Friday, October 19, 2007

How Well Do You Know Your Red Fruit?

Although wildlife can eat all the red fruit shown in the images, humans should heed the "red means stop" warning! See if you can match the plant description with the image before you peek at the answer shown at the end of this entry.

A. Flowering Dogwood (Cronus florida) is a fast-growing, short-live tree whose white petal-like bracts contrast the many colors of the non-native azaleas blooming around town in the spring. According to Richard Porcher's Wildflowers of the Lowcountry and Lower Pee Dee, "The berries are an important source of food for wildlife but are poisonous to humans. The hardness of its wood makes it excellent for shuttles in the textile industry; also used for mauls, mallets, wedges and pulleys. The powdered bark of the dogwood was one of the most important sources of drug during the Civil War. The drug was used as a substitute for quinine that became unavailable due to the blockade by Union forces. The twigs of the dogwood have been used as chewsticks to clean teeth."

B. Mock or Indian Strawberry (Duchesnea indica) is a low, trailing, perennial herb whose fruit is not harmful to humans but is tasteless. It is not a true strawberry and "according to some sources (e.g., Strausbaugh and Core, 1977) this species was introduced from India." (Porcher)

C. Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens) is a low, trailing perennial whose berries are edible though bland. "Native American women made a tea from the leaves as an aid in childbirth." (Porcher)

D. Strawberry Bush or Heart's-a-bustin (Euonymus americanus) is common throughout South Carolina and found in a variety of forests. "The seeds are a strong laxative, and the fruits are toxic, causing coma if consumed in sufficient quantity." (Porcher)

Answers: A3, B, C2, D1

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