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Flora of Louisiana.
ISSUE:
Page:
30
Flora of Louisiana
- "Sassafras albidum (Nutt.) Nees, Lauraceae (Laurel Family) Sassafras Sassafras occupies a prominent position among our native culinary plants. Filé, a fine powder of ground sassafras leaves, imparts a distinctive flavor to gumbo, a popular South Louisiana dish. Sassafras tea, made by sleeping pieces of the root or bark, has been a popular drink since the early colonization of this country. Sassafras oil, distilled from the bark of the roots, is used to flavor medicines and candy and in scenting some perfumes. Unfortunately, safrole, one major component of sassafras oil, has been shown to be mildly carcinogenic in laboratory animals. Sassafras is a deciduous, dioecious tree common in old fields and woodlands of Louisiana and the eastern United States. Leaves, especially of young trees, are mitten-shaped, and both right- and left-handed "mittens," as well as ones with two thumbs, are produced. Leaves of older trees -- which incidentally can become one hundred feet tall with trunk diameters of three to four feet -- tend to be unlobed. Both the male and the female flowers are small, yellowish green, and radially symmetrical with six perianth segments. Male flowers have nine stamens and release their pollen by means of tiny, flaplike doors, a feature characteristic of the laurel family. Sassafras fruits are purple drupes supported by a fleshy, enlarged, reddish petiole. [The Choctaw used it to "thin the blood," and for treatment of measles. The Houma also used it in cases of measles. Used by other Native American groups also.] - Cypripedium kentuckiense C. F. Reed [Syn. Cypripedium calceolus L.] Orchidaceae (Orchid Family) Yellow Lady's Slipper Yellow lady's slipper orchid is rare in the rich, deciduous woods of central Louisiana. The unusual yellow, pouchlike slipper is formed by the lower petal, or lip, which differs considerably from the other two lance-shaped, spirally twisted, purplebrown petals. Contained within the slipper is the column, composed of two functional stamens, the stigma, and the style. The three sepals are similar in color to the lateral petals but are broader. Three to five pleated leaves are supported on stems that may reach two feet tall. Until recently, the yellow lady's slippers in the eastern United States had been called Cypripedium calceolus, but investigations suggest that the plants found from Louisiana to Kentucky make up a distinct species that should be called C. kentuckiense. Beautiful and unusual, the yellow lady's slipper is difficult to grow because of its specific requirements. [Like all other native orchids, Lady's Slipper is listed as a threatened species under CITES (Conventio n in Trade in Endangered Species). The root was formerly used in Eclectic Medicine of the 19th and early 20th centuries as a sedative. C. acaule was used by Native Americans in the Northeast and C. parviflorum by the Cherokee.] - Magnolia grandiflora L., Magnoliaceae (Magnolia Family) Southern Magnolia The southern magnolia, perhaps the grandest of our [Louisiana] native trees, is a traditionally recognized symbol of the South. Because of its beauty and abundance, this tree's blossom was designated in 1900 as the state flower by the Louisiana Legislature. Southern magnolia is easily distinguished by its glossy, evergreen leaves whose undersides are typically rust colored. Prized for their fragrance, the beautiful, creamy white flowers bloom from April to June. In true magnolia fashion, each flower is composed of several showy, spoon-shaped petals and numerous stamens and pistils disposed in spiral ranks. Fruits, which mature from September through October, are conelike aggregates of follicles. Lustrous, bright red seeds remain suspended for a time by thin threads after the fruit opens and present a colorful display. Southern magnolia, slow growing and long lived, may attain a height of nearly one hundred feet. Along with American beech, it forms a unique climax forest associa tion on the moist, fertile ravine slopes of the Lower South. [The Choctaw used a plant or bark decoction for treatment of prickly heat and the bark in a steambath for treatment of dropsy.] - Liriodendron tulipifera L., Magnoliaceae (Magnolia Family) Tulip Tree or Yellow Poplar Easily recognized by its apically truncate, four-lobed leaves, tulip tree is widespread on mesic sites [sites that tend to be moist and wet] in the eastern United States. In certain habitats, it may be a predominant forest species and a giant as well. The national champion tree, growing in Virginia, is reported to have a height of 124 feet and a trunk circumference of 30 feet 3 inches. Its scientific name; which literally means "tulip bearing tulip tree," seems redundant but emphatically calls attention to the tree's attractive flowers. Six yellowish green perianth parts, the same number as in the tulip flower, are each highlighted with a vivid orange basal spot. Three greenish, reflexed stamens unfurl below the petals, and within occur numerous stamens and pistils. The rather conelike aggregates of winged fruits persist on the tree after its leaves have been shed. Tulip tree is an attractive ornamental because of its pyramidal form, its ash gray hark of interlacing ridges, and its unusual flowers and foliage. It is also a useful limber species. [The Cherokee had many uses for this herb -- treatment of gastroenteritis and as a febrifuge, vermifuge, and snakebite remedy.] - Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench Asteraceae (Sunflower Family) Purple Coneflower Purple coneflower is perhaps the best. known and most widely grown species of Echinacea. Its natural geographic distribution centers in Missouri and Arkansas, but the popularity of this plant has led to its introduction throughout the eastern United States. Native [i.e., in Louisiana] populations of purple coneflower grow only in Caldwell Parish. Other reports for this species in Louisiana are probably from cultivation or garden escapes. This species has broader leaves and showier heads than those of the pale coneflower. Purple coneflower's disk is orange to gold, and its rays are broader and may vary in color from nearly white to purple. The popularity of tincture of Echinacea. extracted from the roots of various species in this genus, and used as a medicinal treatment for a variety of ailments, has waxed and waned during the last 150 years. [The herb is presently enjoying unprecedented popularity. The Choctaw used this for cough and dyspepsia: also many more uses for E. ang ustifolia and E. pallida.] - Opuntia humifusa (Raf.) Raf: [Opuntia compressa (Salisb.) J. F. Macbr.], Cactaceae (Cactus Family) Eastern Prickly Pear The elliptic to obovate, flattened pads of the prickly pear are modified stems. Branches are represented by the clusters of spines that arise from the regularly spaced nodes, called areoles, of the stem. Also associated with the circular areoles are hairlike, often barbed spines called glochids, which will lodge in the skin, causing considerable irritation. Leaves of the eastern prickly pear may subtend each node and are tiny, shortlived, often triangular-shaped bits of tissue. Flowers of the prickly pear are produced around the upper margins of the pads. Their bright, lemon yellow perianth segments are about one and one-half inches long and surround masses of showy stamens. Fruits of this and of most species of cactus are edible. [These are called "tuna" in Spanish.] However, they need to be singed to remove the glochids [fine hairs]. Although not common in Louisiana, the eastern prickly pear grows in dry, sandy soils and dunes sometimes associated with streams. [The primary u se by Native Americans is as a bread. Many groups around the U.S. eat the fruits. The Dakota use the stems on wounds and snakebite.] Reprinted with permission from Flora of Louisiana, 1991. Botanical descriptions by Lowell Urbatsch. Louisiana State University Press. Information from Daniel Moerman, Ph.D., and HerbalGram staff shown in [ ]. Article copyright American Botanical Council. ~~~~~~~~ By Margaret Stones