"White man's bullet; red man's arrow"
"What's that one? It looks 'sick.'"
If you recognize these phrases, you may know a thing or two about trees. I recently became familiar with them upon returning to Ohio University's campus last week and reuniting with my Residential Housing staff members. One of my fellow RAs spent some time with a botanist this summer and returned to Athens with abundant knowledge on all things arboreal. So what's the point of reserving a corner of your brain for a tree reference guide? Turns out it could save your life. In the unlikely event that you are lost in the woods or have an unfortunate camping incident, knowing which plants are edible and can cure certain ailments becomes very important. So, take a look at the following examples and test your knowledge.
The first phrase, "white man's bullet; red man's arrow," is one that helps distinguish the difference between red oaks and white oaks by looking at the leaves. The red oak leaf (left) has pointed tips on the leaves, much like an arrow. The white oak leaf (right) has rounded tips, as the phrase recalls, like a bullet. Both trees can be found widely in Ohio and are often used for timber.
The second phrase, referring to a sickly bark, is helpful in identifying the American Sycamore tree. The bark has a splotchy look, often peeling in places. Sycamores are found widely throughout the eastern United States (pictured right).
The Black Willow tree's medicinal purposes have been known by Native Americans for centuries. When settlers came over from Europe, they saw the natives chewing on the bark of this tree to relieve headaches and fevers. For those of us who would rather not be picking bark fibers from our teeth after the healing is complete, a tea can be made from the bark by boiling it for ten to fifteen minutes.
Hawthorn trees are characterized by their small, apple-like fruits that appear in the summer and also their rounded crown of spiny branches. Make a tea from the leaves or berries of this tree, and you have an instant cure for insomnia, as it produces a calming effect that induces sleep.
The vase-shaped American Elm tree is a very hearty tree that grows in a number of places across the United States. The bark of this tree relieves diarrhea.
The American Holly is well-known for its waxy leaves and red berries, often used as decoration during the Christmas season. A tea made from the leaves of the Holly can be used to treat coughs, colds and reduce fever. However, do NOT consume the berries, as they are poisonous.
Photos: plainfieldtrees.blogspot.com, sikeston.org