Sourcing Water from Plants

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Some plants collect water for their own consumption and can provide the survivor with a really good fresh water supply. Other plants yield drinkable water or sap which can also be extracted and consumed.

As a general rule, DO NOT DRINK Milky or Coloured Sap or plant juices. There are two exceptions to this rule, which are: for the Juice of the American Barrel Cactus and of course, Coconut Milk both of which have been proven to be fine.

Water Collectors

Some plants have leaves which are cup-like in shape; such that they will collect pools of water in their leaves.
Plants which grow leaves directly from the trunk, like most palm varieties, some ferns and bromelaides (from the pineapple family, these are usually small plants which grow on the side of other, larger, trees), often have leaves which are designed to catch rain and channel it down to the base of the leaf, where it meets the trunk. The water pools there so that the tree can slowly absorb it. These kind of trees and plants are often, but definitely not always, found in tropical areas and can provide a useful source of water. One great example of this is the Traveler’s Tree (Ravenala Madagascariensis). This comes from the banana family and can hold up to 1–2 liters (2–4pt) of water which pools between the leaf stalks where they attach to the tree.

Banana plants hold a descent amount of water in their trunk. This can be accessed by either slicing off the trunk at about 30cm (1ft) from the ground or by inserting a tap into the trunk. To tap a banana plant, take a 20cm (8in) length of bamboo, about the diameter if your thumb, ensuring that it is hollow all the way through. Sharpen one end with your knife and insert the bamboo tap firmly into the banana plant at about a 70 deg angle to the trunk of the plant. This will allow the water to start running out of the trunk and down through the tap. Create a water trap underneath the end of the tap, by placing a large leaf or piece of plastic over a depression in the ground, for the water to drip into and leave it for a few hours before returning to have a drink. The water may taste like green bananas but it is drinkable.

Other water bearing trees are the Boabab tree (often known as the tree of life), found in Australia, Africa and Madagascar hold a very large amount of water in its trunk. This tree also provides shade and edible fruits.

Extracting Water from Tree Roots

It is possible to get water from the roots of some trees by removing the bark, cutting shavings into a pile and pulping the root shavings with rocks then squeezing the water out of the pulp and letting the water drip into your mouth.

The roots of some trees will yield more water than others. Some trees with a higher water content are: the blood wood, the water tree and the desert oak; all found in Australia.

This method works if you are desperate but uses a lot of energy for the yield.

Water from Bamboo

Bamboo will usually yield an excellent supply of water in the hollow stems, between the joints. Water can be located by tapping the stem about 7-10 cm (3-4 inches) above a joint. If you hear a dull sound then they will most likely have water inside. You can shake the stems and listen for water inside too. Aim for thick stem bamboo. Water is most likely to collect in older, yellower stems. When you locate water, cut a notch just above the bottom joint and the water will run out freely. This water will be clean and good to drink as-is.

Water from Vines

Some vines can yield a reasonable supply of drinking water. The general characteristics of such vines are rough bark and off-shoots of about 4-6cm (1-2in) thickness.

Always be weary of plants with a sticky, milky sap as this is usually poisonous. Vines are no exception so observe this when trying various vines for water.

To get water from a water-bearing vine, simply cut a deep notch in the vine, as high up as you can, (it is important to cut the top first or else the vine will act as a vacuum and suck the water back up the vine) then cut it completely through at the base. At this point the water should begin to run out. Check that it is not sticky & milky and then collect the water in a container or let it run/drip straight into your mouth. Do not put the vine in your mouth as some vines can irritate your lips.

When the water has stopped flowing, cut a section off the bottom end to release water still inside the main vine. Repeat this until all water has been released.

Water from Cacti

Whilst most cacti have a fluid content, not all cacti yield fluid which is safe to drink. Some cacti can be very poisonous; like the the giant Saquarro cactus found in the California and Arizona regions of North America and in Mexico. On the other hand, the Barrel cactus is an exception to the “Avoid milky sap ” rule. This life saver can yield around a liter (2 pints or 33oz) of drinkable sticky milky sap. The best way to handle cacti is to cut off a piece to expose the inner flesh, then either cut chunks out pf the center to mash or suck the moisture out, or to cut and mash the flesh, while still in the base, till there is enough liquid to collect or drink then repeat.
illustration of a barrel cactus

Always be very careful when handling cacti as you really don’t want to get the spines stuck in your skin as they can be almost impossible (especially the fine ones) to get out in a survival situation and if left, they can cause weeping sores which can quickly turn septic.

Cactus fruits such as prickly pears can also provide liquid.
The liquid in some cacti can be tasteless and sour in other varieties.

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