Herbs & Plants

Dirca palustris

Botanical Name: Dirca palustris
Family: Thymelaeaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Malvales
Genus: Dirca
Species: D. palustris

Synonyms: Goosefoot maple, Ropebark, Striped dogwood, Leatherwood, Cyrilla, Moose-wood, Moosewood,
Striped maple, Wicopy, White titi

Common Names: Leatherwood Wicopy Pronunciation: DIR-ka pa-LUS-tris, Leather Wood, Eastern leatherwood

Habitat: Dirca palustris is native to the eastern half of North America but common only locally. It grows on rich woods, swampy in some cases, provide its main habitat, and it is occasionally cultivated.

Dirca palustris is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1.8 m (6ft). The bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth. It forms a dense, rounded form with pale green, oval-shaped leaves. The leaf blade is simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets),there is one leaf per node along the stem but the edge of the leaf blade has no teeth or lobes.The leaves have leaf stalks. Leaf blade length is 50–80 mm and the width is 25–70 mm.It is in flower in March.
The flowers are small yellow bell-shaped followed by drupes.

The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The fruiting time is may-june and the fruit is fleshy.

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

It forms a dense, rounded form with pale green, oval-shaped leaves and blooms in early spring with small yellow bell-shaped flowers followed by drupes. It is fairly rare and not used in the landscape often as it can be hard to find. In nature, it can be found growing in very rich forests, on slopes or bottomlands, and is limited to calcareous or mafic rocks such as limestone, calcareous siltstone, calcareous shale, gabbro, or amphibolite. It can be found in Ashe County NC ascending to 1500 meters elevation.


Thrives in a moist peaty soil and a sheltered position. Prefers a reasonably moist humus-rich limy soil according to another report. The flowers are produced in early spring and they are often damaged by frost. They have a soft sweet perfume. The species D. occidentalis A.Gray. is very closely related to this plant, so it might have the same uses.

Through Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Remove the fruit flesh since this can inhibit germination. Dried seed will require 2 – 3 months cold stratification. The seed usually germinates in 1 – 6 months at 15°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Layering.

Edible Uses: Not known to us.

Medicinal Uses:
Dirca palustris was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a wide variety of ailments. It is little used in modern herbalism and any use should be carried out with caution since even minute doses can cause salivation and burning of the tongue. A tea made from the bark is laxative. Another report says that it is purgative and emetic, and can produce violent vomiting. An infusion of the roots has been used in the treatment of pulmonary problems. A decoction of the branches has been applied as a poultice to swellings on the limbs. The plant is a folk remedy for toothaches, facial neuralgia and paralysis of the tongue, venereal disease, and has also been used to try and induce pregnancy.

Other Uses:
The tough flexible shoots are used in basket making and as a tying material. A rope can be made from the bark fibres. The bark fibres are also used in making paper. The stems are harvested in summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed until the fibres can be stripped. The outer and inner barks are separated by scraping or peeling. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours or less with soda ash and then beaten with mallets or put through a blender. The paper is greenish cream in colour. A compound infusion of the roots has been used as a wash to strengthen the hair and make it grow.

Known Hazards : Contact with the plant can cause severe dermatitis with redness, blistering and sores in some people. Fruits and roots have slight toxicity; some people’s skin reacts to exposure to the bark.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.