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Very interesting looking, fast growing, beautiful shade tree, the Ombu can be found in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. It is uniquely swollen at the base, which may grow to 12 ft in diameter, spreading above the ground so that the tree appears to be standing on a mound. The trunk and branches contain up to 80 percent of water.
It is a fast-growing and long-lived evergreen tree with a domed crown. Its height can reach 40 to 60ft. It grows rapidly and is nearly indestructible. Its wood is soft and spongy, soft enough to be cut with a regular knife. The Ombu often has multiple trunks. Its sap is poisonous, therefore the bush is not browsed by cattle. It is also immune to locusts and other pests. It has greenish-white flowers that grow in long clusters. These clusters droop from the weight of the crimson, ripe berries that develop from these flowers.
The Ombu's massive, fire resistant trunks contain water storage tissue, an excellent adaptation for intense grassland fires which are common in its natural region. The trees have enlarged bases in which they store water. An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils, though preferring a moisture retentive fertile soil in full sun or partial shade. This species tolerates temperatures down to 15F. It does not need much water considering there is only 10-30 in of rainfall a year in its natural habitat.
The tree is sometimes harvested from the wild as a source of food, medicines and other commodities. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant, capable of providing an excellent shade in areas where other trees will not grow.
Close relative of Piper methysticum (Kava-Kava), and Piper nigrum (Black Pepper), this herb originated from Tropical America and grows also in the South Pacific. Large-leaved perennial, known for its leaves, which are used for their spicy aromatic scent and flavor, some liken to root beer, others to anise-clove. This species is easily identified by its huge leaves which can grow over a foot long in older specimens. Plants will grow out from roots so it can spread in ideal conditions. Flowers are long, skinny, white, and fuzzy looking. They may be borne in season. The plant doesn't usually form many fruits outside of its native range. The leaves are chopped and used for flavoring, as well as used whole, as wrappings for meats, tamales, etc.
P. auritum is very often confused with Piper methysticum (Kava-Kava), and probably has some similar effects. According to other sources, it can be poisonous. Explorer Captain James Cook, who gave this plant the botanical name of "intoxicating pepper", first discovered the true kava kava. Kava has been used for over 3,000 years for its medicinal effects as a sedative, muscle relaxant, diuretic, and as a remedy for nervousness and insomnia. It has been used in parts of the Pacific at traditional social gatherings as a relaxant and in cultural and religious ceremonies to achieve a higher level of consciousness. The roots can be made into a mildly narcotic beverage that is comparable to popular cocktails in our culture. Kava is now recognized by many doctors as an alternative to drugs like Xanax and Valium.
See Article about this plant.
Plants tolerate much wetter conditions in cultivation than they experience in their native habitat.
A pretty subscandent perennial shrub with semi-woody striate stems and flexible branches; leaves simple, alternate, oblong, short-cuneate at the base passing into a very short amplexicaul, exauriculate, reddish periole; flowers bright red, in long terminal spikes. Root contains Plumbagin, sitosteraol glocoside. It is used gastric stimulant and appetizer; in large doses it is acro-narcotic poison. Locally it is vasicant. It has a specific action on the uterus. Root is said to increase the digestive power and promote appetite. Plumbagin stimulates the central nervous system in small doses, while with larger doses paralysis sets in leading ultimately to death. The blood pressure shows a slight fall. Plumbagin is a powerful irritant and has well marked antiseptic properties. In small doses, the drug is a sudorific; large doses cause death from respiratory failure. It is suggested that the action is probably due to the direct effect of the drug on the muscles. A liniment made from bruised root mixed with a little bland oil is used as a rubefacient in rheumatism, paralytic affections, in enlarged glands, buboes etc. Caution: Do not use when pregnant; use only in small doses. It can cause abortion. Taken in large doses, this herb can cause paralysis leading ultimately to death.
Delicate vine with unusually colored flowers: greenish-yellow with fluorescent glow. Very cold sensitive.