Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Natakaaru (Pawnee) - Cottonwood Tree

It's been over a year since I've posted...sorry.  Life happens.  I figure it's time.

I went out to the lakes to clear my thoughts.  Some of the female cottonwood trees were already dropping downy seed heads.  This normally occurs May to June.    To a primitive skills practitioner, I gather the down to add to tinder nests for friction fire making.  Alone, the down does not work well, combined it helps to spread the hot coal to the coarser materials.  Of course, the dead dry branches work well for the fireboard and drill components of a bowdrill set.

Cottonwood trees are abundant in Nebraska, easily recognized, and useful to the early Native Americans cultures.  The papery inner bark works great for tinder nests, twined into cordage, as well as survival food.  The Hopi Indians, of Arizona, considered the cottonwood sacred.  They used the root to carve Kachina dolls.  In spring, before leaves appear, the waxy buds were boiled to make a yellowish dye pigment.

Medicinally, and I wasn't aware of this, a wash of boiled leaf buds or bark was used for burns, cuts, bruises, and skin irritations.  The tannin has astringent properties tightening tissue and stopping  bleeding.

Pictured top is down bursting from seed pods.
At left are female seed buds.


becky3086 said...

Very interesting. I don't believe we have them here in Georgia.

Owen said...

@becky3086 There is a type of Cottonwood throughout the east coast, and I'm sure it can be found in GA.

raptorrunner said...

Hey, I should know you. Worked in that town in the newsroom before they started printing elsewhere. Live further north now.

Found your blog researching medicinal uses for cottonwood buds. We need more plant nerds in eastern Nebraska!