Dirca palustris L. - Leatherwood

Dirca palustris plant

Family - Thymelaeaceae

Stems - Woody shrub to 2m tall, freely branching. Twigs jointed, glabrous, expanding at nodes and buds, flexible. Each node typically with a small spur. Plants rarely found with stems over 6cm in diameter.

Leaves - Alternate, short-petiolate, deciduous. Petioles to +2mm long, pubescent, concealing next season buds. Blades to +8cm long, +6cm broad, elliptic to obovate, entire, lanose at anthesis, becoming glabrous with age.

Dirca palustris leaves

Inflorescence - Typically 2-3 in a terminal cluster, appearing with the new leaves. Pedicels to 3mm long, glabrous.

Flowers - Floral tube 9-10mm long, greenish-yellow, glabrous. Stamens 8, exserted, adnate in the upper half of the corolla tube. Filaments to 3mm long, glabrous, brownish. Anthers orange, .6mm long. Ovary superior, green, ovoid, glabrous, 2.1mm long, 1.2mm i diameter, with a single ovule. Style glabrous, well exserted, 1cm long, white. Stigma small, purplish. Drupes green to purple, to 8mm long.

Dirca palustris flowers

Flowering - March - April.

Habitat - Low wet woods, streambanks, rich wooded slopes.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - Dirca palustris can be found mainly in the Ozark region of Missouri but is also found in a few northern counties. This species is extremely slow growing and Steyermark states that a plant with a trunk 5cm in diameter may be over 100 years old.
The plant has been cultivated for many years and was used extensively by natives in the U.S.
D. palustris is an emetic and can be toxic if used in large quantities. Some people are allergic to the bark. The fruit is believed to be a narcotic.
"palustris" means "growing in a swamp" and the plant does grow in moist to wet soil.

Photographs taken in the Hercules Glade Wilderness, Mark Twain National Forest, Taney County, MO., 4-8-01.


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