Herbs & Plants

Mountain Maple (Acer spicatum – Lam.)

Botanical Name: Acer spicatum – Lam.
Family : Aceraceae/Sapindaceae

Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales
Genus: Acer
Species: A. spicatum
COMMON NAMES : mountain maple, low maple, moose maple, water maple, moosewood, plaine batarde, erable ,fouereux

North-eastern N. America – Saskatchewan to Labrador, south to Wisconsin and Georgia.The tree lives in moist woods in rich, well-drained soils on rocky hillsides and along streams. It also grows on ravines, cliff faces, and forested bogs. During ecological succession, it colonizes the understory as pioneer species die.  Deep rich moist soils in cool habitats such as the edges of mountain streams, ravines or woodlands.Woodland Garden; Canopy; Secondary;

It is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 3-8 m tall, forming a spreading crown with a short trunk and slender branches. The leaves are opposite and simple, 6-10 cm long and wide, with 3 or 5 shallow broad lobes. They are coarsely and irregularly toothed with a light green hairless surface and a finely hairy underside. The leaves turn brilliant yellow to red in autumn, and are on slender stalks usually longer than the blade. The bark is thin, dull gray-brown, and smooth at first but becoming slightly scaly. The fruit is a paired reddish samara, 2-3 cm long, maturing in late summer to early autumn.
It is hardy to zone 2. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

Cultivation :
Of easy cultivation, it prefers a sunny position and a good moist well-drained soil but succeeds on most soils, especially those on the acid side, and dislikes alkaline soils. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are hardy to about -35°c when fully dormant. The lower branches of trees often self-layer, the trees then forming an impenetrable thicket. Most maples are bad companion plants, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants.

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, it usually germinates in the following spring. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours and then stratify for 2 – 4 months at 1 – 8°c. It can be slow to germinate. The seed can be harvested ‘green’ (when it has fully developed but before it has dried and produced any germination inhibitors) and sown immediately. It should germinate in late winter. If the seed is harvested too soon it will produce very weak plants or no plants at all. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on until they are 20cm or more tall before planting them out in their permanent positions. Layering, which takes about 12 months, is successful with most species in this genus. Plants often self-layer in the wild. Cuttings of young shoots in June or July. The cuttings should have 2 – 3 pairs of leaves, plus one pair of buds at the base. Remove a very thin slice of bark at the base of the cutting, rooting is improved if a rooting hormone is used. The rooted cuttings must show new growth during the summer before being potted up otherwise they are unlikely to survive the winter. Strong plants are usually produced by this method.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Sap.
Edible Uses: Sweetener.
A sugar is obtained from the sap. The sap can be used as a drink or boiled down to make maple syrup. The syrup is used as a sweetener on many foods. The sap can be harvested in late winter, the flow is best on a warm sunny day after a frost. Trees on southern slopes in sandy soils give the best yields. The best sap production comes from cold-winter areas with continental climates.

Medicinal Action & Uses :
Astringent; Ophthalmic; Poultice.
The North American Indians made an infusion of the pith of young twigs and used this as eye drops to soothe irritation caused by campfire smoke. The pith itself was used to remove foreign matter from the eyes. An infusion or poultice made from the outer bark has been used to treat sore eyes. A poultice made from boiled root chips has been applied externally to wounds and abscesses. A compound infusion of the roots and bark is used to treat internal haemorrhage.

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.

Other Uses
Preservative; Soil stabilization; Tannin.
The leaves are packed around apples, rootcrops etc to help preserve them. The bark contains tannins, but the report does not say in what quantity. The trees have an extensive root system that can be used to bind the soil. They are often grown on banks in order to prevent soil erosion. The wood is close-grained, soft and light, weighing 33lb per cubic foot.


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Herbs & Plants

Black Birch (Betula lenta)

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Betula lenta
Image via Wikipedia

Botanical Name: Betula lenta
Family: Betulaceae
Genus: Betula
Species:B. lenta
Order: Fagales

Popular Name(s):Cherry birch, mahogany birch, mountain mahogany, spice birch, and sweet birch. Mountain Mahogany,

Parts Used: Inner bark, twigs & leaves
Flowers: April – May

Habitat: Black Birch is native to eastern North America. Forests or open woods, especially moist, north facing, protected slopes; in deep, rich, well-drained soils. Southern Quebec, southwest Maine to northern Georgia, Alabama; north to eastern Ohio.It is a species of birch native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southernmost Ontario and southern Michigan, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia.

Description: Black Birch is a deciduous tree growing up to a height of 20 m. Its twigs, when scraped, have a strong scent of oil of wintergreen. The leaves are pointed, alternate, ovate, 5-10 cm in length and 4-8 cm in breadth. The male trees bear flowers about 3 inches long. Female catkins produce flowers about 1 inch long. It fruits are composed of numerous tiny winged seeds which are packed between the catkin bracts.

Medium-size tree with rounded crown and smooth, dark red to almost black bark. Broken twigs have wintergreen fragrance. Buds alternate, both side and end buds present, about 3/10 of an inch long, light brown, broadest near base and tapering to a point. Fruits are erect brown cones 1 to 1-1/2 inches long, containing many tiny, winged seeds. Fruits mature in late summer and early
fall. Cones persist into winter. Leaves oval, toothed, and up to 6 inches long.

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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Black Birch 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).

The Sweet Birch‘s leaves serve as food for some lepidopteran caterpillars. See List of Lepidoptera which feed on Birches.

History: The black birch was widely used by American Indians, in bark tea for fevers, stomachaches, lung ailments; twig tea for fever. Essential oil (methyl salicylate) distilled from bark was used for rheumatism, gout, scrofulas, bladder infection, and neuralgia.

Harvest: Twigs, red inner bark, and bark of larger roots year round, but best in late winter and spring. Sap in early spring, 3 to 4 weeks later than Sugar Maple.Harvest during Spring (sap & inner bark); All Year (twigs).

Constituents: Essential oil (methyl salicylate).
Nutrients: Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E. Calcium, chlorine, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and silicon.

Note: It has been recorded that during the civil war, the edible bark of Black Birch probably saved the lives of hundreds of confederate soldiers.

Edible Uses: Tea, flour.
Medicinal Properties & Uses: Black Birch has anthelmintic, astringent and diuretic properties.It is Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, Anthelmintic, Astringent, Diuretic, Diaphoretic, Stimulant. A tea made from the inner bark is used as a mouthwash and in diarrhoea, rheumatism, gout and boils. It purifies the blood also.
Used in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery and cholera. The natural properties are cleansing to the blood and it is used specifically for rheumatism, dropsy, gout, stones in the kidneys and bladder, and to expel worms.
To alleviate pain or sore muscles, the oil has been applied as a counterirritant. The essential oil was formerly produced in Appalachia. But now, methyl salicylate is produced synthetically, using menthol as the precursor.
The oil of Birch is applied to the skin for eczema and cutaneous diseases; the tea is effective when gargled for canker and mouth sores.
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.

Preparation And Dosages:
Bark – Strong decoction, (1 to 2 ounces, up to 4 times a day).
Leaves – Standard infusion as bath or wash as needed.

Tincture: Inner bark – (1:2, in 60% alcohol), 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.

Black Birch Tea:Steep twigs or fresh or dried inner bark in water, or preferably, birch sap. (Do not boil. Boiling removes volatile wintergreen essence.) Sweeten to taste.

Black Birch is also a wild food.

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.