Balm of Gilead
Neither of these words in the title are likely too familiar, and less so in these parts the tree that sometimes goes by that common name.
Balm of course is a soothing ointment, and Gilead is in Israel. There is a haunting African American Spiritual that centers on this “universal healing” that arose from that piece of geography long ago. See and hear the video at the end of this post. It is quite well done.
“SO what is this tree?” a friend asked recently at his grandson’s birthday party about 10 miles from town. We had both decided NOT to participate in the slip-n-slide going on a nearby slope, so were making conversation.
I had no idea, and had to have help from a FB group devoted to such mysteries to identify the tree in question as Populus balsamifera, also known as Black Cottonwood.
I defend my ignorance in part by stating the fact that this is NOT a native of Virginia. As a matter of fact, this tree is described as the “most northern-growing deciduous tree” and is far more familiar to Alaskans that Virginians.
You can kind of tell that the back side of the leaves is rusty orange in patches. I did not take sufficient note of this while on site. Resinous secretions of a similar sort from the buds in spring is apparently where the sticky medicinal substance comes from.
So I’m wondering if there are other trees like this–not native, but planted intentionally at some point. The two mature trees I saw were older than ME! Yes, that old. If either of my blog readers knows of other trees like this in FloydCo, please let me know.
So if you want to see more pictures and find links from images of Balm of Gilead go here.
If you want to learn more about medicinal uses of Balm of Gilead go here.
And I encourage you to listen to the haunting melody, There is a Balm in Gilead in the video just below.