Also see Andromeda.English Name—SORREL TREE.
German Name—Sauer Baum.
Officinal Name—Andromeda folia, lignum, &c.
Vulgar Names—Sour Tree, Sour Wood, Elk Tree, Elk Wood, Sorrel Wood, Sour Leaf.
Authorities—Linnaeus, Clayton, Michaux Flora and Sylva, Pursh, Elliot, Schoepf, W. Barton Flora fig. 80.
Genus ANDROMEDA—Calix minute five parted. Corolla ovate or cylindric, border five cleft. Stamina ten inclosed equal. One Pistil superior inclosed, style pentagonal. Capsul five celled, five valved, valves septiferous, many minute seeds.
Species A. ARBOREA—Leaves petiolate, oblong acuminate, smooth, beneath glaucous; Panicle terminal and loose, flowers racemose and lateral. Corolla ovoid pubescent, anthers linear mutic.
Description—A small tree from fifteen to forty feet high, seldom fifty to sixty. Branches cylindrical, slender. Bark of the stem light brown, of the old branches reddish, of the young shoots green. Leaves large, crowded, alternate and petiolate, from three to six inches long, from one to two broad, oblong, base acute, end acuminate, margin often undulate, entire, or sometimes serrulate, nerve with regular veins, surface smooth, glossy, green above, glaucous beneath, the young leaves are slightly downy at first.
Flowers white, terminal, one third of an inch long, forming a large, loose panicle, composed of many long and loose racemes, bearing each from twelve to twenty flowers pedunculate, alternate and secund—Calix small, greenish, with five acute teeth—Corolla pubescent ovate with five acute teeth—Stamina and Pistil inside of the Corolla; ten equal filaments, anthers small mutic linear—Pistil one, germ oval, style pentagonal persistent, stigma obtuse—Capsuls ovate mucronate, reddish brown, with five cells containing many small subulate seeds, imbricate and membranaceous.
History—The Genus Andromeda belongs to the natural order of ERIDICES or extensive heath tribe; and to DECANDRIA Monogynia of Linnaeus. The name is poetical or mythological, being dedicated to the Nymph Andromeda.
This species is the largest and the only tree of the genus, whence its specific name; all the others being shrubs, many of which are ornamental like this, and mostly native of North America. This tree attains its largest size in the most southern states; but becomes almost a shrub in Tennessee and Kentucky. It blossoms in May.
The common names of this tree have all a reference o the acidity of the leaves and wood. The elk and deer eat those leaves, and even cattle like them. They are palatable and allay thirst when chewed by the hunters in want of water.
Locality—The Alleghany mountains, and the hills and valleys diverging from them, as far as their most southern limits in Georgia and Alabama; but seldom met north of Virginia and Kentucky, although Schoepf gives New York as its northern range. It is unknown in the alluvial and limestone regions.
Qualities—A fine acid, (is it the malic acid?) similar to that of the cranberries and whortleberries is diffused throughout this tree, and most unfolded in the leaves; but united to some astringency owing to a mixture of gallic acid.
Properties—The leaves and wood are a fine astringent acid, refreshing, cooling, allaying thirst, and antifebrile. Clayton says that a decoction of the leaves mitigates the ardour of fevers, and helps their cure. It is useful in all cases where a refrigerant astringent is needed. A kind of lemonade can be made with it. It may be substituted to the Rhus glabrum,or shumac, and the cranberries. Like shumac the leaves impart a black color to wool. The wood is soft, reddish, and will not burn; but like the buckeye wood may be used to make chip hats and paper.
Substitutes—Shumac berries—Pomegranate—Strawberries—Cranberries—Currants—Sorrels, &c.—with many other mild vegetable astringents and acids.
Remarks—B. Barton mentions the A. Mariana another species as pernicious, but a decoction of it useful in ulcers of the feet, for which this might be perhaps substituted.
Additions and corrections
5. ANDROMEDA ARBOREA—This tree indicates a poor soil, the Indians make arrows with the wood and smoke the leaves as Shumac and Tobacco. They also use the leaves for dropsy in cold decoction mixt with Prunus Virginiana.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.