Walks + Forage Picnics

Summer class in the weeds. Photo by Juliana Sohn

Welcome to my plant-walk page! To book for the new season of walks and classes, scroll right down to the Fall 2023 schedule see what is on offer. (Tickets are limited to 15 per session.) 

Otherwise, for backstory, read on:

Pop-up walks are first posted on my Instagram page @marie_viljoen while private walks for you, a group of friends, or work-team members are by appointment. 

To enquire about a private walk, or join my mailing list to get first dibs at scheduled walks, please email me at myviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com. 

My second book, Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine, is a useful resource. Aside from in-depth information about a slew of edible plants, there are over 500 recipes intended as a guide for exploring the range of possibilities for each these delicious and very versatile botanical ingredients. Please order from your nearest bookshop (or, you know, Amazon).

About my Walks

I lead plant identification and nature walks in wild and tame green spaces. As much as these experiences are about sharing a passion for plants, they are an introduction to and immersion in the rich natural world that surrounds us, even in the middle of a city.

Every part of every season offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the plants that surround us in plain sight, especially in places where we do not expect to find them. Yes, we even walk in winter.

On these field trips we identify and talk about pretty much any plant we encounter: So-called weeds, or plants whose habit is invasive; exotic plants (introduced species) that have culinary uses; and native plants, some of which could - and should, but still don't - define an authentic regional cuisine. Conservation and stewardship are the cornerstones of these experiences. My own approach evolves, and I welcome input from guests from different backgrounds and with diverse viewpoints.

In terms of edible plants, we discuss what parts of plants are safe to eat, and why, as well as culinary ideas and techniques for unfamiliar ingredients. We talk about the (also evolving) do's and don't's of foraging; pollution issues; sustainability; the relationship between invasive plants and natives, and why it does actually matter, if we care about the planet and biodiversity; and the real problems of commercial over-harvest of native wild plants (like ramps) - all tying in to my approach of conservation foraging.

My hope is to help tune your senses to the botanical and natural details at our feet, and above our heads, and to inspire you to notice nature, even if it's on your city block.

The group-size for walks is small, low-impact, and personal. It's not unusual for new friendships to grow over the course of the walk. Meet plants, make friends!

Winter walk

Forage Picnics

Most walks end with a wild-inspired tasting picnic. It's exactly what it sounds like: Tastes of in-season, wild ingredients, as well as preserved small-batch forages from my feral pantry. Non-foraged ingredients are high-quality, and organic or locally-grown, where possible. I take broad dietary preferences (vegan, vegetarian, omnivore) into account where possible within a group. You can also book a diet-specific, private walk.

Pine pollen pignoli

Ways to Walk and Talk

Scheduled Walks - seasonal walks are booked via this page (scroll down).
Gift Walks - buy an open ticket to any scheduled walk; valid for one year.
Private Walks - for institutions, corporate groups, schools, families, friends.
Plant Identification - I identify plants on your land, public space, or in your garden.
Talks, Classes - for botanic gardens, design firms, conservancies, garden clubs, etc.
Consultation - native and edible garden creation, wild recipes, mixology.

Buy a Gift Walk

You can buy a ticket or tickets to any of my scheduled walks (with tasting picnics) via the button below. They are valid for one year from the date of purchase. I will reach out to you via the email address you provide at check out. 


Frequent Walker Miles

Join the club. For every five walks you attend, the sixth is free. You can also transfer your free walk to a friend or donate it the Forage Fund, which makes tickets available to anyone who needs one. Please keep track and alert me when you're up for a gratis stroll. 

Cancellations and Refunds

Refunds are at my discretion. Cancellations up to 72 hours in advance of a walk receive credit for a future walk, to be used within the calendar year (credit can be transferred to a friend, too). Cancellations with 72 hours of a walk do not receive credit or a refund (this includes Gift Walk tickets, which will be forfeited).

If I cancel for any reason, you receive a full refund. 

Walks booked via outgoing links to institutions (like the New York Botanical Garden) have their own cancellation policies, per those institutions. 


Fall 2023

Duneland Scavenge
Fort Tilden
11 November(rescheduled from 23 September)
11.30am - 2.30pm

Behind a long stretch of white beach and blue ocean, along backroads bristling with edible plants, we will discover a shoreline fall: the last autumn olives, pine trees and their cones and needles, bayberry and aromatic juniper, pungent mugwort, and sour sumac. We'll meet a blaze of fall foliage tangled into the hips of invasive roses, and learn to tell apart the blue fruits of plump privet and native Virginia creeper.

Our picnic will offer morsels of beach plum, juniper, mugwort and pine, and of course, autumn olives (visit my Gardenista piece to learn more about using this super-invasive fruit).

(Draconian parking rules are suspended at Fort Tilden after September 15th, so this is a drivable retreat. Otherwise, subway and bus are doable, with planning.)


Grass, Water, Woods 
Mt. Loretto, Staten Island
30 September 2023
12pm - 3.30pm

Mt. Loretto Unique Area is a birding hotspot and a rare grassland in New York City.  It offers another rare city thing: Views all the way to horizon. It's big sky country, in the megalopolis. It is a place I return to again and again for an immersion in nature that never fails to uplift me.

Come and discover diverse habitats, each with its own plant palette: grassland, woodland, wetland, beach. We will explore the wide-cut meadow paths, browse through the interesting invasive plants that have infiltrated, walk softly through woodland and swamp, and step carefully across the rocks and curious debris that make up the fascinating beach. 

It's a workout that will be rewarded, midway, with a forage picnic whose ingredients will include tastes of the plants we have just met.


Fall Edible Plants
New York Botanical Garden
17 October 2023
11am - 1pm
$65 - $70

(Ticketing is via the NYBG's Adult Education Department)

It's October! It's the Native Garden! It's the forest! It's wild alleys of spicebush  and formal plantings of native edibles ranging from magnolia to sweetfern! It's that wonderful Sichuan pepper tree and it's any lucky fungal finds en route! It's needled evergreens and cedar pollen! (Sorry, excited.)

Catch a train to this botanical gem in the Bronx, or reserve your donkey well advance if you're hoofing it from Brooklyn.

I'll be brewing a warming and wild toddy, and baking a wild-inspired snack. Maybe-possibly featuring the forages that will have returned with me from autumnal Maine.

Up and Down
Green-Wood Cemetery
21 October 2023
11am - 2pm

Autumn in Green-Wood, a nationally accredited arboretum, is spectacular. There are more edible possibilities in - or associated with - the trees, than a casual observer would suspect. Acorns. Unripe pine and cedar cones. Pine needles. Fir needles. Gingko fruit. Kentucky coffee seeds. Hazelnuts. Persimmons. And, if the weather is magically cooperative, mushrooms. 

We will be walking up, and walking down, among the rare hills and dales of Brooklyn. And we will be looking up, and looking down. We will be paying attention. And learning what that means.

$5 from each ticket sale is donated to the Historic Green-Wood Fund.


Woods and Water Bronxploration
Pelham Bay
28 October 2023
11.30am - 3pm

It's the third annual (and very popular) Bronxploration! Hunter Island in Pelham Bay Park is like a little Maine, where the beautifully wild, island-dotted shores of the Long Island Sound wash up against the city. It is also one of the most botanically diverse areas in NYC.

Our visit is timed for high tide, and if the weather is nice, swims will be possible at our picnic spot. Come prepared.

In the autumn-turning woods that meet the water we will see aromatic spicebush and sassafras, and walk beneath mighty oaks and tulip poplars. On the forest floor field garlic may be reappearing after a summer hibernation, and fallen trees and rotting logs will provide opportunities for fungal discovery and discussion. 

Along the edges of the saltmarshes we will find invasive late-season Japanese knotweed and phragmites (and learn why this reed is not beneficial to coastal ecosystems). We may spot salty glasswort in the cord grasses. 

We'll picnic on a quiet rocky island before returning through the woods to the salsa-swinging parking lot where we met.


Fall in the North Woods
Central Park
4 November 2023
12pm - 2pm

Fall in Central Park is about the Conservatory Gardens, chrysanthemums, and the wild, wild woods of the park's northern reaches. It's glorious.

While we are not going to forage the formal chrysanthemums, we sure are going to ogle them, and chrysanthemums will even be on the menu: their aromatic greens and flowers are deliciously edible. It's also crabapple season, spicebush leaves and twigs are still deeply aromatic, pine and mugwort offer fragrance and interest for cold weather cooking. 

Our picnic will also feature the native flavors of fall: pawpaw, persimmon, and aronia.


Post, Post-Thanksgiving Ponder
Prospect Park
2 December 2023  
11.30am - 2pm

In the cold, quiet downtime after Thanksgiving, peaceful walks across fallen leaves are a therapeutic way to talk about the plants en route that could, can, or should, sustain us, and also about the new flavors that winter will bring. We will meet late persimmons, still-fragrant mugwort, leafless serviceberries (and learn how to identify them now), and plenty of surprises.

Two slow-cooked dishes, speaking to the season, to this continent, and to this city, will warm us after our cold-weather ramble in the autumnal park. 

For vegans there is a Three Sisters stew, with silky beans and pigeon peas that are soaked and lightly fermented for a week before being simmered with aronia juice, summer's black trumpet mushrooms, winter squash, and uplifting mugwort. 

And there is a three-day pozole, with rich hominy made from scratch (each kernel removed by hand), heritage pork, smoky chiles, sweet chanterelles, and native bee balm. Add a sweet clover cornbread and cranberry-juniper handpies, and yes, the walk back to our starting point will be a metabolic necessity!



  1. Thank you for keeping alive the Magical natural world !

  2. Thought,,, I haven't joined your field guide tour for a while, your note is always breathtaking treat for me. Thank you, Marie-san!


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