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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

 

 

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Herbs & Plants

Prunus lauroceerasus

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Botanical Name : Prunus lauroceerasus
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Cerasus, or Laurocerasus
Section: Laurocerasus
Species: P. laurocerasus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Rosales

Common Names:Cherry Laurel,English laurel

Habitat :Prunus lauroceerasus is native to regions bordering the Black Sea in southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe, from Albania and Bulgaria east through Turkey to the Caucasus Mountains and northern Iran

Description:
Prunus laurocerasus is an evergreen shrub or small tree, growing to 5–15 metres (16–49 ft) tall, rarely to 18 metres (59 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 60-cm broad. The leaves are dark green, leathery, shiny, (5–)10–25(–30)-cm wide and 4–10-cm broad, with a finely serrated margin. The leaves can have the smell of almonds when crushed.
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The flower buds appear in early spring and open in early summer in erect 7–15-cm racemes of 30–40 flowers, each flower 1-cm broad, with five creamy-white petals and numerous yellowish stamens.

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The fruit is a small cherry 1–2-cm broad, turning black when ripe in early autumn.   Unlike the rest of the plant, which is poisonous, the cherries are edible, although rather bland and with a somewhat dry smack compared to the fruit of apricots, true cherries, plums, and peaches, to which it is related. The seeds contained within the berries are poisonous like the rest of the plant, containing cyanogenic glycosides and amygdalin.[6] This chemical composition is what gives the smell of almonds when the leaves are crushed.

Cultivation:
Prunus laurocerasus is a widely cultivated ornamental plant, used for planting in gardens and parks in temperate regions worldwide. It is often used for hedges, a screening plant, and as a massed landscape plant. Most cultivars are tough shrubs that can cope with difficult growing conditions, including shaded and dry conditions, and which respond well to pruning.

Medicinal Uses:
The fresh leaves are of value in the treatment of coughs, whooping cough, asthma, dyspepsia and indigestion. Externally, a cold infusion of the leaves is used as a wash for eye infections.  A reliable sedative and frequently the principal agent in cough medicine.  Cherry-laurel water (Aqua Laurocerasi) is produced by distillation. In homeopathy, a tincture produced from the leaves is used as a sedative.  It may also be used externally in soothing poultices.

Other uses
Laurel water, a distillation made from the plant, has a pharmacological usage. The foliage is also used for cut greenery in floristry.

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/Prunus_laurocerasus
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm
http://movies-honoratocainelvis.blogspot.com/2011/03/prunus-laurocerasus-etna.html
http://trees.stanford.edu/ENCYC/PRUNUSlau.htm

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Herbs & Plants

Wild Cherry(Prunus serotina)

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Botanical Name ;Prunus serotina
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Subgenus: Cerasus
Species: P. avium
Common NamesWild Cherry , Black Cherry, chokecherry
Parts Used: bark, fruit

Habitat :Native to Europe, northwest Africa, and western Asia, from the British Isles   south to Morocco and Tunisia, north to the Trondheimsfjord region in Norway and east to the Caucasus, and northern Iran, with a small disjunct population in the western Himalaya. The sweet cherry originated in northern Iran. This species has a diploid set of sixteen chromosomes (2n=16). All parts of the plant except for the ripe fruit are slightly toxic, containing cyanogenic glycosides.

Description:
It is a deciduous tree growing to 15–32 m tall, with a trunk up to 1.5 m diameter. Young trees show strong apical dominance with a straight trunk and symmetrical conical crown, becoming rounded to irregular on old trees. The bark is smooth purplish-brown with prominent horizontal grey-brown lenticels on young trees, becoming thick dark blackish-brown and fissured on old trees. The leaves are alternate, simple ovoid-acute, 7–14 cm long and 4–7 cm broad, glabrous matt or sub-shiny green above, variably finely downy beneath, with a serrated margin and an acuminate tip, with a green or reddish petiole 2–3.5 cm long bearing two to five small red glands. The tip of each serrated edge of the leaves also bear small red glands.[5] In autumn, the leaves turn orange, pink or red before falling. The flowers are produced in early spring at the same time as the new leaves, borne in corymbs of two to six together, each flower pendent on a 2–5 cm peduncle, 2.5–3.5 cm diameter, with five pure white petals, yellowish stamens, and a superior ovary; they are hermaphroditic, and pollinated by bees. The fruit is a drupe 1–2 cm in diameter (larger in some cultivated selections), bright red to dark purple when mature in mid summer, edible, variably sweet to somewhat astringent and bitter to eat fresh; it contains a single hard-shelled stone 8–12 mm long, 7–10 mm wide and 6–8 mm thick, grooved along the flattest edge; the seed (kernel) inside the stone is 6–8 mm long.
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The fruit are readily eaten by numerous birds and mammals, which digest the fruit flesh and disperse the seeds in their droppings. Some rodents, and a few birds (notably the Hawfinch), also crack open the stones to eat the kernel inside. All parts of the plant except for the ripe fruit are slightly toxic, containing cyanogenic glycosides.

The leaves provide food for some animals, including Lepidoptera such as the case-bearer moth Coleophora anatipennella.

The tree exudes a gum from wounds in the bark, by which it seals the wounds to exclude insects and fungal infections.

Wild cherry has been known as Gean or Mazzard (also ‘massard’), both largely obsolete names in modern English, though more recently ‘Mazzard’ has been used to refer to a selected self-fertile cultivar that comes true from seed, and which is used as a seedling rootstock for fruiting cultivars.The name “wild cherry” has also been applied in a general or colloquial sense to other species of Prunus growing in their native habitats, particularly to Black Cherry Prunus serotina. Literally,. the scientific name Prunis avium means “bird cherry”, which as a common name typically refers to P. padus though.

Some eighteenth and nineteenth century botanical authors ascribed an origin to western Asia based on the writings of Pliny; however, archaeological finds of seeds from prehistoric Europe contradict this view .

Cultivation:
As the main ancestor of the cultivated sweet cherry, the Wild cherry is one of the two cherry species which supply most of the world’s commercial cultivars of edible cherry (the other is the Sour cherry Prunus cerasus, mainly used for cooking; a few other species have had a very small input). Various cherry cultivars are now grown worldwide wherever the climate is suitable; the number of cultivars is now very large. The species has also escaped from cultivation and become naturalised in some temperate regions, including southwestern Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the northeast and northwest of the United States.

Plants grown from seeds harvested in classified French stands,recently, plants grown from seeds harvested in seed orchards, cultivars propagated by vegetative methods (cuttings, root cuttings).

Medicinal Uses:
Common Uses: Bronchitis * Colds * Congestion/Chest & Sinus * Cough * Insomnia *
Properties:
Anti-inflammatory* Astringent* Sedative* Expectorant* Antiscrofulous*

Constituents: acetylcholine, hcn, kaempferol, p-coumaric acid, prunasin, quercetin, scopoletin, tannins

Black cherry is an very effective herbal cough remedy. The main use of the bark main use is to still irritated, nagging coughs. Black cherry is used in many commercial cough products such as Smith Brothers, Lunden’s and Vicks for the flavor as well as the decongestant and sedative properties.

Side Effects:
Safe in recommended amounts, but not meant for long term use. Although prussic acid is highly poisonous, if wild cherry bark is used in medicinal doses, the low prussic acid content (0.07-0.16%) ensures that the remedy is quite safe.
How to Use: Wild Cherry
Preparation Methods :Use one teaspoon of the powdered bark to 1 cup of hot water up to 3 times daily as a warm infusion, or 2 teaspoons of bark syrup once daily

Other uses:-

Ornamental

It is often cultivated as a flowering tree. Because of the size of the tree, it is often used in parkland, and less often as a street or garden tree. The double-flowered form, ‘Plena’, is commonly found, rather than the wild single-flowered forms.

Two interspecific hybrids, P. x schmittii (P. avium x P. canescens) and P. x fontenesiana (P. avium x P. mahaleb) are also grown as ornamental trees.

Timber
The hard, reddish-brown wood (cherry wood) is valued as a hardwood for turnery, and making cabinets and musical instruments.

The gum from bark wounds is aromatic and can be chewed as a substitute for chewing gum.

Medicine can be prepared from the stalks of the drupes that is astringent, antitussive, and diuretic.

A green dye can also be prepared from the plant.

Cultural history

Pliny distinguishes between Prunus, the plum fruit, and Cerasus, the cherry fruit. Already in Pliny quite a number of cultivars are cited, some possibly species or varieties, Aproniana, Lutatia, Caeciliana, and so on. Pliny grades them by flavour, including dulcis (“sweet”) and acer (“sharp”).

He goes so far as to say that before the Roman consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus defeated Mithridates in 74 BC, Cerasia … non fuere in Italia, “There were no cherry trees in Italy”. According to him, Lucullus brought them in from Pontus and in the 120 years since that time they had spread across Europe to Britain.

Seeds of a number of cherry species have however been found in Bronze Age and Roman archaeological sites throughout Europe. The reference to “sweet” and “sour” supports the modern view that “sweet” was Prunus avium; there are no other candidates among the cherries found. In 1882 Alphonse de Candolle pointed out that seeds of Prunus avium were found in the Terramare culture of north Italy (1500-1100 BC) and over the layers of the Swiss pile dwellings.[20] Of Pliny’s statement he says (p. 210):

Since this error is perpetuated by its incessant repetition in classical schools, it must once more be said that cherry trees (at least the bird cherry) existed in Italy before Lucullus, and that the famous gourmet did not need to go far to seek the species with the sour or bitter fruit.

De Candolle suggests that what Lucullus brought back was a particular cultivar of Prunus avium from the Caucasus. The origin of cultivars of P. avium is still an open question. Modern cultivated cherries differ from wild ones in having larger fruit, 2–3 cm diameter. The trees are often grown on dwarfing rootstocks to keep them smaller for easier harvesting.

Wild cherries have been an item of human food for several thousands of years. The stones have been found in deposits at bronze age settlements throughout Europe, including in Britain. In one dated example, Wild cherry macrofossils were found in a core sample from the detritus beneath a dwelling at an Early and Middle Bronze Age pile-dwelling site on and in the shore of a former lake at Desenzano del Garda or Lonato, near the southern shore of Lake Garda, Italy. The date is estimated at Early Bronze Age IA, carbon dated there to 2077 plus or minus 10 B.C. The natural forest was largely cleared at that time.

By 800 BC, cherries were being actively cultivated in Asia Minor, and soon after in Greece.

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.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail256.php
http://hubpages.com/hub/Cherry-Prunus-avium-as-herbal-and-traditional-medicine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Cherry
http://www.international.inra.fr/research/some_examples/turning_point_in_the_cultivation_of_wild_cherry_trees