Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Two Trees’ ID, Toxic Plant’s ID & Native Medicinal Plants

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Leaves and berries from a native blackgum. Photo: Dennis Gibson.

Bradford pear tree.

A three-pound package of bees. Photo:

Two Trees’ ID

Dennis wanted assistance in identifying a tree, “Here are pictures of small tree with fruit I cannot remember seeing in my short life. Can you help me figure out what these are? As always thank you for helping me with identifying plants.”

Dennis has a native blackgum. This native tree tends to have good fall color, and its red berries are good for wildlife. This tree has potential as a landscape tree because of its attractiveness, toughness, and disease resistance.

Kayla asked a similar question about identifying her tree, “Would you be able to tell me what kind of tree this is please? “

Kayla has an ornamental pear called “Bradford Pear.” The Bradford Pear has a beautiful shape, lovely spring flowers, and vivid fall cover. However, this ornamental tree has fallen out of favor because it has narrow branch angles and is susceptible to splitting especially during storms. It is also susceptible to a bacterial disease called “fire blight,” and this disease can be fatal to some varieties.

Finally, it can be invasive and grow in places where it should not. The South Carolina Forestry Commission has banned the buying and selling of Bradford pear trees starting in 2024 because of the invasive nature of this tree.

Green leaves.

American black nightshade. Photo: Lea Kimbrell

Toxic Plant’s ID

Lea sent images of this plant without a question so she may be asking to identify it.

An article from the website of the NC State Extension makes this important statement, “American black nightshade contains a toxin known as solanine. All parts of the plant are potentially toxic to humans and all animals including pets if ingested. The leaves and berries are reportedly the most toxic. Ingestion of this plant can cause gastrointestinal problems, weakness, hallucinations, convulsions, and possible death.” It is also a native plant of both North and South America.

Sassafras leaves. Sassafras has leaves with medicinal properties. Photo: Adam Agusta, LSU RNR.

Native Medicinal Plants

Mike, a landscape professional, sent in this email, “[Is there] Any chance you have some articles discussing plant material with medicinal and/or health benefits. I have a client that is very keen on utilizing plant material with these benefits. I do not find a lot online so I that I would ask if you were aware of some articles or publications that exist.”

AHA found a slideshow by Dr. C. Ray Brassieur titled, “Herbal Healing Traditions of South Louisiana” at This program discusses Louisiana Folk Healing and Indian Curatives for headaches, measles, inflamed kidneys, flu, fever, pneumonia, whooping cough, snake bite and other ailments.

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits, and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337.284.5188 or

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

5/10/2023 6:13:33 PM
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