Today, let’s chat about the plants I saw in Gulf Shores, Alabama! Davy and I had the opportunity to spend time with family in Gulf Shores, AL the last week of September. It was lovely place, with lovely people and interesting plant and animal life!
I thought I would share about a few of the plants that I was able to identify while there and talk about some of their common uses.
Saw Palmetto was everywhere in Alabama! We walked on the trails at Bon Secour National Wild Refuge and saw so many groves full of the short palm bushes. I say ‘short’, but they were nearly as tall and in some cases taller than me. (But for most people, I am short, at about 5’2″).
The most common part used of this plant is the berries, and I was lucky enough to find one plant with berries on them! It was pretty much complete accident that I even noticed the berries, cause I honestly forgot to look for them. Glad I spotted them anyway.
It was cool to see a plant that I use often in the Shawnee Moon lab (that is not native to our area in SE Missouri), in it’s natural habitat.
Saw Palmetto is most popularly known to support male reproductive health. But it is really a great tonic for women too as it provides general support to the whole urinary tract. It helps the elimination process do what it’s supposed to do and there by helps remove toxins that cause difficult urination and promote clear skin.
The plant called ‘sandhill rosmary’ is plentiful in the gulf shores area. It is also known as Sand Heath, or Florida Rosemary, and is an evergreen, perennial shrub. It’s scent was very similar to traditional Rosemary when crushed between your fingers, but with almost tea tree or lemongrass-ish scents.
According to Wikipedia, “The name derives from the species’ superficial similarity to the unrelated European shrub rosemary, familiar for its leaves used as a herb. Florida-rosemary is not edible” (source)
So, this plant is an impostor to the more common, culinary Rosemary, we know and love. Below, you can see what seems to be the only photo I got while in Gulf Shores of this particular Florida-rosemary, a quite spindly specimen. I’ll include a google image of what most of them looked like out on the sand dunes.
Sandhill rosemary may not be edible or useful, but it’s namesake, the European Rosemary is both! Rosemary is common in the kitchen as a spice for pork dishes and found to support normal, healthy digestion. Supports proper absorption of nutrients.
Rosemary (rosemarinus officinalis) supports healthy circulation and normal cognitive function. Add rosemary essential oil in your diffuser or roller blends for studying and focus. It is calming and uplifting. It is a great addition to your topical skin cleansers, and safe in your toxin-free home cleaners. (It is a key ingredient in the popular Thieves blend!)
This stately tree is quintessentially ‘southern’. Its beautiful, arching branches, stretch out so far from its massive trunk. The whole tree creates its own ecosystem for other plants; moss, ivy and lichen cover every inch of it.
Live oak (Quercus virginiana) is very different from our oaks here in the South East Ozarks in Missouri. It is commonly stated that it is an evergreen, keeping it’s leaves in the fall through the winter. But it is not a true evergreen, as it loses its leaves in the spring right before the new leaves come on.
“Native Americans extracted a cooking oil from the acorns, used all parts of live oak for medicinal purposes, leaves for making rugs, and bark for dyes.” Read more about the live oak in this wiki article.
The oak bark I use, is Quercus alba, or White oak. This hardwood tree, natively found from Quebec to Florida, from Maine to the Midwest, is considered drying, and helpful in ‘wet issues’. It supports normal healthy, teeth and gums. It is a nourishing and toning tonic for the entire alimentary tract. Oaks contain the constituent ‘quercetin’. For further study, consider looking up “quercetin benefits”.
The photo above gives you a great shot of Gator Lake at Bon Secour National Wild Refuge and the sand pines in the background (at least, I think they are sand pines!). We even got a glimpse of a gator in the lake while we were there hiking!
I was honestly surprised to see so many pines near and on the beach! I really just assumed pines were a mountainous, cold, damp climate tree. But obviously not these pines!
Sand pines (Pinus clausa) like the quick draining, sandy soil on the southern coasts and thrive in the harsh tropical heat and ocean breeze.
Pine is not something we use much at Shawnee Moon, but Davy and I love Pine essential oil (Pinus sylvestris) in our home and personal care products.
We add a few drops to our shampoo, for a calming pine-fresh scent in the shower. It is great added with other coniferous oils (Idaho Blue Spruce, Northern Lights Black Spruce, Cedarwood…) in the diffuser and/or in roller blends for an invigorating woodsy, Christmasy scent!
We have an ornament diffuser I like to hang on our Christmas tree, and even though we usually have a real tree, I like to add Pine oil to it to ‘oomph’ up the tree scent in our house.
Our hike in the national refuge near Gulf Shores was probably one of my favorite parts of this vacation on the white sand beach. It was a blessing to enjoy family in such a beautiful, relaxed setting. I am still in awe of the unique beauty that that rugged, landscape offered.
I had to include some more photos from the Bon Secour hike here in a gallery. The wild beauty of the plants was breathtaking. I have no idea what most of these are, but aren’t they lovely?