Bayberries Cashews And Corkwood

The Myricaceae, Anacardiaceae, and Leimeriaceae represent three botanical orders. Together, they include ten of Florida's tree species.

The Bay berries

The Myricaceae, or bay berry family, is a small, ancient family of only three genera and about 50, usually aromatic, species. Fossil records date the family to at least the Late Cretaceous period, or about 100 million years ago. Members of the family were apparently more numerous then and their distribution more widespread. Poday, the family is composed primarily of trees and shrubs of midtcmperate to subtropical distribution- Two genera are represented in the southeastern United Stales; only one genus with three species is found in Florida.

The wax myrtle or southern bayberry (Myrica ce rife rah our most common member of this genus, occurs in many situations across the state including flatwoods, titi swamps, upland forests, and secondary wood lands, as well as the edges of saltwater environments. So varied are the habitats in which it thrives that it often seems the most omnipresent of our native flora, its leaves are narrow at their bases and longer than wide. They are 3 to 15 cm long, irregularly toothed above the middle, and contain brownish orange dots in small depressions scattered across both their upper and lower surfaces.

The bay berry (A/, heteraphylb) is very similar to the wax myrtle in appearance. However, it is more limited in habitat preference and is common in Florida only in wetlands, flatwoods* and titi and bay swamp communities of the northern part of the state. The leaves of this species tend to be wider and less tapered than the wax myrtle, and the leaf lobes less pointed. One diagnostic difference between the two lies in the brownish dots scattered across the leaf surfaces. On the wax myrtle these dots are on both the upper and lower surfaces; on M. heterophyllat the dots are usually restricted to the lower surface. The leaves of both species are aromatic when crushed and give off a faint bayberry odor.

Our third member of the genus Myrica exhibits neither the fragrant foliage nor the wider range of the other two species. While those above enjoy a rather wide distribution across the southeastern coastal plain from New Jersey southward, the odorless bayberry (M inodora) is limited to and found sparingly in Florida, Louisiana, At-abama, and Mississippi, In the Sunshine State it is restricted exclusively to the panhandle from about Leon and Wakulla counties westward. It, too, is a tree of bay swamps and bogs but is less common than its two relatives. The odorless bayberry has shiny green leaves with smooth edges and gray, smooth bark The distinctive fruit of the species is black, round, less than 7 mm in diameter, and is covered with raised dots that give it a sand papery appearance.

t he wax myrtles are well-known species with a long history of popular ami practical uses. Early colonists gathered the berries of these common plants and melted down their waxy coatings to produce delicate but fragrant candles. Today, the southern wax myrtle is often seen cultivated as a hedge along suburban lot lines.

Although bay berries most often grow; as shrubs, they have the potential to become small trees, and specimens as tali as 13 m are known. Many of Florida's plants, however, do not exceed 6 m in height.

The Cashews

The Anacardiaceae, or cashew family, is weli known for a large number of species with significant commercial value. The family is an important source of nuts, including the cashew and pistachio; of fruits, including the mango; and a host of other products such as dyes, lacquers, tannins, waxes, resins, varnishes, and timber

In addition, the family is also well known for its numerous species with poisonous qualities. The most famous of these are probably poison ivy {Toxicodendron radicals), poison oak (7\ toxicariumh and poison sumac (T, remix)* However, the family also includes south Florida's poison wood (Metopium toxiferum), and mango (Mangifera indica). liven the rind of the mango causes a contact dermatitis in some individuals, and many people must have the fruit washed and peeled by someone w ho is not susceptible to the poison, It is known that many of the mango's wild relatives, w hich are commonly cultivated in Malaysia, are definitely poisonous,

Six tree-sized Anacardiaceae species in Five genera occur in Florida, Only four of these are native to the state.

Ihree species in two genera bear the common name sumac. The winged, or shining, sumac (Rhus copatUna) is the most widespread of the three and is found throughout the state, w ith the exception of the Keys, It is a fast-growing species that volunteers readily in a variety of circumstances, including suburban lawns and woodlands. It is most often recognized by the dense* conspicuous, terminal clusters of dark red fruit that matures in laic summer and early fall The plant is also an important wildlife food for a variety of animals. The fruits are consumed by a host of bird species, the leaves are savored by white tailed deer, and the bark and branchlets are eaten by rabbits.. It b most easily distinguished by its compound leaf with a winged rachis and its leaflets numbering more than nine,

The smooth sumac (ft glabra) is a close relative of the shining sumac. It, too, has compound leaves but lacks the winged rachis, The smooth sumac is found only in the central panhandle and, like its relative above, is a favored food of wildlife.

The poison sumac is the third Florida species referred to as sumac, It, too, was once assigned to the genus Rhus but, like its close relatives, poison oak and poison ivy, has been assigned to the genus Toxicodendron. Unlike the other sumacs, the poison sumac has whitef waxy fruit rather than red fruit. It is generally distributed w idely over the eastern United Slates but is found sparingly in Florida only in the northern panhandle and northeastern part of the state. It is another important wildlife food, but the oils that exude from all parts of the plant can cause a severe rash in humans.

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