Plant, Herb, and Tree Lore

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Archive for the 'Gardens' Category

Olympic National Park (, Washington. Exploring Olympic Peninsula - Northern Exposure: Chronicle 24 - Chronicles of Sir Thomas Leaf, Lady Etain, and Prince Cian.  Adventures in Washington. Photos taken March 25, 2016.  To read the adventures, visit   To read reviews, visit:  All photos and articles (c) 2015/2016 - by Leaf McGowan, Eadaoin Bineid and Thomas Baurley. All rights reserved.

Olympic National Park (, Washington.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi: Kinnikinnick ~

Name: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Kingdom: Plantae; Angiosperms; Eudicots; Asterids; Order: Ericales; Family: Ericaceae; Genus: Arctostaphylos

Common Name: Bearberry, Kinnikinnick, bear berry, pinemat manzanita, arberry, bear’s grape, crowberry, foxberry, hog cranberry, kinnikinnick, mealberry, mountain box, mountain cranberry, mountain tobacco, sandberry, upland cranberry, uva-ursi

General Description: Because the plant is very much a favorite foodstuff of bears, it has earned the name “bearberry”. This wonderful plant is part of the Manzanita genus Arctostaphylos. It is named after the Latin term uva-ursi or meaning “grape of the bear”. It is a small procumbent woody ground cover shrub that grows between 5-30 cm high, growing evergreen shiny, small, thick, stiff alternating leaves that stay green for 1-3 years before they fall off the bush. The bottom of the leaves are lighter green than the tops. The shrub blossom white to pink flowers from May to June that also bear a red berry fruit measuring 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter that persist on into early winter. The stands of this bush can be extremely dense and hard to get through, though rarely growing taller than 6 inches. The erect branching twigs emerge from long flexible prostrate stems produced by single roots.

Locality/Cultivation: This shrub can be found appearing as one of three species of dwarf shrubs belonging to the genus Arctostaphylos. It is commonly used in gardens as an ornamental. Leaves are harvested during the summer and dried for use in extracts, infusions, teas, and tablets.

Common Uses: Bearberry is edible, but mealy and bland in taste. It is a major ingredient found in the Native American smoke mix called “kinnikinnick” (means “mixture” in Algonquin) and mixed with Tobacco by the First Nations peoples. The berries have been gathered by many people as a food. It is used as an ornamental plant in landscaping and to help control erosion.

Medicinal Uses: It has been identified as having a narcotic or stimulant effect when smoked. The leaves are used in herbal medicine. Some of the constituents within it are hydroquinones that are labelled hepatotoxic. It has been used in urinary tract infections. First labelled in medicinal applications by Gerhard in 1763, and first documented in the Physicians of Myddfai a 13th century herbal. It appeared in the London Pharmacopoeia in 1788. Marco Polo thought the Chinese used it as a diuretic. In Europe the leaves are used as a phytomedicine. While edible, large doses have been said to have caused fever, vomiting, nausea, chills, back pain, and tinnitus. Should be avoided by those pregnant or possessing kidney issues.

Magical Uses: Native Americans smoke it in a cermonial mix called “kinnikinnick” and use it both as a smudge or smoked in a sacred pipe carrying the smoker’s prayers to the Great Spirit. When creating the “kinnikinnick” it is often ixed with non-poisonous sumac, inner bark of red osier dogwood, chokecherry, and alder.


Spirituality: In ceremonies, Native American mixed bearberry with dogwood, chokecherry, and alder into a mix called “Kinnikinnick” that was used spiritually as well as medicinally, and seen by white Euro-American settlers as a narcotic (though sometimes mixed with tobacco and granting that effect). Early colonial European hunters, traders, and settlers used the mix as such too. While Eastern tribes also used it as a smoking mix socially, they did so ceremonially. The Ojibwa smoked it mixed with dried powdered room of Aster novae-angliae L or red willow or spotted willow.

Bearberry or Kinnickinnick. Original book source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany. he author died in 1925, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

Bearberry or Kinnickinnick. Original book source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany. he author died in 1925, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 80 years or less.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.


Olympic National Park (, Washington. Exploring Olympic Peninsula - Northern Exposure: Chronicle 24 - Chronicles of Sir Thomas Leaf  and Prince Cian.  Adventures in Washington. Photos taken March 25, 2016.  To read the adventures, visit   To read reviews, visit:  All photos and articles (c) 2015/2016 - by Leaf McGowan and Thomas Baurley. All rights reserved.

Olympic National Park (, Washington.

Name: Mahonia aquifolium

Common Names: Oregon Grape, oregon-grape, oregon grape-holly, oregon holly-grape, oregongrape.

Description: A common species of the flowering evergreen shrub Berberidacea. Plant grows to 1 meter high x 1.5 meter in width has large pinnate leaves that grow approx. 10-50 cm in length with 5-15 spiny leaflets, and it flowers yellow clusters in racemes that are approx. 5-20 cm in length. Tends to have spiny, evergreen foliage with yellow flowers in the autumn, winter, and early spring. Produces blue-black berries.

Locality: Primarily from the Pacific Coast of North America. Name “aquifolium” means “holly leaved” referring to its spines.

Growing: Popular in shady or woodland environments. Resistant to summer drought and tolerates poor soils.

Culinary/Common Uses: Often used as a popular garden shrub or as an ornamental. Berries are edible and high in Vitamin C. Aboriginal peoples ate the berries in small quantities and mixed them with other sweeter fruits such as Salal. Today used to make jellies or mixed with salal. Its juices have been fermented to make wines. The inner bark of the larger stems and roots produce a yellow die, the berries a purple dye.

Medicinal Uses: Although edible, the plant contains berberine which can cause vomiting, lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, lethargy, and other effects if eaten in large quantities. Native American tribes have used it to treat dyspepsia. Some etrats have been used to treat inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis.

Magical Uses:

Folklore: State flower of Oregon



National Botanical Gardens, Edinburg, Scotland

Lime: Tilia cordata

Taxonomy: Plantae: Tiliaceae: Tilia cordata

Other names: Lime, Teile (Gaelic), common lime, tree of love

Description: The Common Line is a cross between T. Cordata and the larger-leaved southern cousin known as “T. playphyllos”. It is a small-leaved lime tree. The hybrids are common in gardens in the U.K. and Ireland, but are not native there. They are prone to suckering from the base and many older specimens can be recognized by the bushy tufts of shoots surrounding the base of the trunk. During summer seasons, the lime bears clusters of sweetly scented pale yellow-cream flowers that are rich in nectar. These are attractive to insects, especially bees, who become drowsy when overdosing on nectar and can be found fizzing gently in the sward beneath these trees. The leaves are heart-shaped and bright green thereby inspiring its nickname as the “Tree of love”.

Common uses: Planted in estates and gardens as an ornamental. The wood is very soft and used often for small carvings. A crude string used to be made from stripping out its inner layer of bark called the bast.

Culinary: Fruit is used as a seasoning and a drink additive. It is used as a nectar for certain types of honey.

Magic and Folklore: Known as the Tree of Love and used often in love magic spells. Masculine; Planet: Sun; Element: Fire; Powers: Healing, Love, Protection. With the actual fruit – take a fresh lime and pierce it with old iron nails, spikes, pins and needles – toss into a deep hole in the ground to rid self of all ills, hexes, and curses. Wear a necklace of limes to cure a sore throat. Add the peel or essential oil in love mixtures and incenses. Drive a nail into the trunk of a time tree to cure a toothache (thank the tree and ask permission). Twigs of the tree protect against the evil eye when carried.

National Botanical Gardens, Edinburg, Scotland

Essential Oil:

Aura Cacia Essential Oil: LIME, .5 fl oz.

Citrus x aurantifolia from Mexico, U.S.A., West Indies

Description: 100% Pure Essential Oil by Aura Cacia. “Lime Essential Oil” – 1/2 fl. oz. from Mexico, USA, or West Indies. Product Dimensions: approx. 3 x 1 x 1 inches ; approx. 1.7 ounces – jar, lid, and oil. Shipping weight: approx. 7 ounces.

Aroma: Tungy, Typical Lime

Cautions: If Pregnant, injured or ill with any medical condition or if taking other medications, consult a doctor or adviser before use. Dilute properly, may irritate skin. This product is not for internal use. Keep out of reach from children.

Indications: Freshening

Ingredients: Citrus x aurantifolia (lime) oil.

Suggested Uses: Awaken the senses: 5 drops lime in a room humidifier or aromatherapy vaporizer. Cheering diffusion: 7 drops lime, 3 drops neroli in a lamp ring diffuser.

ASIN: B001895GPQ

UPC: 051381911263

To learn more about Lime, visit ourLime page.

To learn more about this oil
or to order from us
Visit our shopping cart page at
Lime Essential Oil: .5 fl oz – Aura Cacia 100% Pure

Recommended Reading / References:

  • Aura Cacia undated Product Labels. Product Labels referenced 2/11/14.
  • Cunningham, Scott 1992 Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Llewellyn: St. Paul, Minnesota. ISBN: 0-87542-122-9
  • Worwood, Valerie Ann 1991 “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy”. New World Library: San Rafael, California. ISBN: 0-931432-82-0.


01 6th, 2014

Yew Tree
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

European Yew
Taxus baccata [ Plantae: Pinophyta: Pinopsida: Pinales: Taxaceae: Taxus: T. baccata ]

Common Names:

The European Yew is a conifer that is native to Western, Central, and Southern Europe as well as Northwest Africa, Northern Iran, and Southwest Asia.

The Common Yew was amongst the first species to be described by Linnaeus belonging to family Taxaceae. The tree is a small to medium sized evergreen tree that grows approximately 10-20 meters tall (33-66 feet), though has been known to reach 92 feet (28 m) The trunk can become up to 2 meters thick (6 ft) though has been found in odd cases upwards of 13 feet thick in diameter. The Yew tree’s bark is thin, scaly brown and comes off in small flakes that is aligned with the stem. Its leaves are lanceolate, flat, and dark green upwards of 1-4 centimeters long and 2-3 millimters broad that are arranged spirally on a stem with the leaf bases twisted to align the leaves in two flat rows on either side of the stem, except on erect leading shoots when the spiral arrangement is more obvious. The seed cones are highly modified with each one containing a single seed that are 4-7 millimeters long and partly surrounded by a modified scale that can develop into a soft bright red berry-like composition called an aril, approximately 8-15 millimeters long and wide, open at the end. These mature 6-9 months after pollination. The seeds are often eaten by a variety of birds such as waxwings and thrushes who disperse the hard seeds undamaged in their droppings. The arils mature over 2-3 months adding to the successful seed dispersal. The seeds are extremely poisonous and biter, but opened and eaten by some bird species such as the great tits and the hawfinches. Male cones are globose and size 3-6 millimters in diameter, shedding their pollen in early spring. They are mostly dioecious but can be variably monoecious and change sex with time. Yews are slow growing and can be long-living, with some trunks having exceeded 2,000 years old (such as The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland). Age is difficult to determine with the Yew wood because rarely any wood on the tree is as old as the entire tree since the boughs hollow out with age, making ring counts impossible. There are some Yew trees believed to be 5,000-9,500 years old based on archaeological evidence of surrounding structures incorporated with the trees. has been estimated at 2,000 years old. It is the longest living tree in all of Europe.

The yew can be propagated through cuttings, seed, graftings or layering. Yews prefer a moist, fertile, sandy loam soil, but can grow well in most soils, especially chalk, but not in water-logged ground or sticky wet clay. The yew can flourish in the shade of taller trees, but little will grow in their own shadows.

Common Uses:
The Yew, especially the Irish Yew, is commonly used in landscaping and ornamental horticulture, and are used especially for formal hedges and topiary.
A 450,000 year old wooden spearhead, made out of yew, is one of the world’s oldest wooden artifacts found at Clacton-on-sea,in Essex, UK. It is the choice of woods used for constructing longbows. Yew has also been utilized for making spears, spikes, staves, and small hunting bows. Arrows tipped in a poison made from Yew leaves was commonplace in the Middle Ages. European historical construction of bows from the Yew tree caused severe damage to the livlihood of the species and throughout history saw numerous bans of its harvest. Yew wood was also used to create wheels and cogs, spoons, handles, bowls and any turned items, also found in the body of the lute, and within sacred carvings.

Culinary Uses:
The seeds and leaves are highly poisonous. The only part of the tree that is not poisonous is the aril and the wood. The aril is gelatinous and very sweet tasting.

Medicinal Uses:
The seeds and leaves are highly poisonous. The major toxin is the alkaloid taxane remaining toxic even when the foliage is wilted or dried. Horses have the lowest tolerance to Yew leaves, with a lethal dose of 200-400 mg/kg body weight while other livestock are less vulnerable. Symptoms of Yew poisoning is muscle tremors, convulsions, coldness, difficulty breathing, staggering gait, collapse, and eventual heart failure. Death is rapid. Fatal poisoning in humans are rare except if ingesting alot of yew foliage (estimated between 50-100 grams). It has been used for phyotherapy as published in the Canon of Medicine in 1021. It was used for cardiac remedy in a drug named “Zarnab” as a calcium channel blocker drug not in wide use in the Western world until the 1960’s. This was an early precursor to the chemotherapy drug called Paclitaxel that were made from the leaves of the European Yew. In the Himalayas it is used to treat breast and ovary cancer. Conflicts in 1990 against the harvesting of paclitaxel for cancer treatment from the Pacific Yew has stunted use. Some lore claims it was used to stimulate abortion.

Magical Uses:
It was traditional to take a yew branch on All Saint’s Day to the tombs of those who died recently so that they would find the guide to return from the Land of Shadows. Traditionally yews are planted in graveyards, near chapels, churches, and cemeteries as a symbol of transcendance of death. They are also found in the main squares of villages to bring all together. Often planted as a symbol for long life or as trees of death. Yew wood commonly used to make magical wands and/or staves. The yew represents immortality, renewal, regeneration, everlasting life, rebirth, transformation and access to the Otherworld and the ancestors. Many churchyards once stood in a circle of Yew, based on the churches being built over ancient Druid sacred groves. It is one of the most potent trees for protecting against evil and to bring dreams and otherworldly journeys. The Yew often represents old magic. In hot weather, it gives off a resinous vapor that shamans inhale to gain visions. The Yew is the last of the 20 trees in the Tree Ogham used for divination, prophecy, and a mnenomic device for learning. In Ogham, it is the “Idho” as a link to spiritual guidance through ancestors and guardians of the Otherworlds. It also represents death and resurrection or renewal in the Ogham. Yew used in divining rods can be used to find lost property.

Folklore and History:
The name “Yew” comes from the Proto-Germanic “*?wa-” and with possible origination from the Gaulish “ivos”. Word refers to the color “brown”. “Baccata” is latin for “Bearing red berries”. To the Celts, the Yew Tree has extroadinary supernatural power and importance. It was believed to be linked with the land, the people, the ancestors, and to the ancient religion. The tree is sacred to the Goddess Hecate and the Crone aspects of the Triple Goddess. The Yew was often seen as guardians of the Underworld, death, and the afterlife. It was a common ancient poison. Tribal leaders were often buried beneath the Yew as believed its dryad or tree spirit would join with them.

Yew Tree

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The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

The Poison Garden:
Blarney Castle, Ireland * 021-4385252 * *

One of the most intriguing features of the castle grounds of Blarney Castle for a botanist, scientist, or herbalist is the castle’s “Poison Garden”. A collection of plants embracing the world’s most deadliest toxins, one can walk amongst danger and see, smell, and view from close proximity what plants take the lives of hundreds of thousands of human lives annually. The garden has been active since the 18th century and a popular tourist attraction along with the other gardens on the grounds as the estate extends to over 1,000 acres of gardens (the poison garden is just a small tiny yard). The garden is located hidden behind the Castle’s battlements. Some of the more toxic or illegal of substances are located within large black conical iron cages to protect them from the tourist and the viewer from their toxicity. Some of the garden’s plants are controlled substances and therefore heavily monitored. During my 2010 and 2012 visits, many of the caged plants were empty, including the cannabis specimen. This specimen was Taken by the local gardai in 2010. Upon a visit in 2013, the Cannabis plant is not only present but enormous.

Cannabis plant, Blarney Castle’s Poison Garden, Ireland

Of the ones I photographed and wrote about below, are:

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Invasive Species of the Week

PDF by Invasive Species Specialist Group