Categories
Herbs & Plants

Betula occidentalis

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Botanical Name : Betula occidentalis
Family: Betulaceae
Genus: Betula
Subgenus: Betula
Species: B. occidentalis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales

Synonym: Betula fontinalis.

Common Names:Water Birch, Red Birch,Western water birch

Habitat : Betula occidentalis is  native to western North America, in Canada from Yukon east to western Ontario and southwards, and in the United States from eastern Washington east to western North Dakota,[citation needed] and south to eastern California, northern Arizona and northern New Mexico, and also possibly eastern Alaska. It typically occurs along streams in mountainous regions.

Description:
Betula occidentalis is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 10 m high at a fast rate, usually with multiple trunks. The bark is dark red-brown to blackish, and smooth but not exfoliating. The twigs are glabrous or thinly hairy, and odorless when scraped. The leaves are alternate, ovate to rhombic, 1–7 cm long and 1-4.5 cm broad, with a serrated margin and two to six pairs of veins, and a short petiole up to 1.5 cm long. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 2–4 cm long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect. The fruit is 2–3 cm long and 8–15 mm broad, composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts.
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It is hardy to zone 0. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Cultivation:
Succeeds in a well-drained loamy soil in a sunny position. Tolerates most soils including poor soils and heavy clays. Fairly wind tolerant. A fast-growing but short-lived tree. A very ornamental plant, it hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. It hybridizes in the wild with B. papyrifera. A good plant to grow near the compost heap, aiding the fermentation process. Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in a sunny position. Spring sown seed should be surface sown in a sunny position in a cold frame. If the germination is poor, raising the temperature by covering the seed with glass can help. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, either as soon as it is ripe or in the early spring – do not cover the spring sown seed. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the winter

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers; Inner bark; Leaves; Sap.

Young leaves and catkins – raw. The buds and twigs are used as a flavouring in stews. Inner bark – raw or cooked. Best in the spring. Inner bark can be dried, ground into a meal and used as a thickener in soups, or be added to flour when making bread, biscuits etc. Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply. Sap – raw or cooked. The sap can be used as a refreshing drink or beer, it can also be concentrated into a syrup by boiling off much of the water. Harvested in spring, the flow is best on a sunny day following a frost. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows:- “To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr’d together; then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm’d. When it is sufficiently boil’d, and become cold, add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work…and when the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and very harmless in operation within the body, and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante pastum.”

Medicinal Uses:
Abortifacient; Antirheumatic; Astringent; Lithontripic; Salve; Sedative.

The bark is antirheumatic, astringent, lithontripic, salve and sedative. A decoction of the flowers and leaves has been used as an abortifacient

Some Plateau Indian tribes used water birch to treat pimples and sores.

Other Uses
Containers; Hair; Waterproofing.

An infusion of the plant is used as a hair conditioner and dandruff treatment. The thin outer bark is waterproof and has been used as the cladding on canoes and dwellings, and also to make containers. A brown dye is obtained from the inner bark. Wood – close-grained, soft but strong. Trees do not grow large enough to be of use for lumber, but the wood is used locally for fence posts and is also a good fuel. The bark can be used as a kindling.

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.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_occidentalis
http://redbuttecanyon.net/trees/b_occidentalis.html
http://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?search=Betula+occidentalis
http://www.swcoloradowildflowers.com/Tree%20Enlarged%20Photo%20Pages/betula%20fontinalis.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_occidentalis

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Categories
Herbs & Plants

Betula lenta

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Botanical Name ; Betula lenta
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales
Family: Betulaceae
Genus: Betula
Subgenus: Betulenta
Species: B. lenta

Synonyms:  Betula carpinifolia.

Common Names :Sweet Birch , Black Birch, Cherry Birch, Mahogany Birch, or Spice Birch.

Habitat :  Betula lenta is  native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southernmost Ontario, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia.
It grows in the rich woodlands, preferring north-facing slopes and moist soils. It is also found on rocky soils.

Description:
It is a medium-sized deciduous tree reaching 20 m tall with a trunk up to 60 cm diameter. In younger trees the bark is characteristic of most Birches with smooth bark and horizontal fissures. It can sometimes be mistakenly identified as a Cherry tree. In some older tree specimens the bark can (unlike most birches)develop vertical cracks into irregular scaly plates revealing rough darkish brown bark patterns. This however, does not occur in all specimens. The twigs, when scraped, have a strong scent of oil of wintergreen. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 5-10 cm long and 4-8 cm broad, with a finely serrated margin. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 3-6 cm long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect. The fruit, maturing in fall, is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts

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It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation:
An easily grown plant, it succeeds in a well-drained loamy soil in a sheltered position. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Dislikes wet soils. Shade tolerant. Cherry birch is said to tolerate an annual precipitation of ca 60 to 150cm, an average annual temperature range of 5 to 12°C, and a pH of 4.5 to 7.5. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. The bruised foliage has a strong smell of wintergreen. A good plant to grow near the compost heap, aiding the fermentation process. Trees can be coppiced on a cycle of 5 years or more. Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus. Special Features: Attracts birds, North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in a sunny position. Spring sown seed should be surface sown in a sunny position in a cold frame. If the germination is poor, raising the temperature by covering the seed with glass can help. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, either as soon as it is ripe or in the early spring – do not cover the spring sown seed. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the winter.

Edible Uses:
Inner bark – cooked or dried and ground into a powde. Sweet and spicy. The dried inner bark can be used as a thickener in soups etc or can be added to flour when making bread etc. Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply[K]. Sap – raw or cooked. A sweet flavour. It is harvested in early spring, before the leaves unfurl, by tapping the trunk. The flow is best on sunny days following a heavy frost. A delicious drink, it can also be concentrated into a syrup or sugar. The sap can be fermented to make birch beer or vinegar. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows:- “To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr’d together; then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm’d. When it is sufficiently boil’d, and become cold, add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work…and when the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and very harmless in operation within the body, and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante pastum.”. The dried leaves and bark from the larger roots are a delightful tea substitute. A wholesome, agreeable tea is made from the essential oil contained in the inner bark and twigs. This essential oil is also used as a wintergreen flavouring in foods.

Medicinal Uses: The cambium (the layer directly under the bark) is eaten in the spring, cut into strips like vermicelli.  The bark, in the form of an infusion is used as a general stimulant and to promote sweating.  As a decoction or syrup, it is used as a tonic for dysentery and is said to be useful in genito-urinary irritation.  The flavor of wintergreen and birch bark, in the form of a tea, was popular with Native Americans and European settlers.  The juice of the leaves once made a gargle for mouth sores.  Throughout the centuries, the sap has been used in making medicinal wine and were made into a diuretic tea.  Also an ingredient in skin lotions.

Other Uses:    Landscape Uses:Specimen, Woodland garden.
Betula lenta was used commercially in the past for production of oil of wintergreen before modern industrial synthesis; the tree’s name reflects this scent of the shoots.

The sap flows about a month later than maple sap, and much faster. The trees can be tapped in a similar fashion, but must be gathered about three times more often. Birch sap can be boiled the same as maple sap, but its syrup is stronger (like molasses).

Betula lenta’s leaves serve as food for some lepidopteran caterpillars. See List of Lepidoptera that feed on birches.
Known Hazards: The essential oil obtained from the bark contains 97 – 99% methyl salicylate. This is very toxic when taken orally, and it can also be absorbed through the skin, resulting in human fatalities. As little as 4, 700 mg can be fatal in children. The aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons in birch tar are irritating to the skin. Do not use in patients with oedema or with poor kidney or heart functions.

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

 Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_lenta
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Betula_lenta_subsps_lenta_01-10-2005_14.54.08.JPG
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_RST.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Betula+lenta

 

 

Categories
Herbs & Plants

Green Alder

Botanical Name : Alnus crispa
Family: Betulaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fagales
Genus: Alnus

Common Names: The common name alder is derived from an old Germanic root. Also found to be the translation of the Old French “verne” for alder or copse of alders. The botanic name Alnus is the equivalent Latin name. Both the Latin and the Germanic words derive from the Proto-Indo-European root el-, meaning “red” or “brown”, which is also a root for the English words elk and another tree: elm, a tree distantly related to the alders. In celtic mythology, Bran the Blessed is associated with the alder tree “The Alder deity is considered to be Bran the Blessed, God of the Underworld. He was also known as the God of Prophecy, Arts, War and Writing. With the size of a giant, it was impossible for Bran to fit in a house or in a boat. According to medieval Christian writings, Bran the Blessed is considered to be the first British man.”

Habitat :The genus comprises about 30 species of monoecious trees and shrubs, few reaching large size, distributed throughout the North Temperate Zone and in the Americas also along the Andes southwards to Argentina. Well-drained, moist soils along streams, in ravines and on moist hillsides in eastern forests; common on recently cut-over forest land; from lake country of Manitoba to eastern Saskatchewan and NW Ontario.

Description:-
Alder leaves are deciduous (not evergreen), alternate, simple, and serrated. The flowers are catkins with elongate male catkins on the same plant as shorter female catkins, often before leaves appear; they are mainly wind-pollinated, but also visited by bees to a small extent. They differ from the birches (Betula, the other genus in the family) in that the female catkins are woody and do not disintegrate at maturity, opening to release the seeds in a similar manner to many conifer cones.

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The largest species are Red Alder (A. rubra) on the west coast of North America and Black Alder (A. glutinosa), native to most of Europe and widely introduced elsewhere, both reaching over 30 m. By contrast, the widespread Green Alder (A. viridis) is rarely more than a 5 m tall shrub.

A tall and spreading shrub, 3 – 8 m tall; bark thin, dull, reddish to greyish brown, smooth or slightly grooved; twigs slender, yellowish green to reddish brown, coated with very short grey hairs; buds slender, stalked, covered with grey hairs.

Leaves
Opposite, simple, 6 – 8 cm wide, 3-lobed, end lobe triangular; coarsely and irregularly single-toothed; yellowish green above, with soft, whitish hairs below; stalk slender, reddish, usually longer than blade.
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Flowers – : In dense upright clusters at branchlet tips; sexes in separate flowers usually in same flower cluster; flowers are small, pale yellowish green; appear after leaves in late May to early June.
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Fruit Samaras, often brilliant red; wings 2 -3 cm long, with acute angle (less than 90 degrees) between them; seed portion indented on 1 side; mature in late summer.

Can sometimes be confused with the Speckled Alder and shrub occurrences of the Paper Birch. The stalked cones of the Green Alder stand it apart from these species; the leaf margins with fine, regularly spaced teeth contrast with the coarsely, double-toothed leaf margins of the Speckled Alder and the leaves are less taper-pointed than those of the Paper Birch.


Medicinal Actions & Uses;

promotes clarity of perception on all levels; helps us integrate seeing with  knowing so that we can recognize our highest truth in each life experience.

Alder bark contains the anti-inflammatory salicin which is metabolized into salicylic acid in the body. Native Americans used Red Alder bark (Alnus rubra) to treat poison oak, insect bites, and skin irritations. Blackfeet Indians used an infusion made from the bark of Red Alder to treat lymphatic disorders and tuberculosis. Recent clinical studies have verified that red alder contains betulin and lupeol, compounds shown to be effective against a variety of tumors

Other Uses:
Nitrogen fixation:
Alder is particularly noted for its important symbiotic relationship with Frankia alni, actinomycete filamentous nitrogen-fixing bacterium. This bacterium is found in root nodules which may be as large as a human fist, with many small lobes and light brown in appearance. The bacterium absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. Alder, in turn, provides the bacterium with carbon, which it produces through photosynthesis. As a result of this mutually-beneficial relationship, alder improves the fertility of the soils where it grows, and as a pioneer species, it helps provide additional nitrogen for the successional species which follow.

Alder catkins are edible and high in protein. Although they are reported to have a bitter and unpleasant taste, they are best remembered for survival purposes. Alder wood is also commonly used to smoke various food items.

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.

Resources;
http://www.borealforest.org/shrubs/shrub2.htm
http://www.essencesonline.com/Alaskan_flowerkit.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alder