hist-brewing: Re: U. S. leatherwood honey?

Jeff Renner nerenner at umich.edu
Fri Feb 9 05:50:27 PST 2001


Chuck <meadmakr at enteract.com>wrote:

>My teacher said something about the leatherwood trees bloom earliest in
>the spring in the Smokey/Appalachian mountains (in the Northern part of
>the Southeastern US) and the beekeepers there haul their hives up on the
>mountains for just a few weeks when the trees are blooming.
>
>He also said it cost about twice the normal honey price, and that once
>his wife tried it, she didn't want any of *his* honey. :?>)

Ah, here we have the source of the confusion - the use of common 
names rather than Latin scientific ones.  We're talking about two 
different honeys.

Tasmanian leatherwood is Eucryphia lucida.  It is an understory tree 
that can reach 30 meters.  From the web page below, it grows in the 
"wetter forests of Tasmania(areas which receive 1000-2000mm 
p.a)ranging from mixed forest to rainforest."  (More rain than the 
Smokies get for sure).

Digging into my old college Manual of Vascular Plants (Gleason & 
Cronquist), I find that there are two northeastern North American 
leatherwoods.  Cyrilla racemiflora is a shrub or small tree (up to 10 
meters) of swamps and wet woods from SE Virginia to Texas, south into 
S. American (doesn't sound like the one in the Smokies).  Dirca 
palustris is a 1-2 meter shrub of rich moist woods from southern 
Quebec to Minn., south to Fla., Ala., Ark. and Okla.  Better 
candidate.

See, when you were sleeping in biology class and the teacher said it 
was useful stuff, you didn't believe him.  (Sorry, I used to teach 
biology.  Hope this isn't too pedantic).

I found the web page I referred to in a earlier post.  It seems that 
the trees don't flower until the reach 75 years!  Talk about late 
bloomers.

http://www.anu.edu.au/Forestry/wood/nwfp/leatherwood/lw2.html is a 
fascinating site.  Here is an excerpt:

"The flowering habits of the Leatherwood are highly variable both 
from year to year, between localities and within localities. Many 
factors influence the amount of flowers present in any one year. Many 
apiarists believe that a wet Autumn and Spring leads to heavy 
flowering in summer. Light intensity also affects whether a tree 
flowers, even though Leatherwood is a shade tolerant species it 
doesn't tend to flower as profusely in a shady position as it will if 
it forms part of the canopy or grows in a canopy break. The nectar 
yield of Leatherwood trees is correlated to the age of the tree and 
research by the Forests and Forest Industry Council has substantiated 
a common conception among Tasmanian apiarists that young Leatherwood 
trees are a poor nectar source. Research has shown that trees under 
75 generally don't flower at all and the most prolific flowering 
trees are those that 175 to 210 years old and trees. Age correlated 
flowering means that even though regrowth eucalypt forest may be rich 
in Leatherwood seedlings or young trees it would be worthless as a 
nectar resource."

Now I hope someone in North American who has tasted leatherwood honey 
fresh in Oz will order from Rainforest Products and report back.

Hope this helps.  And I hope I've purged this post of non-ASCII 
characters so we don't have a repeat postscript of nonsense.  Sorry.

Jeff
-- 
Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, c/o nerenner at umich.edu
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943

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