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Trail Life: Yes trees are healers so know the killers

Welcome to our third issue of Trail Life and another Tree Talk.

Committed to talking trees every Thursday for the rest of this Fall (2023) and the upcoming Winter season, today I wanted to talk about trees that have healing benefits but could be toxic if you use the wrong parts, and in the wrong way.

Today's tree is The Black Cherry.

Once again, our chosen location for this educational 'Randonnée' is the Historic Trail of Tears located at the Chattanooga Audubon Society's Audubon Acres/Cherokee Arboretum.

The conservation efforts of the Chattanooga Audubon Society have been a big inspiration for my work The Art of Rooting, allowing me to reflect on my African roots and the use of medicinal plants and compare them to the lifestyle and practice of Native Americans who had/have a fascinating reverence for nature.

Last week, I shared some of the Cherokee uses for the American Beech.

The next morning, I went on an early hike, undeterred by the rain, and met a man on the trail who was just as surprised as I was, to find someone on the trail this early on a rainy day.

After startling each other, we had the pleasure of learning more about one another.

Well, I had the immense pleasure of learning more about him, considering that when I introduced myself he responded that he knew who I was and that he had seen my book in the Gift Shop and was considering getting it for Christmas. ( This was a very sweet and very unanticipated moment for me).

Did I mention that there is a coloring and cultural activity book for you to enjoy as well?

We quickly went from " strangers" to " new friends" and I genuinely enjoyed meeting Eric Burnett, a member of the board of the Chattanooga Audubon Society.

I point out in The Art of Rooting that a shared love for nature is a beautiful way to build a healthier community and appreciate that we are more alike than we are different.

After I learned that Mr. Burnett has degrees in forestry, environmental science, and biology, and was an EMT, I shared with him moments of my college days as a volunteer Stadium EMS student ( I don't remember the exact term that was used for on my campus at the time) and my love for biology and environmental science ( I studied Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Leadership and Supervision at Purdue University.)

Burnett laughed at the thought that years later, I was still "channeling" (his word) that love through writing and visual art. Since most people know me as an artist, an author, and a creative, the fact that I was a girl in STEM seems to cause a surprise that I am starting to enjoy more and more.

I have observed that many people expect to hear that I have studied something Art-related in college. I was more of a lab rat and many years later, I seem to have turned nature and the outdoors into my lab.

And yes! One can certainly love Science and the Arts! I strongly believe that it takes some awareness of science to be able to create safely. (For example, as a stage performer, my educational background in occupational safety and health sciences makes me mindful of certain hazards that some people may not take into immediate consideration.)

Talking of Arts, I have been nominated for a third year in a row, as a Black Excellence of Chattanooga.

This is my second year in a row to also have two nominations and my first time as a Performing Arts nominee.

If you are reading this before December 6, 2023, please vote for me! #44 and #60 on the following link

Thank you for being a friend!

Now back to the trail...

When I asked my new friend, Mr. Burnett, where he would like to take a photo with me, he suggested a Beech tree that he had passed and admired on the trail before we spooked each other. Imagine my confidence in knowing exactly the type of tree he was referring to! I had blogged about it the night before (smiles)!

In The Art of Rooting, you learn that I am fond of intergenerational friendships because I love to learn from people of various ages.

You can never be too old or too young to "teach me something."

I parted with my new friend with a heart full of gratitude, savoring this serendipitous encounter and wondering what tree I may talk about the following week.

So my chosen tree today is the Black Cherry because I wanted to continue talking about trees as healers and offer a little warning, that just because a tree heals, doesn't mean that all its parts are safe for consumption.

Cherokee Uses

  • The fruit is used for food

  • The wood is used for carving, lumber and furniture

  • Large quantities of the roots will yield a reddish-purple dye

Some Healing Benefits

  • Tea brewed from the inner bark is used to treat cold and fever

  • breaks down congestion

  • Improves appetite

  • Warm tea is given at the first pain of child labor

  • Tea made from the bark mixed with barks of Spicewood and flowering dogwood and corn whiskey will break out measles and is used as a tonic.

  • Bark from the roots makes a wash for old sores and ulcers

  • Boiled fruit makes a treatment for blood discharged from the bowels

This is quite an impressive list of healing benefits, isn't it?

Now that you know how you could use the Black Cherry, do not mess with the seeds, leaves, and outer bark. Why? Because they contain cyanide and are poisonous.

(Laugh) Quite a plot twist right?!

In the Art of Rooting, I mentioned a very beautiful flowering tree native to Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean, that is poisonous.

We had one in our backyard when I was a child and it was in my opinion, the most beautiful tree in our yard but one I could never add to the flower arrangements that I loved creating.

Can you think of the name of the tree?

Hint: The name of the tree is also the title of an American drama film starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Renee Zellweger ( 2002).

Can you think of other trees/plants with parts that are safe to use and parts that shouldn't be consumed? Which ones?

Join me on the trail next Thursday for another tree talk.

Share with friends, subscribe to the Blog stay up-to-date, and share your knowledge.

Join me on my social platforms for more ( see the above photo for details)

Grab your copy of The Art of Rooting on Amazon remember to please leave a kind review, I would love to know what you've enjoyed most about the book.

Thank You and see you on the Trail!

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