25 Best Edible Roots

Young eastern gray squirrel explores some smartweed seed at Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary.

The list below ranks in order the top 25 favorite wildlife preferred roots, rhizomes, corms and other underground parts.

The ranking is determined using two criteria to describe the role of the plant food in animals’ diets:

1) the number of species that utilizes the food,

2) how significant the food is within an individual species overall diet

So while a food may not be popular across a large number of species, it still could be strongly preferred by a few species. By coordinating with a rehabber’s specific needs, a forager can decide which plants to best target for collection.

Be sure to check any item listed below  in the database to see if there are any toxicological warnings associated with that plant or part of the plant.

Common Name Botanical Name
1 wild celery Apium graveolens
2 spikerush Eleocharis spp.
3 waterlily Nymphaea spp.
4 arrowhead Sagittaria spp.
5 bulrush Scirpus spp.
6 eelgrass Zostera spp.
7 flatsedge Cyperus spp.
8 cordgrass Spartina spp.
9 rice cutgrass Leersia oryzoides
10 saltgrass Distichlis spicata
11 bulrush, saltmarsh Bolboschoenus robustus
12 bulrush, threesquare Schoenoplectus pungens
13 cattail Tyhpa spp.
14 bulrush, Olney’s  threesquare Schoenoplectus americanus
15 cattail, broadleaf Typha latifolia
16 Queen Anne’s Lace Daucus carota
17 panicgrass Panicum spp.
18 spring beauty, Virginia Claytonia virginica
19 hogpeanut, American Amphicarpaea bracteata
20 waterstarwort Callitriche spp.
21 goldenrod Solidago spp.
22 sawgrass, Jamaican Cladium mariscus
23 switchgrass Panicum virgatum
24 sedge Carex spp.
25 violet Viola spp.

What Criteria is Used for the Ranking the Lists?

The main resources used to build this website usually rated foods in three levels of preference: high, middle and low. But, a plant may be high preference in Michigan but lower preference in Virginia.  So the preference factor has some built in limitations. Still, it is factor #1 in the algorithm.

The second factor considered was how many species of animals ate the part of the plant in consideration. A seed that 29 species of animals eats would outrank a seed that only 5 species eats.

From a foragers perspective, it would be ideal to collect the most  highly preferable foods that feed the widest range of rehabilitation animals, right? Well maybe not.

Consider if a rehabilitator only works with foxes. To research which foods would be most beneficial in the “fox only” scenario, the only consideration that she would care about is the most preferred food for foxes, not how many other species ate it.

So the ranking lists are the most general broad interpretation of the data. You will want to generate your own lists from the search feature to find out just what you want to target for collection.

References Used with Permission

The Fire Effects Information System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).

Fire Effects Information System (2017) Plant species ecology literature reviews. Retrieved various dates from https://www.feis-crs.org/feis/

Martin, A.C., Zim, H.S., Nelson, A.L. (1951). American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits. New York: Dover Publications.

Scott, M. (2013). Songbird Diet Index. National  Wildlife  Rehabilitators  Association, St. Cloud, MN.