Monthly Archives: July 2013

Oxalis

Latin Name: Oxalis spp.

oxalisOrigin: Several species in the genus, originating from Europe to South America.

Family: Oxalidaceae.

Known Hazards: The leaves contain oxalic acid, which gives them their sharp flavour. Perfectly all right in small quantities, the leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since oxalic acid can bind up the body’s supply of calcium leading to nutritional deficiency. The quantity of oxalic acid will be reduced if the leaves are cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.

Habitat: Roadsides, grassy places and as a weed of the garden.

Edibility Rating: 3 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 0 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Perennial growing to 0.2m by 0.1m. It is in flower in summer through autumn. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

Edible Uses

oxalis2Leaves and flowers: raw or cooked. A pleasant lemony flavour, they make a nice addition in salads. The leaves are available through out winter and the flowers from early summer, or even later in mild autumns. Use in moderation, see notes at top of sheet.

Medicinal Uses

None known

Other Uses

None known

Notes: The genus Oxalis includes over 800 species of annual or perennial, stemmed or stemless, herbs and shrubs, often with underground bulbs or tubers. A few are aquatic species. Of the thirty species of Oxalis in Australia, twenty are naturalised and many are existing or potential serious pests in various parts of the country. Twenty two species ofOxalis were listed in Victorian nursery catalogues between 1855 and 1889. Eleven species are described in Gardening Australia’s Flora (2003) with acknowledgement that ‘some of the world’s worst weeds belong in Oxalis.One species of concern in Victoria is Soursob, Oxalis pes-caprae which invades coastal heath vegetation, grassland, woodland and dry forest. It also occurs along roadsides, and in gardens, crops and pastures. It is distinguished by the three heart-shaped leaflets with or without stalks which fold in dull days or at night. Flowers are bright yellow in colour and open in sunlight and close at night. There are masses of underground bulbs which are spread by water, birds, in dumped garden waste and during cultivation.

Olive

Latin Name: Olea europaea

Old tree. Bundanon, NSW

Old tree. Bundanon, NSW

Origin: Native of Mediterranean region.

amily: Oleaceae

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Woods and scrub in dry rocky places.

Edibility Rating: 4 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: An evergreen Tree growing to 10m by 8m at a slow rate.
Flowers: Small white flowers in February/March are followed by fleshy fruits containing a single hard seed. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind. The plant is self-fertile.

Dispersal: Dispersal of seeds is by birds and many seedlings appear near old established trees where grazing is limited or absent.

Edible Uses

Fruit; Leaves; Manna. Olive fruits are widely used, especially in the Mediterranean, as a relish and flavouring for foods. The fruit is usually pickled or cured with water, brine, oil, salt or lye. They can also be dried in the sun and eaten without curing when they are called ‘fachouilles’. The cured fruits are eaten as a relish, stuffed with pimentos or almonds, or used in breads, soups, salads etc. ‘Olives schiacciate’ are olives picked green, crushed, cured in oil and used as a salad. The fruit contains 20 – 50µ vitamin D per 100g. The fruit is up to 4cm long. The seed is rich in an edible non-drying oil, this is used in salads and cooking and, because of its distinct flavour, is considered a condiment. There are various grades of the oil, the finest (known as ‘Extra Virgin’) is produced by cold pressing the seeds without using heat or chemical solvents[238]. The seed of unpalatable varieties is normally used and this oil has the lowest percentage of acidity and therefore the best flavour. Other grades of the oil come from seeds that are heated (which enables more oil to be expressed but has a deleterious effect on the quality) or from using chemical solvents on seed that has already been pressed for higher grades of oil. Olive oil is mono-unsaturated and regular consumption is thought to reduce the risk of circulatory diseases. The seed contains albumen, it is the only seed known to do this. Leaves. No more details are given. An edible manna is obtained from the tree.

Medicinal Uses

Fruits image by Valter JacintoAntipruritic; Antiseptic; Astringent; Bach; Cholagogue; Demulcent; Emollient; Febrifuge; Hypoglycaemic; Laxative; Sedative. The oil from the pericarp is cholagogue, a nourishing demulcent, emollient and laxative. Eating the oil reduces gastric secretions and is therefore of benefit to patients suffering from hyperacidity. The oil is also used internally as a laxative and to treat peptic ulcers. It is used externally to treat pruritis, the effects of stings or burns and as a vehicle for liniments. Used with alcohol it is a good hair tonic and used with oil of rosemary it is a good treatment for dandruff. The oil is also commonly used as a base for liniments and ointments. The leaves are antiseptic, astringent, febrifuge and sedative. A decoction is used in treating obstinate fevers, they also have a tranquillising effect on nervous tension and hypertension. Experimentally, they have been shown to decrease blood sugar levels by 17 – 23%. Externally, they are applied to abrasions. The bark is astringent, bitter and febrifuge. It is said to be a substitute for quinine in the treatment of malaria. In warm countries the bark exudes a gum-like substance that has been used as a vulnerary. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Complete exhaustion’ and ‘Mental fatigue’.

african olive

Other Uses

Dye; Hair; Oil; Soil stabilization; Wood. The non-drying oil obtained from the seed is also used for soap making, lighting and as a lubricant. The oil is a good hair tonic and dandruff treatment. Maroon and purple dyes are obtained from the whole fresh ripe fruits. Blue and black dyes are obtained from the skins of fresh ripe fruits. A yellow/green dye is obtained from the leaves. Plants are used to stabilize dry dusty hillsides. Wood – very hard, heavy, beautifully grained, takes a fine polish and is slightly fragrant. It is used in turnery and cabinet making, being much valued by woodworkers.

Notes: Olive is now naturalised in South Australia, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. It is a proclaimed plant in South Australia when not planted and maintained for domestic or commercial use.To date it is an occasional weed in Canberra however with the establishment of olive plantations it is almost certain to become a major weed in the future.

Noogoora Burr

Latin Name: Xanthium occidentale

Young plant, Bundanon, NSW Origin: Native of America.

Alternative Name(s): Xanthium pungens, part of Xanthium strumarium.

Family: Asteraceae.

Known Hazards: Poisonous. Most members of this genus are toxic to grazing animals and are usually avoided by them. The seed also contains toxins.

Habitat: River banks, lake shores, cultivated ground and pastures.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Annual herb to 2.5 (rarely to 4) m high. Stems rough to touch with short stout upward directed hairs, green and usually blotched or streaked purple. Leaves dark green above, paler below, covered with small bristles and glandular hairs, margins coarsely toothed, with 3 prominent veins, and with veins and leaf stalks often reddish. Brown burrs each contain two brown, grey or black seeds.
Flowers: Unisexual, male and female flowers in separate clusters in upper leaf axils and at ends of branches. Flowers mostly summer and autumn.

burr

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by spineless stems; ovate or triangular leaves 5–15 cm long with 3 or 5 lobes, rough to touch; burrs 7–25 mm long, covered with hooked spines and ending in 2 diverging stout straight spines.

Dispersal: Spread by seed in burrs. Burrs are spread attached to animals, clothing and bags. Burrs float and are moved by water.

Edible Uses

Maturing seed pods. Image by dinesh valke

Maturing seed pods. Image by dinesh valke

Leaves; Seed. Leaves and young plants – cooked. They must be thoroughly boiled and then washed. Caution is advised, the plant is probably poisonous. Seed – raw or cooked. It can be used as a piñole. The seed can be ground into a powder and mixed with flour for making bread, cakes etc. The seed contains about 36.7% protein, 38.6% fat, 5.2% ash. It also contains a glycoside and is probably poisonous.

 

Medicinal Uses

Anodyne; Antibacterial; Antifungal; Antiperiodic; Antirheumatic; Antispasmodic; Antitussive; Appetizer; Cytotoxic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emollient; Febrifuge; Hypoglycaemic; Laxative; Sedative; Stomachic. The leaves and root are anodyne, antirheumatic, appetizer, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, laxative and sedative. The plant is considered to be useful in treating long-standing cases of malaria and is used as an adulterant for Datura stramonium. An infusion of the plant has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, diseased kidneys and tuberculosis. It has also been used as a liniment on the armpits to reduce perspiration. The fruits contain a number of medically active compounds including glycosides and phytosterols. They are anodyne, antibacterial, antifungal, antimalarial, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, antitussive, cytotxic, hypoglycaemic and stomachic. They are used internally in the treatment of allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, catarrh, rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, diarrhoea, lumbago, leprosy and pruritis. They are also used externally to treat pruritis. The fruits are harvested when ripe and dried for later use. The root is a bitter tonic and febrifuge. It has historically been used in the treatment of scrofulous tumours. A decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of high fevers and to help a woman expel the afterbirth. A decoction of the seeds has been used in the treatment of bladder complaints. A poultice of the powdered seed has been applied as a salve on open sores.

Other Uses

Dye; Essential; Repellent; Tannin. The dried leaves are a source of tannin. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves. The seed powder has been used as a blue body paint. The dried plant repels weevils from stored wheat grain. The seed contains an essential oil.

Notes: Noogoora Burr is often abundant after spring or summer floods. Impedes shearing and is a major cause of vegetable fault in wool. Young plants are more toxic than mature plants; sheep, cattle and pigs are affected; poisoning seldom occurs unless stock are starving. Can cause contact dermatitis in humans and animals. Insects and pathogens, some deliberately introduced, damage Noogoora Burr in Australia.

Moth Plant

Latin Name: Araujia sericifera

Flowers image by Gabriela Ruellan

Flowers image by Gabriela Ruellan

Origin: Paraguay, Uruguay,
S Brazil and NE Argentina

Alternative Name(s): Araujia hortorum, Moth vine

Family: Asclepiadaceae.

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Sandy sea shores.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 0 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Perennial climber with twining stems, climbing to 6 m on supporting vegetation. Leaves oblong to triangular, 3–11 cm long, 1–6 cm wide, base of midrib on upper surface with finger-like small glands; base at right-angles to leaf stalk that is 0.5–4 cm long. Fruit a blue-green pod initially, turning brown and woody with age, splitting to release seeds. Seeds black, numerous, about 4 mm long and ending in a tuft of white silky hairs about 2.5 cm long.
Flowers: White to pale pink in groups of 2–5 in axils of leaves. Flower perfumed, tubular, 0.8–1.4 cm long, 5-lobed, stamens 5. Flowers late spring to autumn.The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies).

Infestation by the Nepean River, NSW

Infestation by the Nepean River, NSW

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by twining habit; milky latex exuded from damaged stems and leaves; leaves opposite, upper surface green with scattered hairs, lower surface blue-green with very short dense covering of hairs and pearshaped fruit 6–12 cm long and 3–7 cm wide.

Dispersal: Spread by wind-blown seeds.

Edible Uses

Fruit – after preparation. No further details are given but the fruit is a long grooved pod 12.5 x 7.5cm, tapering to a fascicle of hairs 2.5cm long.

 

Medicinal Uses

In folk medicine, an infusion made from the leaves and fruits, and a decoction from the roots, are drunk by nursing women in order to increase milk secretion (latex from the plant contains the ‘lab’ ferment). The infusion is drunk immediately; the decoction is often added to the water
for brewing maté. The latex is used as a mouthwash to relieve toothache or to encourage the falling off of teeth (antiodontalgic). In order to stop the spreading of venom, in cases of snakebite, it is recommended to employ the stalks to make tourniquets (Martínez-Crovetto, 1981)

moth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Uses

It is cultivated as an ornamental because of its showy flowers and extended blooming period; it’s easily propagated from seeds and cuttings. The ripe fruits have been cited as edible, being relished by children (Ragonese et Martínez Crovetto, 1947). According to Hieronymus (1930), the Pajagua indians from Paraguay (the Guarani name [for the plant] ‘pajagua tembi’u’ means ‘food of the Pajagua’) eat the fruits after roasting them.

Notes: Garden escape. Climber that smothers shrubs and small trees, depressing their growth. Weed of wasteland and forests adjoining settlement mainly in coastal higher rainfall areas.

Lombardy Poplar

Latin Name: Populus nigra

Adult trees, Bundanon, NSW Origin: Native to Italy

Family: Salicaceae

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Moist ground in woods and by streams.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics:Lombardy poplar is an upright form ofPopulus nigra growing to 25 m in height. It has triangular-shaped dark green leaves which turn a brilliant yellow in late autumn.
Flowers: The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind. The plant not is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife.

Dispersal: They do not produce seed but reproduce by suckers which can form dense copses.

Edible Uses

Inner bark – dried, ground then added to flour and used for making bread etc. A famine food, used when all else fails.

Medicinal Uses

Female flowers by .Bambo.Alterative; Anodyne; Antiinflammatory; Astringent; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Expectorant; Febrifuge; Salve; Stimulant; Tonic; Vulnerary. The leaf buds are covered with a resinous sap that has a strong turpentine odour and a bitter taste. They also contain salicin, a glycoside that probably decomposes into salicylic acid (aspirin) in the body. The buds are antiscorbutic, antiseptic, balsamic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, salve, stimulant, tonic and vulnerary. They are taken internally in the treatment of bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections, stomach and kidney disorders. They should not be prescribed to patients who are sensitive to aspirin. Externally, the buds are used to treat colds, sinusitis, arthritis, rheumatism, muscular pain and dry skin conditions. They can be put in hot water and used as an inhalant to relieve congested nasal passages. The buds are harvested in the spring before they open and are dried for later use. The stem bark is anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic and tonic. The bark contains salicylates, from which the proprietary medicine aspirin is derived. It is used internally in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, lower back pains, urinary complaints, digestive and liver disorders, debility, anorexia, also to reduce fevers and relieve the pain of menstrual cramps. Externally, the bark is used to treat chilblains, haemorrhoids, infected wounds and sprains. The bark is harvested from side branches or coppiced trees and dried for later use.

pop

Other Uses

Cork; Rooting hormone; Shelterbelt; Wood. An extract of the shoots can be used as a rooting hormone for all types of cuttings. It is extracted by soaking the chopped up shoots in cold water for a day. A fast growing tree, it is often used to provide a quick screen or windbreak. The cultivar ‘Italica’ is commonly used for this purpose though it is not a very suitable choice because it has fragile branches and is prone to basal rots which can cause sudden collapse. The cultivar ‘Plantierensis’ is much more suitable. A resin obtained from the buds is made into a salve and used in home remedies. The bark is used as a cork substitute for floats etc. Wood – very soft, very light, rather woolly in texture, without smell or taste, of low flammability, not durable, easy to work, very resistant to abrasion. Used for lower quality purposes.

Notes: Poplars have separate male and female trees and the ones first introduced to the ACT were male.
Lombardy poplar has been widely planted as an ornamental tree in moist sites and beside streams in the ACT. The most significant planting of four trees is in the courtyards of the Senate and the House of Representatives in Old Parliament House. The trees were planted in 1926 but replaced with young trees of the same stock in the late 1900s when the original trees became unsafe.
Lombardy poplar is a weed in South Africa and has formed dense suckering stands in wetlands near Perth. It is one of 49 non-native naturalised species in the Australian flora having a direct impact on rare and threatened species.

Large-leaved Privet

Latin Name: Ligustrum lucidum

Flowering branch. Image from Wikispecies

Flowering branch. Image from Wikispecies

Origin: Native of China.

lternative Name(s): Large-leaved Privet.

Family: Oleaceae.

Known Hazards: The fruit is mildly toxic. Although no other reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, it is quite probable that other parts of the plant also contain toxins.

Habitat: Roadsides and in river valleys.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Shrub or tree to 12 metres tall. Berry 6–8 mm long, purple-black and succulent when ripe. Seeds dark-brown, finely pitted, about 5 mm long. Fruits in autumn and winter.
Flowers: Flowerhead dense, branched (panicle) 15–25 cm long. Flowers fragrant with 4 white petals, each 3–5 mm long. Flowers mostly in summer.The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects

Fruiting adult. Lavander Bay, NSW. Image by Tony

Fruiting adult. Lavander Bay, NSW. Image by Tony

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by plants being hairless; small branches with whitish corky areas—pores in stem—through which gaseous exchange takes place (lenticels); leaves 4–13 cm long, 3–6 cm wide on stalks 1–2 cm long. Leaves ovate to elliptic, leaf edges without teeth or lobes, paler green on lower surface.

Dispersal: Fruit eaten by birds, especially Currawongs, and seeds dispersed in their droppings.

Edible Uses

Young shoots – cooked. A famine food, used when all else fails. The shoots contain a glycoside and are probably toxic.

privet L

Medicinal Uses

Anodyne; Antiseptic; Antitumor; Cardiotonic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Miscellany; Ophthalmic; PectoralTonic; Vulnerary. Chinese privet has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 1,000 years. The fruit is antibacterial, antiseptic, antitumour, cardiotonic, diuretic and tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of complaints associated with weak kidney and liver energy such as menopausal problems (especially premature menopause), blurred vision, cataracts, tinnitus, rheumatic pains, palpitations, backache and insomnia. Modern research has shown that the plant increases the white blood cell count and is of value when used to prevent bone marrow loss in cancer chemotherapy patients, it also has potential in the treatment of AIDS. Extracts of the plant show antitumour activity. Good results have also been achieved when the fruit has been used in treating respiratory tract infections, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease and hepatitis. The fruit is harvested when fully ripe and is dried for later use. It is often decocted with other herbs in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments and also as a general tonic. Some caution is advised in their use, since the fruits are toxic when eaten in quantity. The leaves are anodyne, diaphoretic, febrifuge, pectoral and vulnerary. The bark of the stems is diaphoretic.

Other Uses

Hedge; Wax. A commercial insect wax is produced on the branches as a result of eggs being laid by insects. Another report says that the wax is produced by the plant due to the stimulation of the feeding insects. Yet another report says that the wax is produced by the insects. It is used for candles and as a polish for earthenware pots, book edges etc. The plant can be used as a hedge. It is very amenable to trimming.

Notes: Was cultivated in 1857 at Camden Park, probably as a hedge plant. Now a widespread weed of coastal bush and wasteland; also extending to the western slopes of NSW and adjacent areas in Old. Pollen of this plant is spread by insects and is unlikely to cause allergic reactions in humans. Leaves and berries are suspected of poisoning stock and berries of poisoning children but there is no proof of toxicity. Broad-leaved Privet invades bushland, especially along streams. It effectively stops bank erosion, but outcompetes native streambank vegetation. Pale timber has potential for light furniture manufacture.

Kochia

Latin Name: Bassia scoparia

Image by Aspidoscelis Origin: Native of Europe and Asia.

Alternative Name(s): Kochia scoparia

Family: Chenopodiaceae.

Known Hazards: Plants contain some saponins and should not be eaten in large quantities. Saponins are a toxin found in many of our daily foods such as many beans. They are usually present in quantities too small to be concerned about and are also very poorly absorbed by the body, tending to pass straight through without causing any problems. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Habitat: Roadsides, ditches and wasteland.

Edibility Rating: 2 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 2 (1-5)

Alternative Name(s): Kochia scoparia

Family: Chenopodiaceae.

Known Hazards: Plants contain some saponins and should not be eaten in large quantities. Saponins are a toxin found in many of our daily foods such as many beans. They are usually present in quantities too small to be concerned about and are also very poorly absorbed by the body, tending to pass straight through without causing any problems. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Habitat: Roadsides, ditches and wasteland.

Edibility Rating: 2 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 2 (1-5)

Kochia

Edible Uses

Leaves; Seed. Young leaves – cooked. A delicious taste, they are used as a vegetable. A nutritional analysis is available. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Seed – dried and ground into a powder then mixed with cereals when making bread, biscuits etc. Very small and fiddly to use, it is also not a very reliable crop due to its late season of flowering. On a zero moisture basis, the seed contains 20.4 – 27.5% protein, 8.8 – 16% fat and 3.4 – 9.4% ash.

 

Medicinal Uses

Antibacterial; Antifungal; Antiphlogistic; Astringent; Cardiotonic; Diuretic; Skin. The leaves and fruits are cardiotonic and diuretic. The stems are used in the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea and dyspepsia. The seed is antiphlogistic, astringent and diuretic. It is used to treat skin infections such as eczema ad scabies, and diseases of the urinary tract. The seed contains harmine, which can have adverse effects upon the gastro-intestinal tract and the central nervous system.

Other Uses

The whole plant is used as a broom.

Notes: Introduced to salt affected areas in WA in 1990/91 but spread rapidly to non salt affected areas and roadsides and was considered a threat to cropping. An eradication program began in 1992. Hardy salt tolerant species adapted to arid areas. Useful fodder but contains nitrates. If the plant contains more than 1.5% by dry matter of nitrate it may be toxic. Is an allelopath, i.e. produces substances that suppress plant growth.

Japanese Honeysuckle

Latin Name: Lonicera japonica

Flowers image by Zen

Flowers image by Zen

Origin: China, Japan and Taiwan.

Family: Caprifoliaceae.

Family: Oleaceae.

Known Hazards: The leaves contain saponins. Saponins are quite toxic but are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. They can be found in many common foods such as some beans. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will normally remove most of the saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Habitat: Thickets in hills, mountains. Woods in the mountains and lowlands.

Edibility Rating: 2 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Semi-deciduous scrambling or climbing shrub to 8 m high. Young stems with a covering of short, weak, dense hairs. Leaves opposite with a conspicuous ridge between opposite leaf stalks; ovate to about 7 cm long. Leaves sparsely hairy at first becoming hairless on upper surface with age. Fruit almost globe-shaped, 0.4–1 cm long, shiny black.
Flowers: In pairs, fragrant, white, some burgundy outside, turning cream to pale orange. Flowers mostly spring to autumn. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Moths.

Fruits image by UrticaDistinguishing features: Distinguished by its climbing stems that are covered with dense, short hairs when young. Flower shape (see picture) and lobed leaves of juvenile growth.

Dispersal: Seeds dispersed by water and birds and locally by spreading stems.

Edible Uses

Flowers; Leaves. Leaves – cooked. The parboiled leaves are used as a vegetable. Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity. Flowers – sucked for their sweet nectar, used as a vegetable or made into a syrup and puddings. A tea is made from the leaves, buds and flowers.

japanese

Medicinal Uses

Antibacterial; Antiinflammatory; Antispasmodic; Antiviral; Depurative; Diuretic; Febrifuge. The stems and flower buds are alterative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, depurative, diuretic, febrifuge. The plant is also used to reduce blood pressure. The stems are used internally in the treatment of acute rheumatoid arthritis, mumps and hepatitis. The stems are harvested in the autumn and winter, and are dried for later use. The stems and flowers are used together as an infusion in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections (including pneumonia) and dysentery. An infusion of the flower buds is used in the treatment of a wide range of ailments including syphilitic skin diseases and tumours, bacterial dysentery, colds, enteritis, pain, swellings etc. Experimentally, the flower extracts have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels and are antibacterial, antiviral and tuberculostatic. Externally, the flowers are applied as a wash to skin inflammations, infectious rashes and sores. The flowers are harvested in early morning before they open and are dried for later use. The plant has a similar action to Forsythia suspensa and is usually used in combination with that species to achieve a stronger action. This plant has become a serious weed in many areas of N. America, it might have the potential to be utilized for proven medical purposes.

Other Uses

Basketry; Ground cover; Insecticide. A very vigorous climbing plant, it makes a good dense ground cover plant where it has the space to run over the ground but it will swamp smaller plants. The sub-species L. japonica repens is especially used for this purpose on the continent. The cultivar ‘Halliana’ has also been recommended. This cultivar should be clipped back severely in the spring if it gets untidy, it responds well to such conditions. Plants should be spaced about 1 metre apart each way. The plant is said to be insecticidal. The stems have been used in making baskets.

Notes: Frequently cultivated in gardens and occasionally a serious weed of moist conservation areas.

Horsetail

Latin Name: Equisetum hyemale-Equisetum arvense 

Image by miheco

Image by miheco

Origin: Native of Europe, Asia and North America.

Alternative Name(s): Dutch Rush, Scouring Rush

Family: Equisetaceae.

Known Hazards: Large quantities of the plant can be toxic. This is because it contains the enzyme thiaminase, a substance that can rob the body of the vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase. The plant also contains equisetic acid – see the notes on medicinal uses for more information.

Habitat: Shady streambanks etc, to 500 metres.

Edibility Rating: 2 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 2 (1-5)

Harvest of Horsetails buds. Image by Sogni alPhysical Characteristics: Perennial fern ally with erect unbranched, mostly perennial, stems to 1.2 m high. Stems arise from extensive rhizomes. Stems unbranched, evergreen, 4–6 mm wide, with 8–34 grooves, ridges with two indistinct rows of wart-like structures (tubercles).
Flowers: Fertile stems end in club-shaped groupings of shield-shaped spore-bearing scales

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by hollow (for about half to two-thirds of width), longitudinally grooved, jointed stems with leaves reduced to fused cup-shaped sheaths as long as wide above each joint and with teeth that are soon shed; fertile stems end in club-shaped structures 0.8–1.5 cm long.

Dispersal: Spreads primarily by rhizomes and root pieces.

Confused With: Other Equisetum species, see taxonomic texts for detailed distinguishing features.

Edible Uses

Root; Stem. Strobil (the fertile shoots in spring) – cooked. An asparagus substitute. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Roots – dried and then cooked. A source of starch. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. A further report says that the peeled stems, base of the plant, root and tubers were eaten raw by the N. American Indians, the report went on to say that this may be inadvisable.

horse

Medicinal Uses

Antibacterial; Antiinflammatory; Antispasmodic; Appetizer; Cancer; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Expectorant; Febrifuge; Hypotensive; Styptic. Horsetails have an unusual chemistry compared to most other plants. They are rich in silica, contain several alkaloids (including nicotine) and various minerals. The plant is anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, haemostatic, hypotensive and styptic. It also has an appetite-stimulating effect. The barren stems are used, they are most active when fresh but can also be dried and sometimes the ashes of the pant are used. The plant is a useful diuretic when taken internally and is used in the treatment of kidney and bladder problems. A decoction applied externally will stop the bleeding of wounds and promote healing. The plant contains polyphenolic flavonoids with bactericidal activity.

Other Uses

Dye; Fungicide; Liquid feed; Musical; Paper; Parasiticide; Polish; Sandpaper; Scourer. The stems are very rich in silica. They are used for scouring and polishing metal and as a fine sandpaper. The stems are first bleached by repeated wetting and drying in the sun. They can also be used as a polish for wooden floors and furniture. The infused stem is an effective fungicide against mildew, mint rust and blackspot on roses. It also makes a good liquid feed. Used as a hair rinse it can eliminate fleas, lice and mites. A light pink dye is obtained from the stem. The hollow stems have been used as whistles. Another report says that the stem joints are pulled apart and used by children to produce a whistling sound.

Notes: A garden escape that is extremely difficult to eradicate, especially in rocky soils. Grows mainly in damp places. Outbreaks have been controlled following spread from plantings in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and WA. Plants have a high silicon content and have been used for scouring pots, hence the common name, Scouring Rush.

Honey Locust Tree

Latin Name: Gleditsia triacanthos

Mature Tree, Sydney

Mature Tree, Sydney

Family: Fabaceae or Caesalpiniaceae.

Known Hazards: The plant contains potentially toxic compounds.

Habitat: Usually growing singly, though occasionally forming almost pure woods, on the borders of streams and in rich woods. Usually in moist fertile soils but sometimes on dry sterile gravelly hills.

Edibility Rating: 3 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 2 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Deciduous spreading tree to 25 m high. Leaves to 20 cm long, leaflets elliptic to ovate, hairless, sparsely toothed. Seedpod slightly sickle-shaped, compressed, not opening at maturity, with seeds surrounded by a sweet pulp. Seeds flattened, ovoid, brown, about 10 mm long.
In axillary racemes to 10 cm long, in most cases male and female flowers are on different plants but some plants have bisexual flowers. Sepals and petals similar, brownish-yellow, 3–5 of each. Flowers spring, either as leaves develop or after leaves appear. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by simple or branched spines 2–18 cm long (some cultivars are spineless but some of their offspring are spiny); leaves pinnate or bipinnate, leaflets in 5 to 30 pairs, 1–4 cm long, 0.4–1.2 cm wide; sepals to 4 mm long, petals to 6 mm long, stamens 5–7; seedpod to 45 cm long, 15–30 seeded.

Edible Uses

Illustration from WikispeciesSeed; Seedpod. Seed – raw or cooked. It can contain up to 30% sugar. Young seeds taste like raw peas. Seeds are not always borne in maritime regions because the tree prefers long hot summers. The oval seeds are about 8mm long. They contain 10.6 – 24.1% protein, 0.8 – 4.3% fat, 84.7% carbohydrate, 21.1% fibre, 4% ash, 280mg calcium and 320mg phosphorus per 100g. The seeds have been roasted and used as a coffee substitute. Seedpods – the pulp is sweet and can be eaten raw or made into sugar. The render young seedpods can be cooked and eaten. The pulp in older pods turns bitter. The seedpods are up to 40cm long and 4cm wide. A sweet, pleasant tasting drink can be made from the seed pods. The seed pulp has been used to make a drink.

honey l

Medicinal Uses

Anaesthetic; Antiseptic; Cancer; Stomachic. The pods have been made into a tea for the treatment of indigestion, measles, catarrh etc. The juice of the pods is antiseptic. The pods have been seen as a good antidote for children’s complaints. The alcoholic extract of the fruits of the honey locust, after elimination of tannin, considerably retarded the growth, up to 63% of Ehrlich mouse carcinoma. However, the cytotoxicity of the extract was quite high and the animals, besides losing weight, showed dystrophic changes in their liver and spleen[260]. The alcoholic extract of the fruit exerted moderate oncostatic activity against sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich carcinoma at the total dose 350 mg/kg/body weight/mouse. Weight loss was considerable. An infusion of the bark has been drunk and used as a wash in the treatment of dyspepsia. It has also been used in the treatment of whooping cough, measles, smallpox etc. The twigs and the leaves contain the alkaloids gleditschine and stenocarpine. Stenocarpine has been used as a local anaesthetic whilst gleditschine causes stupor and loss of reflex activity. Current research is examining the leaves as a potential source of anticancer compounds.

Other Uses

Gum; Soil reclamation; Tannin; Wood. Planted for land reclamation on mining waste. The gum from the seeds has been suggested as an emulsifying substitute for acacia and tragacanth. The heartwood contains 4 – 4.8% tannin. Wood – strong, coarse-grained, elastic, very hard, very durable in contact with the soil, highly shock resistant. It does not shrink much but splits rather easily and does not glue well. It weighs 42lb per cubic foot. Largely used for making fence posts and rails, wheel hubs, farm implements etc and in construction.

Notes: Introduced as a fodder tree and cultivated as an ornamental. Pods are first produced when trees are 3–5 years old. Trunk is protected by thorns. Found in dense thickets along watercourses on the central coast, western slopes and tablelands of northern NSW and in south eastern Queensland. Introduced by William Macarthur to ‘Camden Park’, Camden NSW in mid 1800s and now widespread on the floodplain of the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system.