Botany for the Real World
Contact Us | Encyclopedia Order Form
 
A Short Quiz on Useful Wild Plants
 
[ Agarita, Barberry / Berberis trifoliolata ]
The Questions
  1. What do lipstick, World War I campaign tents, and shoe polish have in common?

  2. The wood of this tree is one of the finest anywhere in the world for making bows and was prized by Native Americans for this. It is amazingly durable and decay-resistant. Paving blocks (as paved the downtown streets of old Fort Worth) made of it can last 50 years or more. One name refers to its use for bows, another to the color of the wood and the Indians who used it for bows. What are they?

  3. This juicy plant thrives in the heat of summer and grows out of the cracks in city sidewalks. It is sold in Mexican and Asian markets as a vegetable. What is it?

  4. You just noticed that the mustang grapes you've been picking are entwined with poison ivy. You've never broken out before so you keep picking. But should you be concerned this time?

  5. Even though this plant has delicious leaves with more Vitamin A than spinach or broccoli, to most people it's a no-good weed to be mercilessly hoed out of the garden. The seeds of one of its relatives were a staple food of the Aztecs. What is it?

  6. The Texas shrub called agarita (Berberis trifoliolata) produces delicious red fruits in late spring. Its yellow roots helped equip World War II paratroopers. How?

  7. One U.S. president was also a great plantsman. Who said "The greatest service which can be given any country is to add a useful plant to its culture?"

  8. You are curious about the plants in your own backyard and want to know more about them. What can you do?
 
  The Answers
  1. Euphorbia antisyphillitica, the candelilla plant of Big Bend and northern Mexico. The wax that coats its stems has a melting point of about 150 degrees F (higher than body temperature, so it doesn't melt when used in lipstick and mascara), and it will waterproof tent canvas and shoe leather.

  2. Bois d'arc (sometimes pronounced bodark or boardark) means "wood of the bow." Osage orange is another common name. Osage refers to the Osage Indians who traded this prized bow wood to other tribes. Orange comes from the color of the wood (which was used to dye uniforms khaki color in World War I), not from the shape and size of the fruit. Maclura pomifera is actually in the mulberry family and is not related to the citrus family.

  3. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It loves heat and needs very little water.

  4. Yes. Sensitivity to poison ivy can change suddenly and it's a rude shock when it does. The oil on the surface of the leaf contains urishiol, which takes only a few seconds to bind with skin proteins and then can't be washed off. Blisters form several days later.

  5. Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album and C. berlandieri). These two very similar species (except C. berlandieri smells, but does not taste, like dirty gym socks) are "camp followers," and move with people from site to site and thrive in disturbed soil (like a building site or garden). Keep it. It's great.

  6. The bright yellow roots were used to dye silk parachutes. San Antonio dairy farmers supplied much of the raw materials, collecting roots from fence rows outside of town. Parachutes for different drops were color-coded to indicate whether they contained equipment, supplies, food, or ammunition, and agarita provided the yellow.

  7. Thomas Jefferson - farmer, architect, and president - said it.

  8. Read up on them in the Useful Wild Plants of Texas, the Southeastern and Southwestern United States, the Southern Plains, and Northern Mexico. It includes information from around the world, color photographs, and distribution maps for over 4,000 useful plants. Volume 1, covering Abronia to Arundo, and Volume 2, covering Asclepias to Canavalia, are available now. Visit the Encyclopedia page for more information.
 
     
 

Home | Membership | Encyclopedia | Newsletter | Weedfeed | Volunteer | Plant Quiz
 
Copyright 2005, Useful Wild Plants, Inc.