Archive for the ‘Threatened’ Category

Possomhaw Holly – Ilex deciduas

Possumhaw Holly
Possumhaw Holly

O reader! hast thou ever stood to see
The Holly-tree?
The eye that contemplates it well perceives
Its glossy leaves
Ordered by an Intelligence so wise
As might confound the Atheist’s sophistries.

 

By Robert Southey (1774-1843)

 This native of low, wet woods can be found throughout the southeast United States. It is one of the deciduous hollies, meaning it loses its leaves come winter. It is state listed as Threatened in Florida. The largest specimen found to date is located in South Carolina. It measures 3 feet around, and 42 feet tall!

 

The berries are generally considered toxic to humans. The low level toxicity causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. But all manner of small mammals, songbirds, and gamebirds, as well as deer find parts of this bush good eating. The deer being the only one to eat the twigs; all the others find the berries to be a delicacy.

 

Because of those same berries it is often planted as a winter ornamental, and a wildlife attractant. The branches with the berries have been collected to use in Christmas decorations. The wood of this shrub is not considered useful due to its small size.

 

Hollies in general (including this one) were used by the Alabama Indians. They took the inner bark of the tree, made a decoction from it and applied this to the eyes.  

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Persimmons – Diospyros virginiana

Persimmon fruit
Persimmon fruit

Mr. ‘Possom is a farmer
And his crop? Persimmon trees!
Many a woodland stocks his product
And he grows his crop with ease.

How he loves those ripe persimmons
Sweet as syrup, smooth as silk —
Like a gourmet loves his entrees
Like a baby loves his milk.

By Reverend John F. Dorsey (1916- )

This slow growing fruiting tree is native to Eastern North America. It can often be found in dry woods, old fields, and clearings. This deciduous tree is becoming less frequently found in the wild and is listed as of Special Concern in Connecticut and Threatened in New York.

The earliest reference to them that I have found was by Hernando De Sotto who first found them in Florida in 1539. The settlers quickly learned not to eat them until after the first frost, which took away the astringent aspects and rendered the fruit sweet. Later, during the Civil War, when times were tough, the seeds would be used as a coffee substitute by boiling them. And for those of you who like beer and other fermented foods, try a southern Appalachian idea of fermenting the ripe fruit to make beer!

The Cherokee are credited with some of the earliest baked breads using the persimmon fruit, which they served to the Europeans. The Asian persimmon is rarely cooked as they get astringent with heat, but the native American persimmon is often baked into puddings, pies, & breads. Jams and Jellies are also common from the fruit.

This tree also contributed to the ancient medicine wisdom of the south. The unripe, very astringent fruit would be boiled into a decoction and taken internally to stop bloody stools. The Cherokee used a decoction of the inner bark to treat thrush, sore throats and as a wash for warts or cancers. A few twigs boiled and cooled is a good wash for poison ivy and its kin, taking away the itch and finally drying out the blisters.

There is an old use of the persimmon that I have always found fascinating. Take fresh persimmon seeds and split them open. In the center you will find the little whitish sprout…the shape of this sprout was believed to predict the weather for the coming winter. If the sprout looked like a knife it would be an icy, cold winter. If it looked like a fork it would be a mild winter. And if the little sprout resembled a spoon, get the shovels ready ‘cause snow was sure to blow!

Passion Flower – Passiflora incarnate

Passionflower
Passionflower

This plant is a native to the Americas, growing in sandy thickets and open fields, roadsides, and waste places. It is listed in Indiana as rare, and in Ohio as Threatened.

This flower was named the Passion flower due to the fact that the flower reminded early Christians of Christ’s passion on the cross. Count the petals and sepals, together they are said to represent the disciples (except for Judas & Peter). The stamens number 5, just as Christ had 5 wounds. The stigmas look like the nails of the crucifixion used to affix him to the wooden cross and the corona represents the crown of thorns.

The Cherokee used the flower for food, medicine, and for religious ceremony. It was used in a formula for nervous behavior along with hops, valerian, and hawthorn. In combination with peppermint it has calming properties. Today it is still used for calming.

The fruit can be eaten raw, the inside is yellow, and gelatin like. It can also be used to make drinks, sherbet, jams & jellies. The leaves could be eaten as a spring green.

The aromatic flowers are used in making perfume, and added to potpourri or dried and burned as incense. The root is also used as an insecticide.

Virginia Bluebells – Mertensia virginica

Virginia Bluebells
Virginia Bluebells

A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell…

By Anne Bronte

 

Often found growing in rich, wooded bottomlands this spring ephemeral is found through most of eastern North America. The bell flowers change color having several colors on the plant simultaneously. The buds are pink, and the flowers begin with a pinkish color cast that quickly turns blue.

The Cherokee used this plant for the treatment of whooping cough and consumption (Tuberculosis). The Iroquois also used this plant, but used a compound infusion of the roots as an antidote for poisons, and a decoction of the roots for the treatment of venereal diseases.

Listed as Threatened in Michigan and Exploitably Vulnerable in New York this plant is best taken home from the wild in the lens of your camera, and the physical plant left alone to continue to grow!