The best Advice for getting water from Plants

In this article I am suggesting the best advice for getting water from plants. This is particularly relevant to me as I had become lost on a few occasions and by utilising this knowledge I was able to stay alive.



Water collectors:

Parasitic Bromeliad

Parasitic Bromeliad

Cup-shaped plants and cavities between the leaves of bromeliads (many of which are parasitic and living on the branches of tropical trees) often collect a reservoir of water.

Bamboo often holds water in its hollow joints. Old and yellow stems are more likely to be water bearing. Shake them and if you can hear water slurping around, cut a notch at the bottom of each joint and tip the water out.






Vines with rough bark and shoots about 5cm (2in) thick can be a useful source of water, however you must learn by experience which are the water-bearing vines, because not all have drinkable water and some have a poisonous sap. The poisonous ones yield a sticky, milky sap when cut.  You will know not to try that type again otherwise it is a matter of trial and error and worth trying any species.




Some vines cause a skin irritation on contact if you suck them, so it is better to let the liquid drip into your mouth rather than putting your mouth to the stem and preferable to collect it in a container.

To obtain water from a vine select a particular stem and trace it upwards. Reach as high as possible and cut a deep notch in the stem. Cut off the same stem close to the ground and let the water drip from it into your mouth or into a container. If you have no container, one can be made from the bark of a young tree. When it ceases to drip cut a section from the bottom and go on repeating this until the vine is drained. Do NOT cut the bottom of the vine first as this will cause the fluid to run up the vine through capillary action.


In Australia the Water Tree, Desert Oak and Bloodwood have their roots near the surface. Pry these roots out from the ground and cut them up into 30cm (12in) lengths. Remove the bark. Suck out the moisture, or shave to a pulp and squeeze over the mouth.

It is not easy to find some of the most useful desert roots unless you have been shown by someone with experience. The Indigenous Australians can identify a tiny twig which grows from a football-like bulbous root, which can be a life-saver, but unless you have been shown how to find them it is not worth expending your energy and resources looking for it.


The Buri, Coconut and Nipa palms all contain a sugary fluid which is very drinkable. To start it flowing bend a flowering stalk downwards and cut off its tip. If a thin slice is cut off the stalk every 12 hours the flow will be renewed, making it possible to collect up to a quart each day. 

Nipa Palm contains water

Nipa Palm contains water



Nipa palms shoot from the base so that you can work from ground level, on grown trees of other species you may have to climb up them to reach a flowering stalk.



Coconuts hanging from tree

Coconuts hanging from tree


Coconut milk has considerable water content, but from ripe nuts it is a powerful laxative; drinking too much would make you lose more fluid.




Both the fruit and bodies of cacti store water, but not all cacti produce liquid that is safe to drink. The Saquarro, the giant multi-fingered cactus of Arizona, is very poisonous. Take care to avoid contact with cactus spines, they can be very difficult to remove, especially the very fine hair-like ones and can cause festering sores in the skin.

The Barrel cactus Echinocactus grusoni can reach a height of 120cm (4ft) and is found in the southern United States through to SouthAmerica. It requires considerable effort to cut through its tough spine covered outer skin. The best method is to cut off the top and chop out pieces from the inside to suck, or to smash the pulp within the plant and scoop out the watery sap which varies from tasteless in some plants to bitter in others. An average sized 100cm (3.5ft) Barrel cactus will yield about 1 litre (2pt) of milky juice and this is an exception to the rule to avoid milky-sapped plants.



Saquarro cactus Sereus giganteus of Mexico, Arizona and California grows to 5m (17ft) high holds large amounts of fluid, but it is poisonous. However, you can collect and place in a solar still to evaporate and re-condense during the cold night.






Opuntia cacti, commonly known as Prickly Pear, or Figilinda, have big ear- like excrescences and produce oval fruits which ripen to red or gold. Both the fruit and ‘ears’ are laden with moisture. Their large spines are easier to avoid than those of many cacti.