Every year around this time the trees we commonly refer to as Cottonwoods (but are, in fact, their close cousin Balm of Gilead, according to my “Trees of Michigan” book) send warnings of a cotton storm a’brewing by wafting tiny cotton flakes into the air.
This year it started three days ago but then the rains came, stalling the cotton storm for at least a little while. I would say that’s a good thing, but it really just prolongs the inevitable. Those cotton bombs are growing bigger and bigger up there and either tomorrow or the next day our side yard is once again going to look like this:
This is a close-up of the cotton ball once it has “exploded”:
Early in the spring the “cotton” seeds form and start to fall. They’re covered with an incredibly sticky resin and manage to stick to everything, especially the bottoms of our shoes. They end up inside the house, where we have to literally scrape them up off the floor. What a nuisance!
But I’ve been doing a little research, and it turns out those sticky little buggers are good for something. They can be made into a salve. A balm. A Balm of Gilead. The people who are onto this balm claim it has magical, out-of-this-world qualities. It is a pain reliever, an antibiotic, an anti-itch, anti-inflammatory miracle worker, and, if some others are to be believed, a sure-fire cure for cancer called “black salve”.
I found this recipe online, and I can’t wait to try making it when it gets cold again and I can gather up those little sticky slivers. Olive oil and beeswax are the main ingredients, and it looks simple enough for even me.
The tree is also called “balsam poplar”. They talk about the pleasant aroma, but I can’t say I’ve actually noticed. I’ll have to pay attention.
(Oh, by the way, I started this blog yesterday, and today was the day. Our yard looks just like the picture above. I almost took another picture, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. One snowy yard in June looks like any other.)