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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  December 25, 2014 1:37am-2:03am EST

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we would like to tell you about some of our other programs. join us saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern for a look at history bookshelf. watch as the best known american history writers of the past decade talk about their books. that's history bookshelf every saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3. each week american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places. from the founding of the united states, george washington encouraged the creation of a garden in the nation's capital that would inspire and educate citizens on plants and their uses. this vision was realized in 1820 when congress created the u.s. bow tannic garden on the capital grounds. the most recent addition, the national garden, features plants of the mid-atlantic.
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plant occur ator explained the history and use of some of the plants by native americans and others. >> welcome to the national garden. this is the most recent garden to open on our property. it opened in 2006. it's a wonderful place to look at native plants. bus that's n but that's not where it got its start. it got its beginning when the rose became our national floral emblem in the 1980s. shortly after that, the senate wives committee started looking for a way to commemorate the rose. they noted this land had been vacant. it had some grass, a broken irrigation system, a few trees but nothing formal. so they set about privately raising money to build a garden
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on this site. it took quite a few years, fund-raising ban in the '90s and in 2006 it opened. there was a design competition held for almothe elements of th garden. they left a large space in the middle that we see here. this is the heart of the national garden. this is the regional native plant garden. i have worked here since 1986. 19 years as a gardner and since 2005 as the curator. i oversee our plant content and have to say that native plants are a specialty of mine. i'm happy to show you around. as we enter the regional garden, you are actually walking on a pathway that has two different soils, one on either side. the reason we chose to portray these two different soils is because washington, d.c. lies on the fall line, the fall line is
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a rough divide between the piedmont, which is to the north and west, it's rocky and hilly, the foothills of the appalachian mountains. to the east is the coastal plain with flat soil with material from the rivers and overlaid with marine deposits. it's very loose, sandy and a bit different from the hard soil of the piedmont. some of the coastal plants that we show are things like the wax myrtle. if you go north, you will find more and more bayberry, which is its cousin. both of them are famous for making waxy fruit. bayberry and max myrtle got their name from early use. there was no electricity there. so they were boiled. the wax would come to the top of the pot. they would skim that off and make candles. this was a source of light in
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our early days. it's very air mattic and actually sometimes the foliage is used as a pun gent seasoning in some dishes. watch myrtle and bayberry very important. the nice part about it is it smells pleasant. so bayberry candles have been a standard associated with new england, perhaps. there are lots of golden rods native in the united states. the odor part of it comes from the fact that the foliage is scented of licorice. this was actually made into an herbal tea and exported until the 1930s, even to china. actually, it's got a little bit of history because after the revolution and the boston tea party, americans looked for native sources for herbal beverages. this was one of the favorites. what you were doing was copying
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the native americans who had discovered it was tasty, very nice for the stomach. so they use it to get down harsh harsher medicine teas. another plant is witch hazel. that can become a small tree in our eastern woods. many of you are familiar with it from the drugstore. this is a very mild astringent. the primary center for production of witch hazel is connecticut. i think about 90% of the world's output is from connecticut. it's got an economic use. it's also an intriguing plant in that there are seed pods on it during the summer and flower buds being developed on it at the same time. those flower buds will keep developing and open up this fall right around the time the leaves begin dropping. this was a striking plant for
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colonists to see blooming at an odd time of the year. they believed twigs make the best dousing rods to find water under ground with this plant. witch hazel meant it was bewitching and that it bloomed in an off season. the seed capsules later in the winter or early fall even when the weather is getting quite dry will turn brown. if you are in a woodland dominated by witch hazel, you will hear what sounds like buck shot. that's this seed being forcibly expelled out, about ten to 30 feet from the plant. it has a propulsion for distributing the seed. a great plant for a shady backyard where you don't want something too large. we talked about golden rod. this is another plant that was used very widely for tea.
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its common name is new jersey tea. there are lots of other plants like this out west. but this is the sole representative here in the mid-atlantic region. this is unusual in that it grows in the mountains and piedmont as well as the coastal plain. it covers all of the regions that this garden is portraying. the leaves were brewed into a tasty tea, a very beautiful looking tea that very much looks like the black tea from asia. only bummer is, it has no caffeine. while it was tasty, it didn't quite have the effect that some people were looking for in a tea. one of the visitors favorites you will enjoy looking at this, because it really looked out of place. this is paw paw. the paw paw is in a plant family called the custard apple family. we can see fruit in it right
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now. they are on their way. they look like a little bit like blunt bananas. they have different common names, one of which is indiana banana. paw paw, while it's tasty and the pulp can be used to make everything from muffins to ice cream, you won't find it in the average supermarket because it's very thin skinned. bruises very easily. more or less has to ripen on the plant. it has limited commercial potential. this is something to go look for at your local farmer's market in the mid-atlantic. this is north american's largest fruiting plant. as you walk through the garden, you will notice that we're looking at a rocky area that's on a slope. then on the right is the water feature. this garden was made with the idea that it wouldn't be overly irrigated. plants that are up on higher
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ground are plants that you would expect to find in upland situations where they don't need a lot of water. a great example of that is the small tree, the common hop tree or wafer ash tree. the little wafer-like fruits that itk enough on their own right. but they were used as a substitute for making homemade brews back in colonial times. it was used as a hop substitute and hence the name hop tree. a lot of people find this plant to be unexpected here. it looks good along the boardwalk. this is actually a native bamboo. most people think of that as an asian plant. but there are three or four species here in eastern north america. this one usually goes by the common name river cane. it once existed in huge swaths along riverways from maryland south and up into the ohio and
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mississippi river valleys. it's now down to a very small percentage of its original holdings. american colonizers tended to follow the same track that native americans did. they noticed native americans turning the land over that this grew on for crop growing. we did the same thing afterwards. by the 1930s, a lot of the lands that these grow on had pretty much disappeared. this tree is more familiar to people that are walking bare foot and have that ouch moment. often times what they are stepping on are these fruit capsules. this is from the sweet gum. it can exude a nice amber sap and actually native american children apparently would chip the bark of the tree and wait for the sap to harden for a few day and then harvest it for chewing.
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it's in the same family as witch hazel. it has a mildly pleasant fragrance. what i like is its dramatic fall color. fall color is something not to be taken for granted. all the people that line up for miles at skyline drive to see fall color really taking part of something quite special, because only eastern north america and eastern asia have mass displays of fall color. that's why a lot of our trees and asia's trees are very popular in gardens worldwide. we looked at a golden rod that's used to brew tea. a little earlier. most people think of golden rod as rogue plants for the roadside. many of them are too aggressive for gardens. they run the gamut. this species hails from north carolina and was thought to be extinct for a long time. it was noted and not rediscovered until recently.
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sweet gum is not the only north american plant with great fall color. this is one of the shad blow. it grows in rather moist thick ets. it's a multi-stem shrub. tasty blueberry-like fruit occur after the spring early flowers. we have this planted on low ground where it can get moisture. a little bit elevated above it we have this tree service berry one interesting thing about the common name or common names for this plant, it's a locally common name because these trees tended to bloom and have the flowers shattering around the time the shad run up the river. the name service berry supposedly comes from the fact that where it grows in the far north, the bloom time signifies
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the time for spring services for those who died over the winter. bodies couldn't be buried until the ground was not frozen. the flowering of this tree coincided with the time tree bl the time the ground thawed also. this is the black oak. it was actually an important plant in colonial times. notice where the bark is starting to crack, notice a tan-orangish color beneath and reminds me that the product that was made from the bark of this tree was called corcitron, the latin name for the tree itself and corcitron was a very important leather tanning agent, very acidic and high in tannic acid. this combined with some of our native sumacs were really the primary agents for tanning leather until more modern times. though not every human being loves per simmons, our native per simmons in particular, i think they are fantastic trees.
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the fruit are just starting to develop on it now. and after a true frosts, it becomes edible. before that, it is really astringent and puckery. but it is a favorite fruit of wildlife, possums and raccoons in particular. and those are the animals that disperse it. but the leaves can be brewed into very nutritious tea high in vitamins and in the ebony family and a lot of the ebonies we know are used in very fancy inlay work and wood working. this native plant in the ebony family also has use but it was a little more practical. the wood was used for things like the drive irgolf club back when that was made of wood and for bill yard cues. we are going to be entering an area of the garden that's all coastal plant soil, so, all the plants in here are the kinds of things that aid expect to see in the coastal plain and acid soil, so, blueberries, white cedar,
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pines. those are the kinds of things that dominate the coastal plain. this is loblolly pine and while it is not the most favored ornamental pine it is actually one of the most economically important plants in the mid-atlantic states some this is the source of most of the pine lumber that you will find at your local big box store, the type that you have got to look down to make sure it's not warped a little bit. it is very fast growing tree. sometimes called old field pine because it's one of the first successional plants to come into abandoned farm fields. fast growing and the timber people like this because you can get a turn around on it in 30 or 40 years and make some money. but certainly not the finest of the pine trees, in my view. as you go further south into the coastal plain from virginia to
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texas, you'll find very commonly this little holly. this is called ilex vomitoria. doesn't have a lovely latin name. the landscape trade, they tend to call it yopan. but the leaves of this plant were made into a drink by native americans. colonists who first observed their using this drink nicknamed it the black drink and they saw it being used ceremonially and they mistakenly associate it with purging rituals, which native americans did with many different teas or even just plain water. what they were doing was using a beverage that was already familiar to them. and this happened to be the only safe source of caffeine in the southeast. so, they had stumbled on the one plant that could give them a little bit of a caffeine boost, so they tended to use it before important meetings, before hunts, when you needed greater mental acuity. it is a great ornamental as well and like most hollys, if you plant male and female, the females will make a fruit.
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in this case, instead of turning a solid red, like our native american holly with the bigger leaves, this one makes a beautiful translucent fruit that just lights up in the low sun of the autumn and winter. so, a great plant for feeding birds late in the season. and a great history of native american use. its use is mirrored in south america by something that's more familiar to us today, yorba meta. we have included one willow, the coastal plain willow, as a representative of all of them. and they have a history of human use that's wonderful. this is the original source for aspirin. and so, you sometimes see the herbal remedy willow bark offered as headache cure. i don't recommend it, because in willow, you have lots of different compounds. aspirin takes one effective compound out of willow and doesn't bother your stomach so much. but both north american indians as well as europeans discovered
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that use. so, it is a natural analgesic. now, we looked at the loblolly pine which grows very quickly on any abandoned piece of land, but the longleaf pine is probably the most elegant pine in the southeast. very long needles, up to 12 inches long. these used to be exported as far north as new york city for mantel pieces during the winter holidays. but really, it's got much greater history of human use than that. this tree was the center piece for the naval stores industry in the southeast. and so it was tapped for its sap, which was then boiled down into turpentine, pitch, tar and rosin. those were the naval stores and these really helped build nave advice. so a very important tree. the practice of tapping the trees in the woodlands is
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exhibited here. we have a stump, that is what we call cat faced. it was standing up and it has been notched into a tin collection cup was placed below the main cut. that's where the sap gathered. it was then poured into kept.sand boiled. this was a very common practice, especially in north carolina, and cities like wilmington and maybe even savannah, georgia, are where they are today as a result of this industry. so, while they shipped it out as timber and naval stores to supply things like the british navy, the southeast had a real industry. even today, you can find logs that were cast -- that were sent down river, submerged underwater for 100 years and they are still perfectly good today because of the high resin content of this tree. the industry, particularly in north carolina, utilized rather poor labor forces who tended to
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often wander the woods bare foot. the amounts of tar and pitch on the forest floor meant a that things stuck to their feet and the name carolina tarheel probably comes from the practice of harvesting from this tree. this really delicate and beautiful grass that is blooming is called too fake grass. the latin name comes around if you dig around the roots, you will find it has a really pleasant citrusy-orange sent and the name tooth ache grath comes if you chew on the root, your bhout will go numb. native american also a few plants that they could employ if they had very bad tooth aches, which i imagine were pretty common and this was one of them. the united states botanic guardson a rather unique institution in washington. while most people assume that we have something to do with
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smithsonian, we are actually part of the capitol complex. and we are administered by the architect of the capitol that oversees all the grounds and buildings within the capitol complex. you come out to this garden and you will see not only plants that change for the seasons, so you have spring ephemerals early in the year. if you come back in the summer, it is very ver dant and lush and a real counter point to the rest of the city. and the fall, the fall colors, the late-blooming asters and fantastic fall foliage i think makes that my favorite season out in this garden.
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