Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Next wonder



Valley Manzanita

This time you are just going to have to go with me on this, or you can research it more if you like, because I don't know any of the newcomer things about this plant, and I have seen it misidentified as Mesquite, and Madrona. So, I'm going to go with my families names for this plant.

We have two kinds of manzanita around here. There is what the old-timers called "Valley Manzanita" and "Mountain manzanita". The valley Manzanita grows mostly on sunny hillsides, and the Mountain Manzanita grows mostly on ridge tops. I guess that was how they were named by the old-timers. I understand that there are many varieties of manzanita but I've only seen the two.

Valley Manzanita has deep green leaves, and when it blooms the blossoms are pink, the bark near the branch ends is smooth. The Mountain Manzanita has grey/green leaves the blossoms are white, and the branch ends are hairy. It is sometimes called "Grey Manzanita" or "Hairy manzanita".

Now that you know that we have two manzanitas the rest of the features are the same. It is an extremely hard wood and the roots sometimes have a great burl. The bark is rich red/maroon and peels off in the summer and it makes a flavorful tea. The bush is low in tannins and makes good non-toxic bird perches. The berries that grow on the bush can be dried and ground into flour. But don't eat too much of it because it doesn't pass well, and can leave you quite constipated. Eat it with other things, like acorn muffins and wild strawberries.

The manzanita was one of the most important plants to the north coast old-timers, it was the only plant that we have that burns as hot as it does. It burns even hotter than Madrone. It was used in the forges that were used by the blacksmiths that lived here in the early days. It saved them many hours of heating iron to shoe horses. Most of the gate hinges and latches on my grandmothers ranch in Laytonville were forged in my grandfathers old hand crank forge fired with manzanita. It was seldom used as firewood because it burned to hot, and would burn the grates right out of a stove.

One of the things that the old-timers said about manzanita is that the seeds will only spout after being cracked open by a fire or eaten by a bear. I guess that's what you'd call "hard to get".

The Blossoms of both plants are very sweet with nectar, I often will eat a handful of blossoms, it brings back sweet memories. Often I have to find a plant that isn't infested with ants that are also after the nectar. Eat your heart out Eule Gibbons.

The next time that you are out for a drive and see a manzanita bush, stop and impress your children with your knowledge of nature. Just walk up to the bush and pull down a branch end and look at it. If it has hairs on it, it is a Mountain Manzanita. If it is smooth, it is a Valley Manzanita.

Then tell them why this was an important plant to Ernie's Grandparents.

10 comments:

Robin Shelley said...

Most old timers I knew considered manzanita a nuisance plant but it's one of the bushes I miss having on my own place in my new state. I always thought it was a pretty bush & I remember munching on the "sour apple" seeds when I was a kid... & occasionally as an adult for old time's sake!
There's something similar here but I don't know exactly what it is yet... maybe one of those varieties you (& I) have never seen. The blossoms aren't quite as pink as what I remember from CA & I haven't been here long enough to see it go to seed.
Thanks for the info, Ernie.

lodgepole said...

Thanks for the info Ernie, I didn't know that. Now that you mention it, it seems like most of the bear sh*t I see primarily consists of those little berry seeds.

Kym said...

I've never heard of eating the blossoms! I can't wait to try it. I have been known to mistake madrone for manzanita when I'm not thinking. They both have red peely bark and burn hot but that is about the only thing they have in common.

Anonymous said...

When I was a "newcomer" in 1972 I had a little tin stove in my Alderpoint cabin. One day I loaded it up with manzanita and burned out the sides of the stove. Hot coals were falling on the floor and I had to fetch a pot of water to douse it.
-Frank

Anonymous said...

I sometimes eat the berries and made tea from the berries too. I got that idea from my mother.

Jim

clarissa said...

Now, I didn't know about the two sorts of manzanita. Thanks for the information--these are beautiful plants. The honeybees seem to love them about as much as I do.

And thanks for the Trillium post!

How about the madrone trees. I think they were one of the first things that impressed and amazed me when I moved up here, after I recovered from going around staring straight up to the tops of the redwood trees. I remember an oldtimer telling me I'd get used to them--but I never have. Both trees are still wonders.
And the dogwoods. Nothing prettier than a big dogwood tree at the edge of the woods, all in bloom.

EkoVox said...

When I was growing up in Eastern Humboldt, we had a huge manzanita patch growing on our property. Probably close to a full acre.

My father had a hankering to put in a peach orchard where the manzanita stood. Off he went.

We cut and burned and cut and burned and pulled the stumps with a Jeep and cleared the property of manzanita trees. As he put in peach trees to replace them the sprouts of the manzanita would pop up. Not wanting competing trees, he paid us a penny a piece to pull up the sprouts. Wow, were they touch to pull up.

As kids we used to play all through the manzanita. They weren't big enough to build tree forts in, but they were fun to run around in.

Yes, we ate the mini "apples". Tart, very tart.

When the peach orchard became a going concern, it came time to name it. Looking back to our youth, one of the neighbor kids used to call the manzanita patch, "the Maxanita patch" My folks' names were Max and Nita. So fittingly as both a tribute to their names and the tree that once grew in it's place, the orchard was named The Maxanita Orchard.

There still is a large patch across the road from my folks place. And Knowing the tenacity of this particular tree, it will always remain on the property.

EkoVox said...

Ernie....any sign of the package I mailed to you now over a week ago?

Somehow I believe the US Mail may have lost it. And I'm not real happy about that.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Eko
If you can describe how it was addressed, and what it would look like we will pester the post office. But we can’t find anything at the store. We are going to empty the trash bin, because it has been here since Tuesday trash day. In case it got thrown out with the three tons of junk mail that we get. But, right now everybody is saying “What are we looking for again?”.

I’ll probably find it buried on my wife’ desk. But right now the whole crew want's to know "Exactly what they are looking for".

Sorry, Ernie

I have to admit that I'm on pin's and needles...

Ernie Branscomb said...

Eko
The package that you sent me on the 15th of April United States Postal Service, just came in the door at 11:00am sharp!

I am on my way to anxiously open it. (They said it wasn’t ticking).

Some info for ya’ll… Next time give the package to Ralph and tell him to take it to Fred, tell Fred to get it to Elaine and tell her to give it to her husband to take it to work and have George bring it to Garberville. I usually get packages within three days that way.

Thank-you in advance….

Ernie

I know that everyone on the newfangled party-line has been anxiously wondering when I would get the package, so I have to go post in a few other party-lines that I got it!

Thanks again.