Friday, December 25, 2009

Native Plants of Southern Nevada

Creosote Bush, leavesThe book Native Plants Of Southern Nevada
by David Rhode
is a real find and a help during a ride in the desert. I ran across this book a couple of years ago and the man really knows his stuff!

Most of the time for the past several months the book has set by my computer while I've been updating the Offroading Home website; but, it is really handy as a field guide to help you identify and understand the plants in this area of the desert around Mesquite Nevada as you ride.

For example, you almost can't spit around here without hitting Larrea tridentata, or "ya'tam'pi"… as the Southern Paiutes call it – a scruffy looking bush or plant known to most of us as Creosote.

Also known as Chaparral, it has quite a bit of notoriety and lore surrounding it. It was felt by early native americans to have cancer curing properties; so, in the frequent doctor-distrusting manner of ill-informed health secret-keepers, it became the: "sure-fire cancer treatment your doctor doesn't want you to know about."

Thought to be an anti-oxidant, it has been found to have some cytotoxic properties (cell killing) and, therefore, is inhibitory to some forms of cancer cells. HOWEVER, it kills your liver cells!

It is very toxic to human liver cells and its ingestion is linked to such a higher incidence of liver cancer that the U.S. FDA has issued warnings against its internal use.

When asked by an anthropologist what the indians called America before the white man came, an indian said simply: 'ours.'”
Father Andrew SDC

If your doctor doesn't tell you about it then you must not have asked – and why would he think that you'd be drinking something that smells and tastes like a kerosene deriviative you would use to start a fire or paint your house?

There are some interesting things however that you can tell whoever you ride with to impress them. It is one of the longest-lived plants known. One still living plant has been carbon dated to over 11,000 years old! This is because when it dies out in the center, it clones itself into an expanding cluster.

Its true importance to Native Americans has mostly been for construction products, fuel and other utilitarian articles. It's lac (sticky exudate made from sap by insects) is a waterproofing and glue.

Powder made from some dry parts of the plant have been used as a bath suppliment for aches and pains and, unfortunately, as a patent-medicine-type 'cure all' for nearly everthing from chicken pox to venereal disease to cramps.

But mostly, its hard wood makes a great fire and its smoke was used as a fumigant for hogans where there has been illness and the bedding/clothing of newborns, as well as for prayer purposes during religious ceremonies.

If you would like to obtain a copy of this book, written by a native american etho-botanist and filled with full color photos to aid plant identification, I would request that you use this link: Native Plants Of Southern Nevada because, although it won't cost you any more from Amazon, I will recieve a few cents to help keep the web sites open.


Desert Walker said...

A big thanks! I got the Native Plants of Southern Nevada, and Afoot and Afield.
Wonderful COLOR pictures of the plants, and descriptions, history and uses by native people, including historical photographs, (one showing a woman using a winnowing basket, just like the one my mother left me). This is just the thing to go back through all my photos and identify the plants, some not listed in the Audubon book we have been using.
Great suggested reading and reference book!

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I will, of course, be moderating all comments to make sure (a) they conform to the standards of good taste set forth by Offroading Home; and (b) nope that's pretty much it.