Habitat: Southern N. America – Georgia and Alabama to Florida. Wooded bluffs and rich woods, also by streams, on the coastal plain. Woodland Garden; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Ground Cover;
It is a deciduous shrub growing to 3-5 m tall. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, palmately compound with 5-7 leaflets, each leaflet short-stalked, 12-22 cm long and 5-10 cm broad, with an entire margin. The flowers are produced in conspicuous erect panicles 20-30 cm long resembling a traditional bottle brush, each flower with a tubular calyx, small white petals, and several 3-4 cm long stamens protruding. It is grown as an ornamental plant in gard
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Leaf: Opposite, palmately compound, finely serrated margin, 5 to 7 leaflets, 4 to 8 inches long, green to dark green above, lighter and downy beneath……click & see
Flower: Clusters look like a bottle brush, individual flowers white, stamens 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches long and reaching past petals, produced on cylindrical panicles 8 to 12 inch long, and 2 to 4 inch wide, appearing in early summer….click & see
Fruit: Pear-shaped capsule, 2 to 3 inches long, 3 parted husks, light brown, smooth, ripen in early fall…...click & see
Twig: Stout, gray-brown, lighter lenticels, end buds large, orangish brown with gray cast (fuzz), 4 to 6 scales visible, large heart-shaped leaf scar….click & see
Bark: Smooth, lenticeled, gray to light reddish brown.Form: Large shrub 8 to 15 feet tall; multistemmed and suckering, many upright, slender branches; wide-spreading crown, rarely reaching tree size.
It is hardy to zone 5 and is frost tender. It is in flower in August, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.
Prefers a deep loamy well-drained soil but is not too fussy. Succeeds in most situations in sun or shade. Plants are very shade tolerant. A very ornamental plant, it is hardy to about -20°c though it is slow to establish. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. The flowers have a delicate honey perfume. This species does best on the western side of Britain according to one report whilst another says that it is best in a continental climate, which would suggest that it was best grown in the eastern half of the country. Trees rarely fruit in Britain except after a long hot, dry summer. Spreads freely by suckers. Grows well on a lawn. Most members of this genus transplant easily, even when fairly large.
Seed – best sown outdoors or in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. The seed germinates almost immediately and must be given protection from severe weather. The seed has a very limited viability and must not be allowed to dry out. Stored seed should be soaked for 24 hours prior to sowing and even after this may still not be viable. It is best to sow the seed with its ‘scar’ downwards. If sowing the seed in a cold frame, pot up the seedlings in early spring and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. Root cuttings 5 – 7 cm long in December. Store the roots upside down in sand and pot them up in March/April. Grow them on until they are 20cm or more tall and then plant them out into their permanent positions, preferably in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. Division of suckers in the dormant season. The suckers can be planted out direct into their permanent positions if required.
Edible Parts: Seed.
Seed – cooked. It can be dried and ground into a powder and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large and easily harvested, though it is rarely produced in Britain. Unfortunately, it is rich in bitter-tasting saponins and these need to be leached out before the seed can be eaten. See notes on toxicity above. The following notes apply to A. californica, but are probably also relevant here:- The seed needs to be leached of toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 – 5 days. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment.
Medicinal Actions & Uses:-
Antiperiodic; Antirheumatic; Miscellany.
Antiperiodic, antirheumatic. Used in the treatment of colic, piles, constipation and whooping cough.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Ground cover; Soap; Wood.
Saponins contained in the seed are used a soap substitute. The saponins can be easily obtained by chopping the seed into small pieces and infusing them in hot water. This water can then be used for washing the body, clothes etc. Its main drawback is a lingering odour of horse chestnuts[K]. Plants can be used as a tall ground cover for large areas of land. They are slow to establish but eventually form large spreading clumps. Wood – easily worked. Used for making water troughs, packing cases, tea boxes, ornamental articles etc.
The flowers have a delicate honey perfume.
Known Hazards : The seed is rich in saponins. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish .