Tag Archives: Tree

Slippery Elm–Medicinal Native American Tree

slippery_elmA beautiful and important native tree, slippery elm is also called Indian Elm and Moose Elm among other things, Slippery Elm is a medium-sized tree, well-known for centuries to many a youngster who chewed its aromatic, alluring, and mucilaginous bark and twigs. In Appalachia, some people still soak the bark of this tree in warm water to make a soothing emollient for skin injuries and wounds. The Indians mashed the bark and used the pulp for gunshot wounds and to ease the painful removal of the lead. Tea brewed from the roots was given to pregnant women at the time of birth. The slipperiness of the bark, sap, and juice was used by midwives to ease the birth itself by applying it topically to the birth canal and infant’s head. One to two ounces of the inner bark were steeped in two cups of water for an hour or more, then strained and used for many medical needs including digestive troubles. For the sick, the powdered and easily digestible bark from the inner layer was flavored with honey or maple syrup and eaten as a strengthening gruel.

From: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/slippery-elm

elm tree“Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) has been used as an herbal remedy in North America for centuries. Native Americans used slippery elm in healing salves for wounds, boils, ulcers, burns, and skin inflammation. It was also taken orally to relieve coughs, sore throats, diarrhea, and stomach problems.

Slippery elm contains mucilage, a substance that becomes a slick gel when mixed with water. It coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines. It also contains antioxidants that help relieve inflammatory bowel conditions. Slippery elm also causes reflux stimulation of nerve endings in the gastrointestinal tract leading to increased mucus secretion. The increased mucus production may protect the gastrointestinal tract against ulcers and excess acidity.”

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.  ~Willa Cather, 1913

Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing “Embraceable You” in spats.  ~Woody Allen

O Christmas Tree

I’m one of the authors sharing holiday memories and prizes as a part of the RomFan Reviews Holiday Blog Hop. To win a digital download of my Christmas release,  Somewhere the Bells Ring, leave me a comment on this post and a contact email.
And now, for my story.  Cutting the Christmas tree ourselves is a significant tradition that dates well back to the years before I was married, with the whole family going together to select and cut it, as we still do. The ranks have grown considerably over the decades and have included guests from foreign countries.
This year (as usual) we went to our favorite tree farm on a hillside outside the quaint hamlet of Singers Glen with all of our children and grandchildren, the youngest just four months old. Quite an adventure. The little people were especially excited, but a good time was had by all. Finding the candy cane tree is the ultimate challenge. Weary from the steep incline, three yr. old granddaughter Emma confided to me, “Dumma (as I’m called because our oldest grandson couldn’t say his G’s so Gumma became Dumma) this gonna be a hard day finding that candy cane tree.” But we did. A happy shout from our son-in-law sent everyone tramping off down another side of the hill.
To mix things up this year, my college art major daughter, Elise, suggested we get the ugliest tree we could find for our immediate household and see what we could do with it. Six year old Ian thought this was a great idea, however, after he’d helped cut it, Ian asked, “Dad has out tree, right?” He didn’t want to get stuck with a dud.
The couple who own the tree farm were glad someone still liked Charlie Brown trees, thinking they’d never sell this one. Not only do they have a beautiful farm, but a wonderful old spring house where the wife serves hot chocolate and visits with guests by a cozy fire in the vintage hearth and children are invited to choose an ornament to take home from their decorated tree. This is the best Christmas tree farm ever.
Visitors from China who’ve stayed with my parents over the years have found this tradition of trekking off to cut an evergreen ourselves rather fascinating, as they do the whole concept of stuffing a large tree into our house and decorating it with eclectic baubles, like the glittered light bulbs our son made when he was in first grade, or the dough angel with glasses my brother created some time ago. But that’s another story.
In the beginning of our marriage my hubby didn’t yet grasp the importance of this communal tree-gathering experience, the snow or mud squelching beneath our boots, haggling over the merits of every pine and spruce on the tree farm honored by our presence. Shortly before December 25th, that first year of wedded bliss, DH turned up with a tree he’d purchased from the local rescue squad––already cut.
I sadly contemplated the little evergreen and tried to make it my own, but this was not to be. Realizing his gross error, Dennis accompanied me at his first opportunity to a neighbor’s farm where we were given free rein to choose a tree from the field that had gone to cedars. After careful searching, he sawed down the tree of our choice, with far less debate than there is now with all the added opinions.
Still, there were difficulties. We hadn’t ever cut a cedar on our own before and didn’t realize how they sometimes grow. When we cut the trunk shorter to fit in the stand, it fell apart into three trees, none of them suitable.
My father, a veteran cedar cutter, took me for the third and final time to choose a tree from the farm our family had traditionally patronized. By this point Dennis, Mom and Dad all agreed that I was becoming somewhat obsessive about the whole thing and perhaps there’s some justification in this, but the pressure was on to select the most perfect tree ever, like Papa Bear in The Berenstein Bears Christmas.
We finally found one, after considerable searching on my part and growing impatience on my father’s, not to mention cold feet. I decorated it lovingly in the little apartment Dennis and I lived in then, but I didn’t bask in its presence for long. The apartment just wasn’t home, so I spent most of the holidays at my parents’ house in front of their tree.
This year Elise and I decorated our ‘challenged’ tree with strings of popcorn and lights, as it’s rather skimpy to hold the traditional ornaments. All in all, it’s not a bad little tree. Quite pretty, really. Ian is impressed.~
*Sometimes it snows at Christmas in the Shenandoah Valley.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  Pics are of the grandchildren, my daughter and daughter in law, the hearth in the old spring house.
***Most of this post is actually from last year, but it’s pretty much the same as what we did this year.

Welcoming the Gracious & Talented Mona Risk

I’m so pleased to have my friend author Mona Risk on my blog today.  Mona always has such interesting things to share with us.

I love visiting your beautiful blog. Thank you for hosting me today, Beth, as I talk of old trees that intrigue me.

You’ve come to the right place.  I love trees and count them as old friends.  🙂

Some of the oldest trees in the world are:

Promotheus tree in the Grand Basin National Park, Nevada.

St Augustine: oldest magnolias trees, 600 years-old, its bark and hardwood filigree are used to make pendants.


Hosting unique species like the mythical Coco-de-Mer or the rare Black Parrot, Vallee de Mai is in fact an ancient palm forest, home to numerous species of birds, insects and tropical plants.

We traveled by catamaran to the island of Pralin and trudged through the Valley of May, a dense forest where hordes of mosquitoes feasted on our legs and arms. But we kept on treading uphill to photograph the huge trees, called Coco-de-Mer, or sea-Coco, and their unusual fruits. The trees are either male or female. The male blossom brings to mind a big virile male member, and the female nut looks like a female pubis.

The Virgin Tree in Mataria, Egypt: One of the oldest trees in the world is the highly regarded “Virgin’s Tree” at Mataria, in the outskirts of Cairo, that is said to have offered shelter to the Holy Family during their sojourn in Egypt. There is another tree next to it believed to be as old, but the Virgin’s Tree still carries foliage while the other has no leaves at all.

Pilgrims frequently visit the Virgin’s Tree and ask for miracles. Women hoping to conceive encircle the tree seven times. Sick people claim to have been cured of cancer and other diseases when they came to pray at the tree. There are many poignant stories associated with this tree. When a soldier was ordered to destroy it and cut a branch from the tree, blood came out.

The village of Mataria enjoyed great popularity among pilgrims from the Holy Land. It was regarded as a blessed place and leaves of the balsam were believed to have medicinal properties. Inevitably pilgrims began to deplete the foliage, even stripping the bark of the trees, which, it was rumored, provided healing balm when boiled.

In the 15th century a charge was collected to allow visit to the garden.. A Dominican monk, Felix Fabri, wrote that a fence was erected around the tree (which he referred to as a fig tree with a hollow trunk, in which there was a small chapel and two lamps) to restrict pilgrims to the sacred enclosure to four at any one time.

Today’s Christian Coptics who make pilgrimage to the Virgin’s Tree at Mataria point to a new miracle — a faint image of the Virgin and Child has appeared on the bark of the venerable tree.~

*Fascinating.  I had no idea.  And now, onto Mona’s wonderful stories.

Rx IN RUSSIAN is available at TWRP and Amazon.com in print and ebook.

 An American Pediatrician

A Russian Surgeon

A woman who lost a son and her illusions about marriage and family.

A man with four adorable sons who badly need a mother

Can attraction and love overcome guilt, duty, and a clash of cultures?

 “Mona Risk writes heroes with heart, heroines with spunk in stories and settings that are simply unforgettable!” — Roxanne St. Claire, Killer Curves, National Bestseller.


Jillian approached the hospital bed and rotated the handle. A metallic screech filled the silence. Damn bed. Fyodor hoped she didn’t notice his blush as she played with the handle. Why did he feel as if he must pass a test? It wouldn’t have bothered him to admit weakness in front of an older colleague.

“I’ll add automated beds to the list of equipment to be shipped to your hospital,” she said, her tone calm, revealing no arrogance or criticism. “Dr. Vassilov, I’ll do my best to modernize the place while I’m here.”

Spacibo bolchoy. Thank you so much.” He wanted to hug her, kiss her, tell her he was happy she wasn’t the well-aged expert his government had promised as visiting physician. If she conducted business in this highly professional manner, it would be a daily pleasure to work with her.

He studied her oval-shaped face with its serious expression and lingered on her high cheekbones, delicate straight nose, and the chocolate brown strands that curled on her shoulders. A daily pleasure indeed.

Her eyes widened as she leveled a business look at him and dug two white teeth into her lower lip. “If there are things you specifically need from me, don’t hesitate to ask.”

“I will keep your offer in mind. Spacibo bolchoy, Jillian.” His gaze swung to her delectable mouth. “I hope I may call you by your given name?”

She nodded and smiled. “Of course, Fyodor. No need to be formal when we’re going to work together for six months.”

He liked the way his name trailed on her lips. Fy-o-dor. Like honey. Her accent glided over his skin, caressed his heart, and stirred a desire he thought he had well under control.

Nyet. Stop there, Fyodor. His smile of admiration faded.

The lovely American was out of reach as far as he was concerned. He had an altogether different mission, a father’s duty to find a good mother for his children. A well-disciplined officer and doctor, he always performed his duty, no matter what it cost. His glance swayed toward Jillian. The cost of performing his duty was escalating by the minute. Regret knifed through him, and he repressed a sigh.~

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN winner of 2009 Best Romance Novel at Preditors & Editors and winner of 2009 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite.
Rx FOR TRUST, winner of 2010 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite and 2011 EPICON.
Rx IN RUSSIAN just released by TWRP

All books available at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com


“We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”~ Ancient Indian Proverb

“Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we
share the Earth:-
Four-leggeds, two-leggeds,
winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers,
plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.”
~Native American Elder

Two Vital Native American Medicinal Trees~

Slippery Elm:

Also called Indian Elm and Moose Elm among other things, Slippery Elm is an important medium sized tree, well known for centuries to many a youngster who chewed its aromatic, alluring, and mucilaginous bark and twigs. In Appalachia, some people still soak the bark of this tree in warm water to make a soothing agent for skin injuries and wounds.  The Indians mashed the bark and used the pulp for gunshot wounds and to ease the painful removal of the lead.  Tea brewed from the roots was given to pregnant women at the time of birth.  The slipperiness of the bark, sap, and juice was used by midwives to ease the birth itself by applying it topically to the birth canal and infant’s head.

One to two ounces of the inner bark were steeped in two cups of water for an hour or more, then strained and used for many medical needs including digestive troubles.  For the sick, the powdered and easily digestible bark from the inner layer was flavored with honey or maple syrup and eaten as a strengthening gruel.~

“There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”~Minnie Aumonier


It’s also known as American Elder, Black Elder, and Tree of Music to give a few of its many names.  There are different varieties, some that grow no larger than brushy shrubs while others obtain the height of huge trees.  Native Americans used the long, straight, hollowed stems that became woody with age for arrows.  They pushed all the soft and poisonous pith out of the stems with hot sticks.  Indians also bored holes in them to make flutes which gave Elder its name ‘tree of music.’  Hunters lured elk closer with elderberry whistles.   I referred to this in my American historical romance Red Birds Song.

The fruit was believed to have a cooling, gentle, laxative and urine increasing effect.  Elderberry wine was thought to be a tonic.  The berries are said to aid arthritis.  The juice simmered until thick was used as a cough syrup and for colds.  The rest of the medicinal was used with great caution and some parts avoided entirely.  The inner bark of elder stems and the roots were generally regarded as too dangerous to experiment with, however women drank very small amounts of elderberry bark tea for bad menstrual cramps, to ease the pain of labor and help the child along.  I used a potent dose of elderberry bark tea in Through the Fire.

*Indians and settlers believed that small amounts of potentially poisonous plants could be beneficial under certain circumstances to stimulate the body to heal or maybe because it was fighting off the poison.  Native Americans shared their vast storehouse of knowledge regarding herbal treatments with colonists who used these remedies in combination with those lauded cures they brought with them from The Old World to The New World.

“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.”~William Blake

Elderberry: Also a profoundly vital plant in the Old World.

From Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs:

One of the human race’s earliest plant companions (found in Stone Age sites) the elderberry has developed reputations for great powers of good…as well as great powers of evil.  In some parts of the world, no prudent carpenter would make a cradle of elderberry wood for fear of bringing harm to the baby.

The elderflower has been involved in human history for centuries, and one story suggests that it takes its name from a unique medicinal dimension. The generic name Sambucus may come from the Greek Sambuke, a musical instrument made from elderberry wood.   For centuries the plant has had the reputation of healing the body, but in elderberry’s golden age, it made music to heal the spirit.

During its long association with humanity, the elderberry’s traditions have become an incredible jumble of conflicting currents.  It provided the wood for Christ’s cross; it was the home of the goddess Freya.  If seen in a dream, it meant illness was on the way; it was such a healthful plant that seventeenth century herbalist John Evelyn called it a remedy ‘against all infirmities whatever.’  It would ward off witches if gathered on the last day of April and put up on the windows and doors of houses; it was very attractive to witches and thus should be avoided after dark.

Elderberries worked their way into every aspect of living from dyeing hair black to showing berries just at the right time to signal the beginning of wheat sowing. Shakespeare had something to say about it.  One of his characters called it ‘the stinking elder.’  The Shakers used it as a medicinal.  The wood of the old stems, hard and fine grained, was prized by the makers of mathematical instruments.  The list could go on and on for pages; elderberries stand in our gardens as old friends.~

“Stand still. The trees ahead and bush beside you are not lost.”~Albert Einstein

“When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”

~Cree Prophecy

‘Lady of the Woods’~The Birch

“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.” ~Henry David Thoreau

There are two main varieties of birch indigenous to North America, the well known white birch and the so called black birch with reddish-brown to black bark.  Historically, the birch derives its name from a similar Sanskrit word translated as ‘that which is written upon.’  Numerous letters and journals have been inscribed on thin sheets of the multilayered bark of the white birch.  The black birch can be differentiated from wild cherries because the broken twigs have the smell of wintergreen while those of the cherries exude a bitter almond odor.  Wild cherry leaves and bark contain cyanide which, obviously, can be poisonous if too much is taken.  How much is too much?  Not sure about people but animals succumb quickly from eating the leaves of wild cherry.  Livestock require diligence to prevent accidental poisoning.

The black birch grows largely in the cooler mountains where they have been important because of the nutritious inner layer of the bark.  One example of the value of the bark is that it saved the lives of numerous confederate soldiers during Garnett’s Retreat across the Alleghenies before the men regrouped at Monterey, Virginia.  I referred to this sustaining bark in Through the Fire and Red Bird’s Song, which can be gathered from the wild at any time of year.

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Also interesting to note, before the commercial oil of wintergreen was manufactured synthetically, it was distilled from the bark of the black birch.  Indians and settlers made wintergreen tea by steeping freshly gathered leaves in boiling water as a remedy for rheumatism and headaches.  The dried bark can also be used.  One of its prime components is salicylic acid which is a main ingredient in aspirin, also found in willow. The bitterness in the leaves and thin bark of the willow also comes from salicylic acid which gives aspirin its own bitterness and makes the willow one of nature’s most important gifts to mankind.  Native Americans used tea steeped from willow to treat fever, arthritis, and many other pains.

A sweet syrup made from the white birch when the sap flows in the spring was used to treat cough and stomach cramps.  The syrup could also help cure scurvy because it contains vitamin C. The bark and leaves of the white birch were used by some tribes as a topical application to cleanse ulcers and carbuncles, combat gangrene, and as a general disinfectant for skin diseases.  The sap could be drunk as a syrup or applied directly to the skin depending on the ailment being treated.

Regarding the European white birch, Ms. Grieve says in A Modern Herbal: Coleridge speaks of it as the ‘Lady of the Woods.’ It is remarkable for its lightness, grace, and elegance, and after rain it has a fragrant odour.

The wood is soft and not very durable, but being cheap, and the tree being able to thrive in any situation and soil, growing all over Europe, is used for many humble purposes, such as bobbins for thread mills, herring-barrel staves, broom handles, and various fancy articles. In country districts the Birch has very many uses, the lighter twigs being employed for thatching and wattles. The twigs are also used in broom making and in the manufacture of cloth. The tree has also been one of the sources from which asphyxiating gases have been manufactured, and its charcoal is much used for gunpowder.

The white epidermis of the bark is separable into thin layers, which may be employed as a substitute for oiled paper and applied to various economical uses. It yields oil of Birch Tar, and the peculiar, well-known odour of russia leather is due to the use of this oil in the process of dressing. It likewise imparts durability to leather, and it is owing to its presence that books bound in russia leather are not liable to become moldy. The production of Birch Tar oil is a Russian industry of considerable importance. It is also distilled in Holland and Germany, but these oils are appreciably different from the Russian oil. It has the property of keeping away insects and preventing gnat bites when smeared on the hands. It is likewise employed in photography.

When the stem of the tree is wounded, a saccharine juice flows out which is susceptible, with yeast, of vinous fermentation. A beer, wine, spirit and vinegar are prepared from it in some parts of Europe. Birch Wine, concocted from this thin, sugary sap of the tree, collected from incisions made in the trees in March, honey, cloves and lemon peel being added and then the whole fermented with yeast, makes a very pleasant cordial, formerly much appreciated. From 16 to 18 gallons of sap may be drawn from one large tree, and a moderate tapping does no harm.~

One Fine Day

These pics are a photographic collage my daughter Elise took (and some by my husband) of her and my jaunt around the garden, across the meadow, past the pond, and up through the fields to the woods above our farm.~

Such an exquisitely beautiful spring day.  Pristine perfection.  Many colored tulips glow like jewels.  Virginia bluebells cover the ground in the dappled shade of the enormous maple tree.  The original plants were a gift from my late grandmother.

Lilacs and flowering crab apples scent the warm air.  Some of the lilacs have been here for half a century.  The jonquils smell wonderful.  Even the earthy fragrance of cows and hay appeals to me, an essential  part of my being.  Find your center place and you will discover what both grounds and inspires you.  For me, it’s the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains…our farm…the garden, the land.  Cherish the earth and it will richly reward you…restore your spirit.

The green meadow spreads, rippling, in the sun.  Elusive meadowlarks trill from the tall grass.  We try, but cannot find the secretive birds.  Their sweet trill beckons from here and then there, always further ahead, or then again from behind.  We are determined to find the singer but finally give up.

I once spied a meadowlark perched on a fence post, though not when I was looking for it.  That’s about as high as they fly.  The yellow on its breast was unmistakable.  What a thrill.  They are my favorite song birds.

I love the water birds too.  A type of sandpiper darts around the pond in the low muddy spots and then flies, sounding its funny cry.  There are  a number of them, and the purple martins are back.  Iridescent in the sun.  The swifts and swallows are yet to come, but the pond is glorious.   A frog plops in and we see a string of eggs in the grass at the edge.  Ducks and geese bob over the water glinting in the clear light.

Our farm is the headwaters of an unassuming little creek that flows on through other farms and past the neighboring town, and on, we suppose to the river.   It’s not a grand waterway, but how many of you can claim to live near the headwaters of anything?   So I mention it with some pride. 🙂

On we wander, back behind our farm, to the remains of an old homestead.  The house burned down years ago but a derelict outbuilding remains with a gnarled fruit tree, wild cherry I think, growing alongside it.  And an ancient barn.  There’s a grassy sort of clearing where the house and yard used to be set in amid lofty, seemingly random, trees.   A large red squirrel lives there now and a startled rabbit.  Lord only knows what else.  I suspect it’s eerie at night.  Maybe even haunted…though during the day everything appears utterly charming.

Then Elise spots the hawk we’ve been on the lookout for.  We are fortunate to photograph the majestic red-tailed bird soaring high overhead, and think he lives in the wooded hills up above the fields.  While he’s on his scouting expedition, the other creatures grow silent.  The wise ones, anyway.  I heard some foolish chatter.

The rose flush of new leaves co-mingle with the many shades of green in the trees.  So many birds call from their branches.   We seek the songsters, sometimes with luck, sometimes not, but rarely in time to snap their picture.  Red wing black birds call continuously and almost seem to accompany us from place to place.  I’ve never seen so many of them at once.  Must be a sort of bird festival.  They are quite special to me.   Song sparrows sing, a chatty mockingbird, cardinal, possibly horned larks…

Everywhere we gaze, the world is reborn.  Magical.  This is the time to savor the spirit-lifting sights, scents, and sounds.   And remember.

“I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful
than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of our Lord by it.”
~ Gerald Manley Hopkins

“When bright flowers bloom
Parchment crumbles, my words fade
The pen has dropped …” ~Morpheus

“It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”
~William Carlos Williams

“In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich
with many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I
With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.”
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1865