Thursday, January 24, 2008

Plants of Francis Beidler Forest

While walking to the end of the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest to gather the quarterly water and benthic macroinvertebrate samples, we realized that we pass without much notice the many wonderfully-painted signs identifying some of the plants, especially trees.

Once a week we will highlight one of the plant species identified by signs like the one shown in the image. Obviously, this week's plant is the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), which can be found in the many of the yards around the Lowcountry due to its "flowers". What most people think of as the flowers (see image) are actually large, white, petal-like bracts surrounding the yellow flower heads. The Flowering Dogwood blooms between March and April. The resulting berries are an important source of food for wildlife. Your children do not count as wildlife, especially as the dogwood fruit is poisonous to humans. This understory tree can be found in a variety of forests throughout the state.

According to Richard D. Porcher in Wildflowers of the Carolina Lowcountry and Lower Pee Dee, "The powdered bark of dogwood was one of the most important sources of a 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 dogwood have been used as chewsticks to clean teeth."

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