Uncategorized Chewing Gum, Civil War, Cornus florida, Dogwood, Dogwood Tree, Florida, Florida Archaeology, Florida Archaeology Month, Florida Archaeology Month 2011, Florida Plants, Florida Public Archaeology Network, Flowering Dogwood, Gum, Liquidambar styraciflua, Native People, Native Plants, Sweet Gum, Sweet Gum Tree, Verbenalin No Comments
That’s right folks, this week we have two plants of the week!
Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua):
Description: Tree to 125 ft. Outer limbs often corky winged. Leaves shiny, star shaped with 5-7 pointed, finely toothed lobes. Fruits spherical to 1 ½ inches, with projecting points.
The resin or “gum” formed when sweet gum bark is damaged, as well as many other parts of the tree exhibit strong anti-microbial activity. Sweet gum is used commercially as an ingredient in “compound tincture of benzoin”. The essential oil of the leaf contains compounds similar to those found in Australian tee tree, known for it’s anti-microbial properties.The gum was historically used by rural children as a chewing gum substitute. The twig, when chewed, becomes a good “survival” toothbrush.
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida):
Description: Deciduous tree 10-30 ft. Leaves ovate. Flowers in clusters, 4 showy, white bracts surround true flower.Fruits bright red to ¼ inch across.
Dogwood was widely used by American Indians as a medicine plant. It contains verbenalin, which reportedly has anti-inflammatory and pain reducing qualities, as well as being a cough suppressant and mild laxative. The red berries from the Flowering Dogwood tree are dry, very bitter and
considered inedible. Dogwood root bark tea was widely used in the south as a quinine substitute, especially during the Civil War. An 1830 herbal study from Virginia commented that the teeth of Indians and captive Africans in the area were extremely white, and attributed this to dogwood chewing sticks. Like sweet gum, dogwood twigs form a soft pliable “brush” when chewed.