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Herbs & Plants

Black Alder Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

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Botanical Name: Ilex verticillata
Family:    Aquifoliaceae
Genus:    Ilex
Species:    I. verticillata
Kingdom:    Plantae
Order:    Aquifoliales

Synonyms:Prinos verticillatus

Common Names:  Black Alder Winterberry, Brook Alder, Canada holly ,Coralberry, Deciduous Holly, Deciduous Winterberry, False alder, Fever bush, Inkberry, Michigan Holly, Possumhaw, Swamp Holly, Virginian Winterberry, or Winterberry Holly.

Habitat : Black Alder is  native to eastern North America in the United States and southeast Canada, from Newfoundland west to Ontario and Minnesota, and south to Alabama. It grows on swamps, pond margins and damp thickets.

Description:
Black Alder  or Ilex verticillata is a  multi-stemmed shrubshrub growing to 1–5 metres (3.3–16.4 ft) tall. It is one of a number of hollies which are deciduous, losing their leaves in the fall. In wet sites, it will spread to form a dense thicket, while in dry soil it remains a tight shrub. The leaves are glossy green, 3.5–9 cm long, 1.5–3.5 cm broad, with a serrated margin and an acute apex. The flowers are small, 5 mm diameter, with five to eight white petals.

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The fruit is a globose red drupe 6–8 mm diameter, which often persists on the branches long into the winter, giving the plant its English name. Like most hollies, it is dioecious, with separate male and female plants; the proximity of at least one male plant is required to pollenize the females in order to bear fruit. The Bark is dark gray to brown  generally smooth with some lenticels

Cultivation:
It is a tough plant which is easy to grow, with very few diseases or pests. Although wet acidic soils are optimal, the winterberry will grow well in the average garden. Numerous cultivars are available, differing in size and shape of the plant and color of the berry. At least one male plant must be planted in proximity to one or more females for them to bear fruit.

Propagation:
*Early summer cuttings are easily rooted
*Seeds possess a dormancy making germination tricky

Constituents: The bark contains about 4-8 per cent tannin, two resins, the one soluble and the other insoluble in alcohol, albumen, gum, sugar, and a bitter principle and a yellow colouring matter not yet isolated. There is no berberine.

Medicinal Uses:
Native American herbal tradition regarded the bark as a botanical aid for relieving occasional constipation. In fact, later herbalists describe its action similar to Cascara Sagrada.The berries were used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes, the origin of the name “fever bush”.

This remedy is a stimulant to the digestive and blood-making organs, and may be advantageously employed for the general purposes of a tonic. But beyond this, it influences the vegetative processes, probably through the sympathetic system of nerves, strengthening the circulation, aiding nutrition, and the removal of waste. We have used it but little, yet the testimony in its favor is such, that we strongly recommend its trial.

Other Uses:
Ornamental plant:
Ilex verticillata – the American Winterberry – is prized as an ornamental plant in gardens for the midwinter splash of bright color from densely packed berries, whose visibility is heightened by the loss of foliage; therefore it is popular even where other, evergreen, hollies are also grown. The bare branches covered in berries are also popular for cutting and use in floral arrangements.

Known Hazards:   Although no specific reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, the fruits of at least some members of this genus contain saponins and are slightly toxic. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and stupor if eaten in quantity. The fruit is poisonous

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.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilex_verticillata
http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/spec-med/prinos.html
http://www.pennherb.com/black-alder-bark-powder-16oz-6p16
http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/detail.php?pid=221
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/alder018.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Ilex+verticillata

 

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Herbs & Plants

Dioscorea japonica

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Botanical Name : Dioscorea japonica
Family: Dioscoreaceae
Genus: Dioscorea
Species: D. japonica
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Dioscoreales

Common Names :Yamaimo, Japanese mountain yam,Glutinous Yam

Habitat : Native to E. Asia – China, C. and S. Japan.Grows in wooded foothills. Mixed forests and margins, scrub forests, herb communities, mountain slopes, valleys, along rivers and streams, roadsides; 100 – 1200 metres

Description:
Dioscorea japonica is a perennial climber. It is in flower from Sep to October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile.

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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 cannot grow in the shade.It requires moist soil.

Cultivation:
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it could succeed outdoors at least in the mildest areas of this country. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Easily grown in a fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position or light shade. Prefers a rich light soil. Plants produce tubercles (small tubers that are formed in the leaf axils of the stems), and can be propagated by this means. A climbing plant that supports itself by twining around the branches of other plants. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation:
Seed – sow March to April in a sunny position in a warm greenhouse and only just cover. It germinates in 1 – 3 weeks at 20°c. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow on in a greenhouse for their first year. Plant out in late spring as the plant comes into new growth. Basal stem cuttings in the summer. Division in the dormant season, never when in growth. The plant will often produce a number of shoots, the top 5 – 10 cm of the root below each shoot can be potted up to form a new plant whilst the lower part of the root can be eaten. Tubercles (baby tubers) are formed in the leaf axils. These are harvested in late summer and early autumn when about the size of a pea and coming away easily from the plant. They should be potted up immediately in individual pots in a greenhouse or cold frame. Plant out in early summer when in active growth

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Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Root.

Tuber – cooked. A very pleasant mild flavour with a floury texture, the roots can be eaten as a potato substitute[2]. The starch can be used as a binding agent for other foods. Roots contain about 1.9% protein, 20% carbohydrate, 0.1% fat and 1% ash. Leaf tips – cooked. Tubercles – cooked

Medicinal Uses:
Contraceptive;  Miscellany;  Tonic.

The tubers are prescribed in the treatment of diarrhoea,dysentery, enteritis, enuresis and spermatorrhoea. They are also dried and cut into shavings then used as a tonic. The roots of most, if not all, members of this genus, contains diosgenin. This is widely used in modern medicine in order to manufacture progesterone and other steroid drugs. These are used as contraceptives and in the treatment of various disorders of the genitary organs as well as in a host of other diseases such as asthma and arthritis

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/Dioscorea_japonica
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Dioscorea+japonica
http://www.perennialveg.org.uk/djaponica.htm

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