Tinder Bundles – Part 2

Welcome to the second part of a three part tinder bundle blog.  In the first part we looked at Ember extenders available to us at this time of year.  In this second part we will concentrate on four plants that we can forage now for the coarser outer of the tinder bundle and look at how to collect and prepare it.

Cleavers orGoosegrass – Galium Aparine (Milkmaids, Sticky bobbins)


This wonderful plant is always ready to give us something during the whole of its life cycle. It is after this cycle that interests us for our tinder bundle though.  As a climber it is often found at this time of year all over our hedgerows and brambles. Being suspended adds to our advantage, as on a clear day with a little breeze you can be assured it will be dry and ready to use straight away.

It can be a tricky business collecting it from our hedgerows though, due mainly to the enclosures movement through the 18-19 centaury 200,000 miles of hedgerow were planted using mainly hawthorn.

Scratches can be avoided with using thick leather gloves.  If we take particular care the first time, there is no reason why we should get scratched at all even without gloves. Carefully sweep it from the top of the hedgerow as it sits a little proud and then roll it into a ball. Utilising the plants grabby hairs actively comb the ball over the plant, rolling it on its self as you do so, travelling down the side of the hedge. You will find it soon collects on its self very well, producing a good sized football in no time at all. Try not to be tempted to continue rolling and pulling it from the floor, unless you can be certain it is also dry, as it can often  still  be damp even on the sunniest of days.  Save some of the plant to use to tease away some more tinder to form your next ball.

 Clematis – Clematis Vitalba (Old Man’s Beard, Traveller’s Joy)


In part one of my Tinder Bundle Blog we used the seed heads of Clematis as an ember extender, but we can also use the outer bark to create the coarser tinder bundle outer as well, creating a complete tinder bundle from one plant.

Before we get started though, we need to express some caution when we are dealing with certain varieties of clematis. There are about 200 species globally and some cultivated varieties, as opposed to our native species growing wild, can be quite poisonous (protoanemonin). Our instructor Adam had first had first-hand experience of this when clearing a cultivated variety off a relative’s wall on a hot sunny day. The fibrous bark broke down and the dust particles entered his respiratory system causing a 24 hour period of chronic stomach pain.

Our native wild clematis is the one we are interested in here though. It grows well in alkaline soils, so finds strong footholds in the chalky areas such as the Chiltern Hills, South Downs and Norfolk for example.

In selecting bark to remove from this climbing shrub, dead examples are good as you can remove all the desired material without fear of damaging the plant. In saying this you can still remove fibres from a living plant if you are careful. Twisting your hands gently in opposite directions to each other around it can help release the fibres that are ready to come away.

This outer bark is nice and fibrous, but it takes a little preparation before it is ready. We need to buff it up to increase the surface area which helps it to become incredibly fine and ready to be used to construct a tinder bundle.

Honeysuckle – Lonicera Periclymenum (Woodbine)


Honey Suckle is a lovely woodland climber, which can be easily seen with its glossy green leaves through the lack of leaf cover of the surrounding plants at this time of year. Often found twisting its way around Hazel, constricting it to create wonderful forms you often see stick makers taking advantage of to great effect.

You will often smell honeysuckle when in flower well before seeing it. Its sweet fragrance carries well in the evening attracting the Hawk Moth which pollinates it. Unlike clematis it is less restricted to soil conditions and is more widespread in the UK. The leaves and flowers contain Salicylic acid which can help to relieve headaches. The berries however contain toxins that are poisonous to us and best avoided.

When it comes to harvesting the bark it should be treated very much like Birch bark, only removing the outer layers of bark which it is offering up naturally. The fibres are long and papery in texture, lending its self to good tinder bundle construction.

As with the Clematis bark, the fibres still need to be prepared prior to forming the tinder bundle. Creating two fists holding the fibres in both hands roll the hands in a forward rotation whilst breaking down the fibres as they are rubbed together giving a finer fuel.


Phragmites Reed – Phragmites australis (Common Reed)


Found in the shallow water of reservoirs, rivers and our wetlands, this reed gives home with its dense cover to an abundance of wildlife, from birds, mammals and invertebrate.  The likes of Warblers, Marsh Harrier, Water Vole, Bearded tits, Harvest mice to name but a few can all be seen here.

In Part one we looked at how we could utilise the seed heads of Phragmites reed as a very effective ember extender. We needn’t stop there with this plant either, as we can also utilise it for the coarser outer of the tinder bundle and the kindling to help convert our tinder bundle flame into the beginnings of an established fire that we can start utilising as a tool.

Starting at the base of the plant we can comb through to release all the wide dried leaves which are suspended from the floor.  It doesn’t take much and you’ll soon find you have enough for our purpose, watch out for any damp bits though. Although a little finer, these leaves will need a little preparation similar to clematis and honey suckle.  A fist full of stems will also provide us with the smaller grade of our kindling as well.

lake reed

So there we are, four plants we can use now for the outer of our tinder bundle. Get collecting and next time we will look at putting it all together and how to effectively blow it into flame.




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