All posts by sfx

Lambs Quarters

Lambs_Quarters_jpgThis large family (Asteraceae), commonly called the Aster Family, consists of 1,314 genera and 21,000 species of herbs, shrubs, climbers and a few trees is found chiefly in temperate and subtropical regions.  The plants are of value to man as ornamentals; a few are insecticides and fish poisons. The shrub was dedicated to Bacchus, the mythological God of wine, with leaves of Halimus. In South Carolina Groundsel Tree was used to treat consumption and cough, hence the common name Consumption-Weed.  In Texas oil has been found by drilling in many of the flats where this bush is abundant, thus the common name Oil-Willow. Groundsel Tree can be found on the boarders of the Salt Marsh community, as well as on the Bayshore and is a major component of both. Marsh wrens and other small birds frequently nest in these communities. Groundsel Tree is sometimes confused with the similar appearing Marsh Elder (Iva frutescens). Distinguishing between the two can be aided by the an acronym:   “MOGA”, referring to the orientation of the leaves, “Marsh Elder Opposite and Grounsel Alternate”.


Eelgrass_jpgIn the past Eelgrass was used for packing, upholstery stuffing and insulation.  Because of its high silicon content, Eelgrass is non-flammable.  When compressed and dried, it becomes loosely-matted with many air spaces giving it excellent insulation and sound proofing properties.  Radio City and Rockefeller Center in New York were built with this material.

Slender Yellow-Eyed Grass

Slender_Yellow-eyed_Grass_jpgIn ancient times and continuing to today grasses, have stood between mankind and starvation.  For thousands of years grasses have provided food we eat (wheat, rice, corn, sugar cane, and more) and food for our domestic livestock.  In earlier times grasses were used to make thatched roofs, mats for floors, bedding, and kitchen utensils.  Indeed, some made an entire house of a grass species–bamboo–including water-piping, ladders and furniture. In early man’s culture, selected grasses were used as writing tools and reeds provided flutes and similar musical instruments.  Dyed grasses played an ornamental role as part of costumes worn for ceremonial occasions.  Incense was made from grasses. Children made toy boats, dolls, and other toys with plants in this family.  A good whistle can be made by placing a blade of grass between the thumbs and blowing across it. On the darker side, early man made war using grasses for shafts of arrows, spears, and darts.  Swords and knives could be fashioned from bamboo.  Grain that has molded or have a fungus can be toxic

Strap-Leaved Violet

Strap-leaved_Violet_jpgThis family (Violaceae) commonly called the Violet Family consists of 23 genera and 830 species of herbs, shrubs, lianas and small trees.  Some species are cultivated for their oils which are used in flavorings and to make scents. The species name of Strap-Leaved Violet (lanceolata) refers to the lance shape of the leaves. Strap-leaved Violet is found in moist, open, sandy or peaty ground or in shallow water of sunny streamsides, swamps and bogs. Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) are cultivated, mainly in the south of France, for their essential oil, which is used in flavoring and to make scents: 100 kilograms of flowers are required to yield 30 grams of oil. Violets are edible as salad, cooked green, soup thickener, tea, or candy.  The young tender leaves can be added to salad or boiled to make a palatable cooked green or added to soups as an okralike thickener. Violet leafs are somewhat bland and are best mixed with other greens.  The dried leaves can be used to make tea.  The flowers can be candied.  The leaves of violets are rich in vitamins A and C.

European Field Pansy

European_Field_Pansy_jpgThis family (Violaceae) commonly called the Violet Family consists of 23 genera and 830 species of herbs, shrubs, lianas and small trees.  Some species are cultivated for their oils which are used in flavorings and to make scents. Pansy is from the French name pensee meaning “thought”.

Chinese Elm

Chinese_Elm_jpgThe Chinese Elm is often confused with the Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila), whose leaves are very similar. The outstanding characteristic of the Chinese Elm is bark that sheds in the fall leaving and irregular mottled spots of orange, gray, green and brown. Chinese Elm is tough durable tree easy to transplant, good street tree resistant to Dutch Elm disease and air pollution.Chinese Elm is used as a Bonsai Tree.  It has small leaves that remain on the tree the year around, excellent branching characteristics, twisted trunk and exposed roots which give the appearance of great age.

Marsh Fern

Marsh_Fern_jpgA few ferns, including Marsh Fern, have two kinds of fronds–large sterile (vegetative) and smaller fertile (reproductive) ones. The seeds of ferns, properly defined as spores, have been thought to posses mythical properties that were most powerful during the summer and winter solstices. At Christmas the spores symbolized the hidden fire of the winter sun, while in summer fern spores collected within three days of Midsummer’s Eve and were said to glow like gold or yellow fire. Myth holds that whomever holds the spores on Midsummer’s Eve and climbs a mountain will discover a vein of gold.  In Russia, a similar tradition was that if the fern spores were tossed into the air on Midsummer’s Eve, treasure will be found buried at the spot where they fall. In Medieval textbooks, fern spores was believed to have the property of making a person who swallowed it invisible, defending against evil spirits, and protecting against thunder and lightning.  These beliefs encouraged growing ferns on walls and roofs of houses.