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ABC Medicinal Tree Garden
ABC Medicinal Tree Garden

Trees have provided humankind with medicines since ancient times. It has long been part of the ABC garden plan to develop a “Medicinal Tree Walk” along the south edge of the Case Mill Homestead property at ABC Headquarters.

The first trees planted in the young tree garden were a couple of ginkgos (Ginkgo biloba L., Ginkgoaceae) and hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna Jacq. and C. laevigata [Poir.] DC, Rosaceae) that were relocated from other gardens. A year or two later, garden staff planted black walnut (Juglans nigra L., Juglandaceae), thuja (Thuja occidentalis L., Cupressaceae), cascara sagrada (Frangula purshiana [DC] J.G. Cooper, Rhamnaceae), smooth sumac (Rhus glabra L., Anacardiaceae), and hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens L., Hydrangeaceae). This year, a few more trees were added, including tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia [Maiden & Betche] Cheel, Myrtaceae), bay (Laurus nobilis L., Lauraceae), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora L., Magnoliaceae), and two species of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus Labill. and E. melliodora A. Cunn. ex Schauer, Myrtaceae).

ABC received a few trees and shrubs too late to plant this year. They were planted in larger pots and are being tended until they can be planted this fall. They include slippery elm (Ulmus rubra Muhl., Ulmaceae), purple willow (Salix purpurea L., Salicaceae), and witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L., Hamamelidaceae).

Because ABC wants a wide variety of medicinal trees on the property, the garden staff occasionally plants a tree from a different geographical area not really knowing whether it will do well in Central Texas or not. Thus far, the trees that ABC has lost and is fairly certain won’t grow in Austin include horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum L., Hippocastanaceae) and sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L., Eleagnaceae).

There are still a number of trees that ABC staff desires for its flourishing medicinal tree garden. Among them are pomegranate (Punica granatum L., Punicaceae), mimosa (Albizia julibrissin Durazz., Fabaceae), buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L., Rhamnaceae), and a variety of fruit-bearing trees. The best time to plant a tree may have been 20 years ago, but the next best time is now. In a few years, it will be time to lay the path that will allow staff and visitors to ramble among the medicinal trees and learn about their benefits to human health.

—Gayle Engels