Prickly Ash

I was pleasantly surprised to find this specimen in the 1968 Collection.  I don't remember Prickly Ash as a plant of my youth, but it is one of my favorites from my time spent in Central Texas.  You may know it as ToothAche Tree,  a name that honors the medicinal value of chewing a leaf. Decoctions of the bark are also medicinal. It's a lovely small tree, with lots of useful properties - just the thing to win a place in my heart.  In the 80's I ran with a pack of native plant enthusiasts from in and around Austin.  My story about the Prickly Ash is from a hike led by one of my buddies at the Wild Basin Nature Preserve - an Austin urban oasis.  Judy was leading a public tour of perhaps 30 people and I had come along for the opportunity to spend a Saturday morning in the woods.

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We came across a Prickly Ash and Judy duly explained to the group that chewing a leaf would numb the mouth.  The tree also had some unripe fruit, and I asked if the fruit had any particular value.  Judy said she didn't know, and I did the only thing any self-respecting plant adventurer would do - I popped one in my mouth and starting chewing.  I immediately began to salivate like a mad dog.  Judy knew me too well to become alarmed as I spit and hacked.  But I might as well have been a mad dog as far as the other hikers were concerned.  They politely and discreetly moved away and ahead down the trail, avoiding eye contact.  I foamed at the mouth for a good 20 minutes and firmly secured my reputation as a complete weirdo.