Tree of Heaven – Chinese Sumac – Stink Tree

We bought several of these trees in Golden Valley a couple years ago and they were sold to us as “California Shade trees.”  They were about 2 – 3 ft tall and grew to 6 feet in the first year and to about 8 or 9 ft now.  Last year we bought a couple more.
I had people tell me that they stink.  Since our trees aren’t up wind from the house, I’ve never smelled anything.  Apparently they emit the odor only at certain times.
I didn’t their real name until I saw one at Angela’s blog yesterday and she sent me the link to her post Tree of Heaven with a closeup of a leaf with the nodules that emit the stink.   I checked the leaves on our trees and sure enough, they had those same nodules.  Apparently all our trees are males as I haven’t seen any flowers at all.


They sure like water and the more water they have, the faster they grow.  Directly behind the sumac on the right is the little cattail pond with our gray and rain water and it used to flow to the sumac on the left.   We planted the sumac on the right late last summer and it was about 2.5′ tall.   This spring I changed the overflow from the cattails to the sumac on the right and as you can see, it’s as tall as the tree planted a year earlier.

We planted one little sumac a couple years ago in our lower garden and it has not received much water.  However, we now have three sumacs there and since I installed drip irrigation a couple months ago we hope that they will grow fast too.  I’ll try to transplant the two little babies.
We had a great monsoon season this year and more rain than I can remember since I moved here in 2000:
They started growing fast in spring, but then the high winds broke several new branches.  Of course they grew right back, but you want to plant them where you won’t risk any damage to buildings or other plants.
Many people hate these Chinese sumacs with a passion, but they’re the best trees I have found for our climate — in the right place.
They grow fast with lots of water, don’t die if they don’t receive much water, took the cold to 3 F last winter,  lost a few branches in the wind, but thrive like no other tree.
However, they must be planted away from septic systems, pipes and foundations and they are alleopathic similar to walnut trees.  In many areas they are considered an invasive species as they spread through suckers and seeds and are very difficult to eradicate.  Of course that’s NOT a problem in the desert as we just don’t get enough rain for the trees to get established without irrigation.   We had several suckers that unfortunately got eaten by rabbits.  As with reeds and bamboo, there is no possibility that they’ll invade the desert.
I love the lush look and wish they were evergreen as they’re part of our privacy screen.
We planted several other trees and shrubs close to the Chinese sumacs since we didn’t know that they are alleopathic.   Those trees and shrubs didn’t die (yet) but also were not exactly thriving.  That’s probably because they didn’t get much water until we got the monsoon rains in August and now most greened up and are growing too.
They also have medicinal properties and Chinese medicine uses every part of the tree.  A lot more info is at

Castor oil medicinal uses

I happen to have some castor oil, but couldn’t remember why I bought it.  So here is a long article on medicinal uses:
CASTOR OIL – Natural Protection from Deadly Viruses

… Oftentimes there is no need for castor oil packs; amazing results can be obtained by simply applying it directly to the skin. The following is a short list of some of the more common ailments it can remedy:
skin keratosis
fungal and bacterial infections
abdominal stretch marks (prevention)
sebaceous cysts
senile lentigo (“liver” or “aging” spots)
muscle strains
ligament sprains

There’s also an excellent description of the lymphatic system and the benefits of castor oil: Continue reading “Castor oil medicinal uses”

Vitamins K1 and K2 for decalcification

I just read these long posts on pinal gland calcification and vitamin K:
The Pineal Gland and its decalcification
I’ve seen lots of mention of vitamin K for cancer prevention and treatment.

Natto (fermented soy)
Goose Liver
Egg Yolk
Chicken Liver
Fatty Meats
Goose, Duck and Chicken Fat
Crustacean “Butter” (Hepatopancreas)
Bone Marrow
Other Organ Meats
Fish Eggs
Fermented Cod Liver Oil

K2 seems to be only in sauerkraut (for vegans) and we do eat that occasionally.  Too bad it’s not in whipped cream as I sometimes splurge. Continue reading “Vitamins K1 and K2 for decalcification”

Comfrey – medicinal uses and cautions

We got two types of comfrey this year from Horizon Herbs:
Comfrey, Russian Live Root Cutting (Bocking 14 Cultivar), organic 6 root bag, discounted, organic

7/26/11: Russian comfrey, African sumac (came back from ground after it froze), sugar sorghum and native plant with ultra perfume smell

The Russian Comfrey roots did best close to the garden hose leak where it was also very shaded and protected from the wind.  I think they all 6 roots lived at least for a while after I planted them into our various gardens.  However, the comfrey with lots of water had leaves about 18 or 20″ long, while the others had around 6 inch leaves.  The big one almost flowered.

And we got seeds: Comfrey, True (Symphytum officinalis) seeds, organic
I got some starts from the seeds, but have only seen 2 or 3 plants lately, in our greenhouse.  The leaves are about  4 inches long now.

What's the difference between this plant and true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis)?
The Bocking 14 cultivar of Russian Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) is a sterile hybrid that will not self-seed and is extremely robust and vigorous.  The true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) is a bit less vigorous of a grower, has more elongated leaves and (I think) prettier flowers, and does indeed make seed.  Although both types of comfrey (Russian and True) are useful for making medicine and making compost, in an ideal world one would use the bocking cultivar for producing large amounts of biomass for permaculture gardens, composting, and animal feed, and one would use the true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) for medicinal purposes.  Again, both types (and other species as well) are used interchangeably in agriculture and in medicine.

I've read that comfrey is bad for the kidneys and liver and I have used purchased comfrey root powder on my teeth for several weeks.  It definitely helps with small cavities and I've used only very little.
Now I just found a little more clarification about potential dangers of comfrey at Wise Woman Wisdom … Comfrey, Symphytum uplandica x:

… Every time I mention comfrey, someone asks if it isn't “unsafe.” When I identify with comfrey, I feel like a persecuted witch wrongly accused of evil-doing. Comfrey has so much to offer as an aid to health and healing. How did such a wonderful green ally come to have such a terrible reputation?
Perhaps it starts with confusion, aided by imprecise language. There are two species of comfrey: wild comfrey, Symphytum officinale, and cultivated comfrey, Symphytum uplandica x. (The “x” means it is a hybrid, a cross.)Wild comfrey (S. off.) is a small plant–up to a meter tall–with yellow flowers. Cultivated comfrey (S. uplandica x.) is a large plant–often surpassing two meters–with blue or purple flowers.
Everyone I know grows uplandica and that is what is sold in stores. But gardeners and herbal sellers alike usually mislabel it, causing no end of confusion.
To complicate the situation even more: the roots and the leaves of comfrey contain different constituents. Comfrey roots, like most perennial roots, contain poisons. Wild comfrey (officinale) leaves have some of the same poisons. But cultivated comfrey (uplandica) leaves don't.

That clarifies it and I hope it's accurate!  I have to check to see whether the Russian comfrey leaves froze already.
Maybe I should put the lb of comfrey root powder into the compost.  Would the worms like it?
UPDATE 12/28/11:  Here's an interesting link about comfrey medicinal uses including cancer treatment translated by Google from Romanian:
Unfortunately without clinical trials, but it's interesting.

Our borage is doing great – hope it won't freeze

All About Borage

I just read this article and had no idea what we missed last year when our borage froze before it flowered:

tems/”>Plant Systems — by Kelly Pagliaro January 21, 2011

Photos by Kelly Pagliaro unless otherwise indicated
Beautiful. Traditional. Functional. Therapeutic. What am I talking about you say? Why borage of course!

Borage is a wonderful plant to have around the garden. Borage (Borago officinalis), also known as starflower, bee bush, bee bread, and bugloss, is a medicinal herb with edible leaves and flowers. In my garden, borage and sunflowers share the honor of being bee hot-spots.

Check out the article and great pictures, as well as the comments and warning that it's related to comfrey and should be consumed with caution.
I really hope our seedlings won't freeze in the greenhouse tonight, what a cold winter, down to 25 degrees already and it's not even 8 pm yet.  Last night we went to 17 degrees.