This web site deals with the ways the Sámi have made use of wild plants. Some of the herbs are still being used as described in this exhibition. However, some of the traditional methods of using are not recommended or considered healthy anymore. For example, the Labrador tea (Rhododendron tomentosum) is today considered a poisonous plant that should not be utilized at all. Certain parts of some other plants – presented in the exhibition – can be harmful for some people.
The gathering of herbs is always based on correct identification. You should neither eat unfamiliar plants nor use them for medical purposes. Certain herbs are hard to distinguish from some other plants that look similar but are harmful. Therefore, it might be wise to take a botanical book along when you spend time in nature. You should also be careful when using wild plants in food, for your enjoyment or as a medicine, because the amount of effective substances varies by the plant. You might want to study the literature on the theme or to enrol on a botanical course.
Where to collect plants
According to Finnish law, everyone in Finland has the right to spend time in nature regardless of who owns or manages the area. In natural areas, anyone can walk, ski or ride a bicycle freely, without a permit. You can also pick unprotected flowers, berries, grasses and mushrooms freely in such areas. However, you need permission from the owner or tenant of the land for taking parts of trees regardless of whether the tree is alive or dry or lies on the ground. Furthermore, “the Everyman’s right” guaranteed by law does not include the right to collect mosses and lichens or to mow herbs and grasses.
In the basic zones of national parks, you can pick only berries and edible mushrooms. In restricted parts even this may be forbidden. Other conservation areas do not have a common practice, so you will need to find out about the possible restrictions in advance.
You are not allowed to pass through or collect plants on someone’s cultivated land or in their yard without permission. When gathering herbs, remember to show respect for other people’s privacy and emotions, and do not disturb or harm breeding birds, game and reindeer.
You will always need permission from the owner or manager of the land for making a fire.
Guidelines for collecting wild plants
In the following, you will find a few tricks for collecting and treating useful plants. This short advice will guide you to a good result.
• Collect the plants in dry weather, after the morning dew has dried.
• Put the herbs in an airy basket that is easy to clean. Separate the different plants from each other.
• Collect only healthy and faultless individuals.
• Dry the herbs immediately after collecting them, preferably in a temperature of 30-35°C.
• Pick the leaves before the plant blooms and the flowers right after they have burst into blossom. Collect the roots early in the spring or in the autumn and the seeds once they have ripened.
Choose carefully the place in which to gather plants, because herbs absorb harmful substances from their surroundings. If you plan to eat the plants or use them for curing, you should not collect them from the following areas:
• Industrial environments
• The core areas of population centres
• Areas that have been fertilized
• The neighbourhoods of roads. If the road is small, do not collect from the fall-out area of the dust coming from the road; for the main roads, the safety distance should be 25-50 metres, and, for highways, at least 50 metres.