Trees and Plants along the Anne Kolb Memorial Trail & Ethnobotanical Uses hammock plants

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Trees and Plants along the Anne Kolb Memorial Trail


Ethnobotanical Uses
HAMMOCK PLANTS (including maritime)
1. Coontie

Zamia pumila
2. Firebush

Hamelia patens

3. Beautyberry

Callicarpa americana
Beautyberry is a multi-branched deciduous shrub. The leaves are opposite, simple and both sides are covered with star-shaped hairs. The young stems also have star-shaped hairs. The leaves are aromatic when bruised. The small flowers are pink, and followed by densely clustered, magenta colored berries along the branch.
Wildlife - A favorite food of the mockingbird.
Favored among the eastern Indian tribes as a ceremonial plant and as a tea used in sweat bath rituals. Southern fold remedy; berries, roots, and leaves steeped in a tea to treat dropsy, skin disorders, stomach disorders, and colic.

4. Cocoplum

Chrysobalanus icaco
An evergreen shrub or small tree with leaves that are simple, alternate, leathery, and shiny dark green. Flowers are small and greenish white. The plants whose new leaves are red have white fruit changing to purple when ripe. The shrubs whose new leaves are green, have green fruit turning to yellow with a pink blush when ripe.
Wildlife – Many animals, including foxes, raccoons, and probably birds, eat the fruits and plant them with their droppings.
Indians considered this plant as a source of food, arrows, and medicine. The Seminoles used this plant to treat gossips through a “cleansing ritual”. The seeds may be strung on sticks and burned like candles. Leaves and fruits yield a black dye. In many areas, a tea of the bark and roots is used to halt dysentery and as a general tonic.

5. Wild Coffee

Psychotria nervosa

6. Live Oak

Quercus virginiana
A massive, evergreen tree with rough grayish, often deeply furrowed bark. Leaves are simple, alternate, leathery, and dark shiny green above. The leaves underneath are pale gray and hairy. The cups on this acorn are shallow, enclosing about ¼ to ½” of the nut. This is a long lived tree (400 to 600 years)
Wildlife - Larval host to the Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus, Tropical Checked Skipper, Pyrgus oileus, and White M hairstreak, Parrhasius m-album, butterflies. Quail, woodpeckers, and blue jays feed on the acorns.
Live oaks are of the “white” oak group having acorns less bitter than “red” oaks. Native Americans, settlers and explorers alike harvested the acorns for food, but southeast U. S. tribes used them as animal feed. Also the wood (still prized) is often utilized as fuel, as well as in tool making. Uses include building (lumber, timbers, etc), component of mortar and caulks, sources of lye, and for tanning hides. During the War of 1812, the war ship, USS Constitution, defeated 5 British warships and captured numerous merchant ships and earned her the nickname of “Old Ironsides”. Her success was in part due to her inner frame construction of live oak.
7. Gumbo Limbo

Bursera simaruba
A deciduous tree losing all its leaves in early spring before new leaves appear. The resinous, reddish bark peels away in thin flakes and is commonly referred to as the “tourist tree”. The leaves are alternate, glossy green, pinnately compound with 5-9 leaflets. Flowers are inconspicuous with creamy white or greenish petals in many flowered panicles. The fruits are dark red containing 1 or 2 hard-shell seeds.
Wildlife - Host to the Dingy Purple Wing, Eunica motima. The seed is an example of what might be termed a “pebble-fruit,” ingested by certain seed-eating birds, and utilized not as food, but as grinding stones in their crops in lieu of pebbles.
The tree has been used as living fences. The aromatic resin reportedly was used to make incense. It was also used in the treatment of gout and in the manufacture of varnish.

8. Short Leafed Fig

Ficus citrifolia
An evergreen tree with smooth gray bark and white milky sap. The leaves are alternate, entire, leathery, smooth and dark green. The fruit turns from yellow to dark red on long stalks.
Wildlife - It is the larval host of the Ruddy Daggerwing, Marpesia petreus. Many birds and animals feed on the figs.
The Seminoles ate the fruits and used its adventitious roots as cords. The latex is chewed throughout the range of figs, and used, at least by children as a birdlime to catch birds.
9. Paradise Tree

Simarouba glauca
A tall straight-boled tree with finely fissured bark. The leaves are pinnately compound, dark and shiny green above and gray below. The flowers are yellow to cream-colored with 5 sepals in terminal clusters. The fruit turning from red to purple to black at maturity
Wildlife – The seeds are attractive to a variety of birds, and much of the fruit is consumed before ripening.
This tree has been cultivated commercially as a source of oil.
10. White Stopper

Eugenia axillaris
This is an evergreen shrub or small tree with smooth grayish-white bark with small, white, fragrant flowers. The leaves are opposite, glossy, and simple. The green fruit turns red to black upon maturity. When there is a little breeze, the air near these plants is often perfumed with the odor of skunk which emanates from the leaves
Wildlife – Fruits are eaten by birds and probably by mammals, thus spreading the seeds.
The Seminoles historically used the stems for bows. A decoction of white stopper is used to treat colds, and for “building up men’s energy and body.” The wood is hard and rot resistant and is used in fences and local carpentry.
11. Coral Bean

Erythrina herbacea
This is a deciduous shrub that has red, tubular flowers and trifoliate, 3-lobed, alternate leaves. The pod holds poisonous, bright-scarlet seeds.
Wildlife - It attracts hummingbirds and is the larval host plant of the Florida Purple Wing, Eunica tatila.
Also known as the “cry baby tree” because the nectar is so abundant the tree “weeps”.

Young leaves and flowers are reportedly edible when cooked. Seeds are toxic to man and animals, but are often strung like beads. The juice from the stem is used to treat scorpion stings. Seminole Indians used leaf decoctions as a remedy for ailment of dogs.

12. Blolly

Guapira discolor
An evergreen shrub or small bushy tree with smooth, gray bark. The thin light green leaves have translucent mid-veins and thickened, wavy margins. The small flowers are tubular-shaped with a greenish-yellow or purplish calyx and no petals. The fruit is hot pink if growing in full and may be red when growing in the shade.
Wildlife – Various birds feed on the fruits.
The specific epithet refers to the two surfaces of the leaves being unlike in color. The berries are edible and the wood is useful.

13. Spanish Stopper

Eugenia foetida
An evergreen shrub or small tree that has light brown bark scarred by old leaf bases. The leaves are aromatic, opposite, oval or elliptic in shape and have fine black dots on the underside. The small, fragrant, white flowers appear in stalk-less clusters along the branches. The globular fruit changes from red to black as they ripen.
Wildlife – The fruit is a favorite food of many native birds.
Spanish stopper was historically used in baths.
14. Silver Palm

Coccothrinax argentata
A medium sized palm whose deeply-divided leaves are fan-shaped, showy-green above and silvery gray beneath. The unarmed leaf stalks may be 3’ long and flexible. The flowers are very small, ivory-white and fragrant. The fruit is red turning purple or black when ripe.
As most palms, the heart is edible, as are the fruits. Oil from the seeds is used in Haiti to renew the sense of smell. Leaves are used to make brooms. The stems are hard and are used to make pilings in salt water for fences. Leaves are used to thatch houses and to make baskets, ropes, twines, and hats.
15. Sea Grape

Coccoloba uvifera
An evergreen sprawling shrub or tree with leathery, almost round leaves with red veins. The flowers are fragrant, inconspicuous, yellowish-green to white, on slender racemes. The fruit turns from red to purple as they ripen one grape at a time.
Wildlife – The ripe fruit falling on the ground is attractive to bees. Birds feed on the fruit.
The ripe fruit is edible raw. It makes excellent jelly and is also used to flavor meat.

Bark from this tree has been used as a febrifuge. The red wood has been used for fuel and in cabinet making.

16. Lancewood

Ocotea coriacea
This medium sized evergreen tree has a narrow crown. The bark is reddish with round deposits of cork. The leaves are alternate, and aromatic. The fragrant creamy-white flowers are in clusters. The fruit is a dark-blue or black nearly spherical drupe with a red or yellow cup.
Wildlife – Birds love the fruits, especially the veeries and thrushes. The canopy, because it is dense, makes a good nesting area for mockingbirds.
The Seminole warriors used the wood for bows. The wood has light brown sapwood and the dark brown heartwood has been used in carpentry, cabinetwork, for poles, and to make charcoal. Reported to be a honey plant.
17. Jamaica Capper

Capparis cynophallophora
An evergreen shrub or small tree with reddish-brown bark which has glossy, leathery, oval shaped leaves with a notched tip. The flowers are very showy with purple filaments and yellow anthers extending beyond the petals. The fruit is a slender cylindrical pod.
Wildlife – The flowers are fragrant at night and attracts many moths.

18. Crabwood

Gymnanthes lucida
An evergreen shrub or small tree with alternate, leathery, elliptical leaves that are sometimes toothed near the apex. Flowers are developed almost a year before they function. The flowers are red. The flowering branches resemble small catkins.

These shrubs only flower once every five years.

Wildlife - It is a larval host plant for the Dingy Purplewing, Eunica monima. The adult food supply comes from tree sap and rotting fruit.
A favorite for fancy wood turning because of its high contrast between the heart and sapwood. The wood has been used for fence posts, canes, handles, backs of brushes, mirrors, and ornamental articles.
19. Black Ironwood

Krugiodendron ferreum
An evergreen shrub or small tree that has gray bark with woody ridges. The leaves are simple, glossy, deep- green and persists for 2 to 3 years. The flowers are small, yellowish-green with no corollas on auxiliary clusters. The fruit is glossy black with a thin skin and a single hard stone. The wood, which lacks growth rings, is extremely hard (hence the common name). It is the densest of all woods native to South Florida.
Wildlife – The small flowers are visited by a variety of bees and wasps.
These trees are used for posts, cross ties, and canes.
20. White Mulberry

Morus alba

21. Pigeon Grape

Coccoloba diversifolia
A densely foliated evergreen tree with light gray bark tinged with brown. The leaves are leathery, alternate, bright green above and paler below, with clasping petioles, and diversified in shape. The flowers are inconspicuous without petals, a creamy white, cup-shaped calyx on 2 to 3” long spikes. The fruits are dark purple, thin fleshed, round or pear-shaped.
Wildlife – Many birds and animals utilize the fruit.
An important food of the Mikasukis. The Seminoles dry and rehydrate the fruit to diminish the astringency.

22. Sugarberry

Celtis laevigata
A deciduous tree which has corky outgrowths on the bark. The leaves are alternate, simple, and lanceolate. The flowers are tiny, in small elongated clusters in the leaf axils. The fruit is a fleshy, rounded drupe, turning from orange to red on maturity.
Wildlife - The fruit is eaten by wildlife, especially birds (towhees, flickers, thrashers, and robins). The warty outgrowths are often aggravated by the work of yellow-bellied sapsuckers. This tree is the larval host of the Tawny Emperor, Asterocampa clyton, and the Hackberry Emperor, Asterocampa celtis.
Historic Indian camps are readily identified by the presence of sugarberry. The Seminoles ate the fruits. People all across the southern United States used this plant for food or medicine.

23. Cabbage Palm

Sabal palmetto
The palm is covered with jagged “boots” (old leaf bases) until fairly old. Leaves are blue-green, fan-shaped, slightly folded with arched midrib and slender drooping segments, with many threadlike fibers. Flowers are small, and fragrant in branched clusters. Fruit is glossy brown with a tough skin. This palm is the Florida state tree.
Wildlife – Many birds utilize the fruit for food. Many bees, flies and wasps visit the flowers and pollinate them. Literally hundreds of species and thousands of individuals are fed and served by this palm, according to a study made some years ago.
The Indians reduced the dried fruits to a coarse meal which they made into bread. The terminal bud, or “cabbage” is a delicacy raw or cooked. Leaves were used for thatching traditional Seminole homes. The leaves were also used to make potato drying mats, fish drags, and rope. Aborigines used the fruits for food.
24. Laurel Oak

Quercus laurifolia
A large, monoecious, deciduous tree which has dark grayish bark and most often a buttressed base. Leaves are alternate, simple and entire. The acorn has a flattened base with the cup covering about ¼” of the nut. This is a short-lived oak. (75 years)

Wildlife - Larval host of the Horace Duskywing, Erynnis horatius, and White M Hairstreak, Parrhasius m-album.

Native Americans ate the acorns; they also used their oil for cooking and flavoring other foods such as hominy.


25. Pond Apple

Annona glabra
A small to medium sized evergreen tree with gray bark, and a buttressed base. The leaves are alternate, simple, entire, shiny green, and leathery. The tree sometimes grows in clumps. The flowers are distinctive and arise from a triangular bud. The petals vary from white to cream color with a purple splotch inside. The petals are thick resembling dried apple slices. The fruit is green, egg or heart-shaped maturing to yellow with many flat, black seeds.
Wildlife – Larval host of the Giant Sphinx moth, Cocytius antaeus. The fruit is an important wildlife food.

The seeds are reportedly poison. Early Indians and settlers used the fruit as a food, and the seed as a fish poison. The soft wood has been used in rafts, as floats on fishing lines, and as corks for bottles. Seeds and leaves are insecticidal.

26. Leather Fern

Acrostichum danaeifolium
A large fern that may grow to 8 feet tall, and the frond may be 3 to 6 feet long. The fronds are dark green, and shiny. The fertile fronds are cinnamon-colored resembling suede leather underneath. The fern changes little during the year, but provides a continuous green mass of foliage.
The Seminole use this fern as a febrifuge. The fern fronds are placed in hen nests to kill lice.
27. Paurotis Palm

Acoelorraphe wrightii
A cluster forming palm of many trunks. The leaves are fan-shaped and divided only to the middle of the leaf. The leaf stems are thin with orange-colored saw teeth on the edges. The flowers are small, yellow-green growing on a stalk coming from among the leaves and extending beyond them. The fruit is globular in shape and orange-colored turning black as it ripens.
Leaves are used for thatch and rope. The fruits are edible.
28. Royal Palm

Roystonea regia
A stately palm with a grayish trunk, and a conspicuous crown shaft subtending a cluster of long, arching leaves. The leaves are pinnate, deep green and borne along the rachis in 4 distinct rows. The flowers are borne in a single inflorescence, whitish and ascending with numerous branches and flowers. The fruit is blue and round.
The terminal bud is eatable. The root is made into a diuretic medicine and some think it is also good for diabetes. Fruits have been widely used as a swine food.
29. Red Maple

Acer rubrum
The red maple is a deciduous tree with light bark. The leaves are opposite, simple and usually 3-lobed leaves. The tiny flowers are borne in fascicles and are red or pinkish without petals and appear prior to the new leaves. The fruit is a pink or red samara which kids refer to as helicopters because of their whirling movement when falling to the ground.
Wildlife – The flower secretes nectar which might attract insects. The tree is one of the larval hosts of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus.
Acer rubrum has the widest distribution of any maple in North America. Fossil leaves suggest that its range was even wider in recent geological time. The South Florida race of red maple has been shown to have no chilling requirement for bud burst which adapts it to the warm winters of our area. Throughout its range this species favors swampy woodlands.

30. Bald Cypress

Taxodium distichum
A deciduous tree, with smooth gray bark, and a buttress base. Leaves are needle like typically spreading from their supporting shoots, thus featherlike in appearance; often appearing like leaflets in a compound leaf. The fine light green leaves of the springtime later turn dark green and then rusty red in autumn. The main trunks are surrounded by cypress knees which promote gaseous exchange between the atmosphere and the subterranean root system, because they grow in a waterlogged, oxygen deficient environment.
Wildlife – Gray squirrels feed on the cones and various birds feed on the pollen.
Glades Indians used the wood for cups, bowls, and tubs. The Miccosukee’s used cypress to build houses, canoes, dance posts, coffin logs, medicine bowls, spoons, food paddles, in tanning skins, to make arrowheads, drums, ox yokes and bows, heddles, mortars and pestles, ball poles, spoon ball sticks and dolls.
31. Muhly Grass

Muhlenbergia capillaries
32. Sword Fern

Nephrolepis cordifolia
33. Creeping Charlie

Phyla nodiflora
34. Pink Purslane

Portulaca pilosa
35. Corky-stemmed Passion Vine

Passiflora suberosa
36. Peppergrass

Lepidium virginicum
37. Scorpionstail

Heliotropium angiospermum
38. Rustweed

Polypremum procumbens
39. Spanish Needles

Bidens alba
40. Butterflyweed

Asclepias tuberosa
41. Pineland Croton

Croton linearis
42. Walter’s Ground Cherry

Physalis walteri
43. Camphorweed

Heterotheca subaxillaris
44. Pineland Heliotrope

Heliotropium polyphyllum
45. Gopher Apple

Licana michauxii
46. Silk Grass

Pityopsis graminifolia
47. Blue-eyed Grass

Sisytrinchium angustifolium
48. Lopsided Indian Grass

Sorghastrum secundum
49. Elliott’s Lovegrass

Eragrostis elliottii
50. Rouge Plant

Rivinia humilis
51. Partridge Pea

Chamaecrista fasciculata
52. Wax Myrtle

Myrica cerifera

An evergreen shrub, that sends up multiple trunks. The leaves are alternate, simple and typically toothed toward the apices. The leaves are aromatic when crushed. The flowers are borne in catkins at the leaf axils. The fruit is small but conspicuous, round, waxy and blue.

Wildlife – Larval host plant of the red-banded hairstreak, Calycopis cecrops

Winter flocks of swallows spiral down to feed on the fruits. This behavior seems unusual because these are normally insect-eating birds.

Waxy berry coating is removed by boiling. As four pounds yields one pound of wax, other plant relatives are more commonly used for bayberry candles. Seminoles fermented leaves into a tonic for headaches, fevers, and stomachaches. A mixture of wood ashes was placed on tongues of newly married couples to strengthen their marriage. Introduced to European settlers in the 1700s, the wax was an ingredient in surgeon’s soap, shaving lather, and sealing wax. It is planted around homes to keep fleas out and placed in closets to keep cockroaches away. Crushed leaves rubbed on your skin reportedly repels mosquitoes.

53. Devil’s Potato

Echites umbellatus
54. Spanish Lime

Melicocca bujugatus
55. Snowberry

Chioccoa alba
56. South Florida Slash Pine

Pinus elliottii var. densa
This tree can grow up to 100 feet. The leaves are needle like and are typically bound together in fascicles of 2, occasionally 3, and extend brush-like from the tip of the branch. This tree typically grows in fire dependent communities.
Wildlife – Squirrels use the trees like jungle gyms, and scold each other as noisily as children. These trees do not sucker from the base, and the branches are sparse, so the forest is open and wiry, just right for cardinals and jays, crows, hawks, owls, doves, woodpeckers, and sapsuckers.
The exceedingly hard heartwood has always been a favorite in southern folks indigenous architecture, resulting in a large-scale logging with harvesting continuing into the 21st century. Commercial processes include use in the paper industry and chemical industry (turpentine and gum resins). Resins are obtained by slashing the pine bark like a “cat face” and harvesting the compound. The United States is the world’s largest producer of turpentine, with much of it coming from Florida. There are also medical applications as a counter-irritant applied topically. Limited references imply the eating of inner back for food during famine times.
57. Dahoon Holly

Ilex cassine
58. Pineland Privet

Forestiera segregata
59. Blodgett’s Ironweed

Vernonia blodgettii
60. Saw Palmetto

Serenoa repens
A palm with a low, prostrate trunk more or less buried or lying parallel to the ground that forms dense clumps. Sometimes the trunks may be upright having the dimensions of a small, erect tree, especially in moist, shady hammocks. The fronds are fan shaped that may be silvery blue or green in color. The frond petioles are armed with sharp curved spines reminiscent of a saw blade. The fragrant flowers are creamy white. The fruit is yellowish or orange turning black at maturity.
Wildlife – These flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies. The fruits are important foods for a variety of animals including foxes, raccoons, opossums, and even the gopher tortoise.
The fruits have a long folk history as an aphrodisiac and have been used for centuries in treating conditions of the prostate. Native American Indians used the saw palmetto fruits as a subsistence food in the fall. Base of new leaf stalks were also cooked or eaten raw. The Seminoles used the plant for fiber, baskets, brooms, fans and ropes. Further uses included fish drags, fire/dance fans, and dolls. American tribes use the fruit as a diuretic, sedative, an anti-inflammatory, for asthma, colds, coughs, chronic bronchitis, diarrhea, and migraines. Modern day development of a purified extract from the berries greatly improves symptoms of enlarged prostate. Florida is the biggest source and producer of saw palmetto products. With about 2,000 tons harvested from South Florida and exported to Europe each year, the fruit crop estimate is $50 million a year in the state.


Apices – tips of the leaves

Birdlime – an adhesive substance used in trapping birds

Decoction – a method of extraction by boiling

Dioecious – having male and female reproductive organs on separate plants

Febrifuge – an agent that acts to reduce fever

Emetic – a substance that induces vomiting when administered orally

Infusion – steeping plants in water or oil

Monoecious – having male and female reproductive organs on the same plant

Staple – a food that is eaten regularly and in such quantities to constitute the dominant part of the diet.


Ginger M. Allen, Michael D. Bond, and Martin B Main

50 Common Plants Important In Florida’s Ethnobotanical History

EDIS – University of Florida Publication Cir# 1439

Dan F. Austin

A Field Guide to the Plants of South Florida’s Pine Rockland

A Pocket Guide to the Common Plants of Southern Florida’s Pine Flatwoods Community

Florida Ethnobotany

Coastal Dune Plants – The Common Plants of Southeast Florida’s Ocean-side Communities

Coastal Park Plant Guide – The Native Trees, Shrubs & Vines of Boca Raton’s Hammock and Mangrove Parklands

Pine Rockland Plant Guide – A Field Guide to the Plants of South Florida’s Pine Rockland

Julia F. Morton

Folk Remedies of the Low Country

Wild Plants for Survival in South Florida

Eddie Nickens

Restoring Old Ironsides – The Frigate USS Constitution

(The CBS Interactive Business Network)

J. Paul Scurlock

Native Trees and Shrubs of the Florida Keys

Georgia Tasker

Wild Things – The return of Native Plants

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