Thursday, June 23, 2011

Black Cherry saves the day

Today, if I could have, I would have done this...

But unfortnately, though my pack might be big, it's not quite big enough for me to hide in. (Psst, I read that these box turtles can live for 80yrs!) You see, I guess I should have figured the Greensboro Greenway may have it in for me, considering such signs...

I think Alexander would agree, it may as well say "NO HAVING OF FUN."

You see, my morning started off grand, waking up in the woods and all and with miles of actual trail hiking ahead of me. I could hardly make my way down the trail as I stopped to check out the Hazelnut trees, Long Leaf Pine, enormous Birch, as well as the wild ginger and black cohosh that had returned on the scene. But due to the nature of this trail, "not being completed", the fate of one hiking it is, "expect to backtrack and very likely go the wrong way." Well considering that had been MST blazes all along the trail yesterday in addition to the blazes of the Greenway trail I was coinciding with, I expected there to be MST blazes today. I turned onto the Laurel Bluff Trail as indicated by my guide and kept my eyes open for a "tricycle monument" that was supposed to be on the edge of the trail in 1.25m. Well, I figured something as random as a "tricycle monument" in the middle of the woods on a designated "hiking only" trail would be hard to miss. So, 2m down the trail when I still have not seen amonument or a single MST blaze, I thought, "*@#!, I missed my turnoff somewhere." So I turned around and hoofed if as fast as I could back to where I'd started from, expecting to see a MST blaze shooting me off in another direction.  However, when I end up right back where I've started, only to find a glassed in map of the trail I was on not far from the trailhead, I see..."*@#!, I was going the right way!" And so, all that for nothing. I turned back around and did those 2m yet again, finally getting myself back on track about 11am and 4m extra expended.

But now, now, this is a blog of gratitude, right? And let's not forget yesterday's post..."HAVE LOTS OF FUN!" So, I must say, considering this was the last thing I saw as I went to bed last night, as well as the first thing this morning...

as opposed to the day before that when I slept behind the Disciples of Christ Christian Church...

I suppose I don't have all that much to complain about. That and the fact that I got to spend the day in the woods, walking soft trail, listening to the birds- oh the birds are different out here, I've never heard so many unusal "caws!" and "sqwuacks!" and "cheep! chcep!"- and got to nibble on some of these...

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Which brings me to the plant of the day...Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). The fruit is edible (however be sure not to eat the pit and these smaller cherries do have a fairly large one for their size) and quite yummy being sweet but also astringent and the barks makes a good medicine for suppressing coughs and as a mild sedative. It is best not to use black cherry if you're trying to expell phlegm as the cyanic acid contained in the bark is excreted through the lungs and has a numbing effect, which is what suppressies the cough rather than irritating or encouraging the lungs to expell it.

The inner bark is the part that is used and this can be harvested by either cutting down a samll tree or a large branch and shaving off the bark until you reach the hard inner wood of the tree. These shavings can be combined with alcohol to make a tincture or simmered for 20minutes to make a tea.

Black Cherry is our largest native cherry, has scaley bark (or to quote Juliet) has "potato chip" bark easy to pick off, and when mature can often be found with a divided trunk. The leaves are alternate and finely toothed, dark green above and paler beneath. The tell tale sign of a Black Cherry is the rusty hairs along the base of the midrib (center vein) on the underside of the leaf, however bear in mind that these hairs will not turn rusty until later in the season, they are just beginning to now. Also, if you crush a leaf, really crush it, it should smell strongly of almond. This almond odor is the cyanic acid - NEVER use the leaves as medicine.

Prunus serotina leaf with rusty wool along midrib

Cherry bark has been used as a cough medicine for since the beginnings of "cough medicine." This is why so many of our syrups and throat lozenges are "cherry flavored" nowadays, although now they do not contain any actual cherry.

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