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Leatherwood Flowering

4-24-17 leatherwood 035

Leatherwood (Dirca palustris) is a slow-growing, deciduous shrub that is present but relatively uncommon in the Northeast. In the spring, as early as March in southern New England, its tiny, bell-shaped yellow flowers burst into bloom. The leaf buds have yet to open when this happens, so even though the flowering season is short, these shrubs and their flowers are very noticeable.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Leatherwood is its tough, elastic, and very strong bark for which it was named. Its twigs are pliable to the point where you can almost bend them in half without breaking them. Native Americans recognized these qualities and used the bark for making bow strings, baskets, fishing line and rope.

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3 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    That is so interesting…wish I’d seen that! Will stay on the lookout!

    April 24, 2017 at 8:26 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    I just re-read your post…(besides the fact that I wanted to be an Indian, when I was younger, I had moccasins & wove with beads & you could live outside) …Native Americans were so resourceful, creative with what they found around them, knowledgeable & had amazing survival instincts. They knew what was useable or edible.

    April 24, 2017 at 2:48 pm

  3. We’re on the same wavelength this week. I was just this week digging around for Thoreau’s journal and letter references to his leatherwood finds during his one trip to Brattleboro. This plant was the Holy Grail for my father-in-law who sent me out looking for it many times in Marlboro, VT. Didn’t find it 40 years ago, but hope to resume the quest after we move back there this summer. Great photos, thanks.

    April 26, 2017 at 10:24 pm

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