families, and educators that honors and empowers children to be active agents in their learning and lives. CCS is committed to building community among staff members, involving staff deeply in the life of the school, providing ongoing professional development and opportunities for growth, and affirming and enhancing their quality of life in and outside CCS. By supporting staff in these ways, CCS enables them to be the best caregivers possible for children and families. CCS’s ability to function and implement their mission also depends on their relationships with a wide variety of non-staff professionals (substitute teachers, service providers for children with special needs, cleaning staff, handy workers, etc.), and CCS works to ensure that their core values are reflected in our interactions with them.
The Philly Free School provides students with the space to explore the world and themselves at their own pace, while experiencing community through participating in a self-governing direct democracy.
Wild Medicine: Mugwort, Mullein, and Mallow Eco Mural is dedicated to the memory and legacy of Flossie Reddick, a grassroots community organizer who cared deeply for the community and children of West Philadelphia.
Julia Flossie Reddick was born February 17, 1900 and passed on November 4, 1984.
Flossie, as she was known to her West Philadelphia community, was the Executive Director of The Philadelphia Tribune Charities. As the Founder of Rafters Charities Inc, Flossie used her not for profit to provide childcare, feed, clothe and educate the youth of our community.
Flossie was always “reaching for the rafters”, even earning a Master’s Degree In Business Administration at the age of 84.
Flossie made it her mission in life to help her community. And for her efforts, we are eternally grateful!
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