Friday, April 27, 2012

"The Things That Grow" #1 - Creosote Bush.

Howdy once more friends,

 Today I want to introduce you to a new series of articles I will write based on "Things That Grow". Do not worry I am not making this a nature blog but I think it's important to educate ourselves and our little wizards about our natural world. Sometimes I may choose a subject that has a relation to Wizard101 or Pirate101 sometimes though it will just be information for you. So without further ado I present a plant that is dear to my heart and all who dwell in the Deserts of the American Southwest!

The Creosote Bush!

Latin name: Larrea Tridentata 
Common names: Creosote Bush (Arizona), Little stinker (Arizona), The Rain Plant (Arizona), Goberndora (Mexico), Hediondill (Sonora; same as English name "Little Stinker"), Greasewood.
Kingdom: Plantae
Plant Family: Zygophyllaceae (Bean-Caper, Caltrop)

The Science Scoop:

  The Creosote Bush (Pronounced: : cree'-uh-sote.) or as I like to call it; "The Rain Plant" is a flowering plant that thrives in 3 of the 4 North American deserts. It's a Shrub and likes water but doesn't need it all the time in fact it can survive 2 years without a single insane is that? However it doesn't like high elevations meaning as you go up and up you won't find these hardy long-lived plants. They are a common sight in Arizona but can be found in California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Mexico, and West Texas.

  These plants are extremely hardy and can live on average for a 100 years or more. In fact there is a Creosote Bush ring in California called  "King Clone" that is estimated to be 11,700 years old! There is another claim to another Creosote ring in California that is estimated to be 12,000 yrs old making them some of the oldest known organisms alive today! They also grow big up to 15 ft and can be like the "King Clone" specimen several yards in diameter (King Clone's ring is 45 ft wide!). So when your in the desert be careful what you cut down or step on a small one only 1 ft high can already be 10 years old or part of a great older ring!

  Although the Creosote grows fruit (Don't eat it! it's gross! it's fuzzy!) and seeds like any other normal plant most of the seeds have a hard time germinating (growing). This is due to the fact the Creosote Bush as a extreme survivor has adapted so well to absorbing whatever water it can get it can kill off it's own seeds and any other plants nearby because there is no water for them to even START growing making them top dogs or erm plants in the desert. They also have a waxy coating on their leaves that helps them preserve water! This is where us as humans need to be careful! A region that of Creosote plants torn down for housing or any other human development definitely cripples the habitat. As mentioned before it's hard for them to come back due to competition from other plants once the plant is removed (Creosote's natural competitor is the Bursage) and Creosote when young need plenty of water to grow which is why germination takes place during wet seasons.

   Another cool thing about these plants is the fact when it gets older (Between 30-90 yrs old and higher) it clones itself from it's crown root as older branches die out news ones form a new plant continuously from the same seed/roots! It is a common sight to see a Creosote with strong branches and green leaves up top and dead branches near the bottom. (Image above) They are also important that many species of animals only feed or live on them such as Millipedes, Beetles, Carpenter Bees, Pocket Mice, and Kangaroo Rats! However it's leaves which taste horrible are hardly ever eaten by any animal the only known animal to eat the leaves are Jack Rabbits and it's reputed that they only do so when there is nothing else to eat! Ok! Ok! if you didn't take the hint in that sentence earlier I have nibbled on the leaves of a Rain Plant before 4 words describe it. IT. IS. EXTREMELY. BITTER.

The Native Use.

   That last note now brings us to the folklore, native, and medicinal uses for the Creosote or as it is known when used a medicinal herb as Chaparral (although this name doesn't apply to the plant). For hundreds of years it has been used a medicinal herb at first it was a "cure-all" but as time went by it came to used specifically for menstrual cramps, cuts, flu, stomach cramps, cancer, coughs, colds, and congestion. It is a known scientific fact that the Creosote Bush contains Nordihydroguaiaretic acid which may explain why the plant lives so long and why it's good as an antiseptic. They even tested NGDA on Mosquitoes and on average the Mosquitoes fed NDGA lived 50% more longer than ones who weren't fed NDGA. (Thank god they did that...that is a long name to pronounce).

   In the desert regions the plant is known as "The Rain Plant" as when water touches it's leaves the waxing coating volatilizes with the water to create a unique smell. For many years Native Americans and anyone who settled in The West knew that if one smelt the Creosote it meant one absolutely great thing! RAIN! and let me tell you that rings true today as it did back in the old days. I love to go outside after and sometimes during a Monsoon storm to smell the air. For many of us in the desert we like to call it "The Heavenly Smell of Rain" or "Essence of the Desert". Although not everyone agrees with us which is why the Spanish word Hediondilla came into being it means "Little Stinker".

  It can also be made into a tea which is said like practical applications to help the body and is currently being tested as an Anti-Cancer drug. Although herbalists today discourage using the plant in large amounts as it is said to damage the Liver and Kidneys. Never eat any of the plant! Only drink small cups! Natives also at one point use to smoke the gall of the plant like Tobacco. Eww must taste like junk smoking is a bad habit anyway!

 I hope everyone enjoyed this edition of "Things That Grow", I hope it was informative, and you most importantly learned something cool about our natural world. Hey who knows you might have a new appreciation for that Rain Plant growing in your backyard.  This is my first go at this type of article and I hope I didn't bore everyone. I think it's important that we as humans who have the biggest impact on our world are reminded of how awesome our world is. I have also left links below as references if you'd like to read more on the plants themselves and see where I got some of my facts.

Until next time your friend,
Alric Ravensinger
Captain Justininao


[1] - Tucson Citizen, The Creosote Bush, A Desert Survivor
[2] - National Park Service, Creosote Bush
[3] - Anna's Bee World, Bee Realtor, Bee's habitats (Credit for 2nd Image)
[4] - Wikipedia, Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid

Further reading concerning The Native Legends of the Creosote;
[1] - Texas Beyond History, The Creosote, Pima and Tohono O’odham Legends

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