It’s a wild, wild world out there. North America is known as a melting pot. Many of our best-known plants traveled here from abroad, from England to Japan to Africa. But there’s quite a lot of flora that’s actually native to the continent and has been used for centuries by Native Americans.
Want to trace your roots? Here are three native American plants that you should familiarize yourself with this summer.
1. Evening Fragrance
Evening Fragrance is a poetic name for a beautiful bloom, a variety of datura.
As the name implies, this trumpet-like perennial is a night bloomer. It’s a lot like moonflower, which only blooms at night or on cloudy days.
That said, it’s also quite invasive and is skilled at self-seeding. This makes it an enemy to farmers – in fact, it’s prohibited in several states for conservation reasons.
Datura has a long history of use in Native American clairvoyance rituals or rites of spiritual passage. It has hallucinogenic properties similar to nightshade. Don’t try to replicate those Native American rituals at home – datura is highly toxic and can create hallucinations, extreme confusion, hysteria, and death.
Seriously, that should have been obvious when we said it’s chemically similar to nightshade, the A-lister of deadly plants.
2. White Sage
On a less toxic note, another native North American plant is white sage.
If you run in witchy or pagan circles, you’re probably familiar with white sage – it’s widely used to purify a space of negative influences, particularly before rituals. In those cases, the herb is dried to create a smudge stick.
For those who are a bit more mainstream, white sage is an evergreen perennial shrub native to the southwest United States and northwest Mexico. It’s also antibacterial and a natural decongestant.
It’s actually quite soothing for indigestion and sore throats. If you needed a reason to plant some white sage in your garden, this is it!
Yaupon is America’s great, tragically forgotten tea plant.
Yaupon holly is a small evergreen tree that grows along the southern coast of the United States. Its name means “little tree” in Catawban and was packaged, dried and shipped by Native American traders all the way to Cahokia.
What’s the buzz about?
Yaupon was used in a variety of ways (including purification rituals) but one of its more popular uses was as a key beverage ingredient. Tea brewed from the leaves, much like coffee and tea, is rich in antioxidants.
It’s also the only native American plant that naturally contains caffeine.
Want to learn more about Yaupon? Check out this post, Yaupon: Americas Forgotten Plant.
Learning About Native American Plants?
From tea to good old fashioned window gardens, there are all sorts of options out there for those with a green thumb and willingness to dig in the dirt. Don’t let these wild, native American plants deter you. There are plenty of common, low-maintenance plants you can add to your garden.
If you’re looking to learn more about this wild continent of ours, check out our blog for all kinds of cool stuff, whether you’re a magazine-ready urbanite or someone who yearns to become one with Mother Nature.