THE HAZELThe hazel belongs to the family ofBetulacee, Type Carylus. It is nativeto Asia Minor. In Italy, it is commoneverywhere: from the plains toheights of 1300 metres above sealevel.It is a bushy shrub, usually 2-4metres high (with a maximumheight of 7 metres). The trunk isslim and slender and the bark isgrey-brown. The alternate leaves areround/oval with long stalks. Theflowers are gathered in heads thatgrow long before the leaves. Thefruit is an achene made up of thehazelnut and its nutshell. The woodypart contains a sweet and oily seed,called hazelnut.
Italy is one of the leadingproducers of hazelnuts.The regions where it hasgreater importance arePiedmont, Sicily,Campania, Latium andLiguria.PROPERTIES:From the pressed fruits,you get an edible oil, alsoused in the cosmeticsindustry. The leaves haveastringent properties andare tonic for blood vessels.The bark is used to abatefever.
THE RHODODENDRONThe rhododendron family includesover 500 species, countlesshybrids and varieties of shrubsranging from 40 to 90 cm high,with foliage in open canopy andlarge, rough, oval orlanceolated leaves, shiny greenin colour, with single or doubleflowers in bright colours andbell-shaped. Its colours are inall the shades of white, pink,red, magenta ; some varietieshave two-tone flowers,gathered in large clusters at theends of the branches. Itblooms in spring or summer,depending on the species.
The rhododendron has beenknown since ancienttimes, especially for thenectar it is particularlyrich in.However, some speciesare poisonous, asreported by the Romanhistorian Plinius whowrote about a poisoningsuffered by Romansoldiers, during the Asiancampaign, caused by thehoney made frompoisonous species ofrhododendron.
THE BIRCHThe birch tree belongs to thefamily of Betulaceae. Thegenus includes over fortyspecies, originated in thenorthern hemisphere, inparticular from Scandinavia.They are trees and shrubs withdeciduous leaves that can befrom 15 to 30 metres high.The most widespread speciesis the silver birch that needsacidic, poor, sandy or stonysoils. Birches have a white andsilver bark and they resistadverse environmentalconditions such as sudden andprolonged frosts and longperiods of drought.
PROPERTIES:For internal use: itstimulates diuresisand reduces the levelof cholesterol in theblood.For external use: ithas antiseptic andastringent properties.
THE HEATHER• The heather belongs tothe family of Ericaceeand includesapproximately sevenhundred species ofevergreen shrubs.• Leaves are small,needle-shaped and from 2to 15 millimetres long.The flowers are generallyplentiful: for this reason,heather plants arecultivated as ornamental.The seeds are very smalland in some species theycan stay in the soil fordecades.
The heather grows inthe alpine regionsand in theNorthernApennines, it canbe found in theundergrowth, inpastures and alongalpine roads.PROPERTIES:It has diuretic andemollientproperties.
THE CHESTNUTThe European chestnut is atree with deciduousleaves. It is the onlyspecies of the genusCastanea that is nativeto Europe. The tree canbe up to 30 metres high,with a big trunk androunded foliage. Theleaves are lanceolate inshape and have a serratededge.
The fruits are composed of1 to 3 achenes, calledchestnuts, enclosed inhusks covered with stiffand prickly thorns.PROPERTIES:Its leaves are used ininfusion as a coughsedative or a skindisinfectant.
THE BEECHThe beech belongs to thefamily of Fagacee, andcan be from 15-20metres up to 30-35metres high.The leaves are ovaland covered with athin down on the ribs.It is used to decorateparks and gardens andto reforest mountains.
PROPERTIES:The oil extractedfrom its seeds,pale in colour andwith a sweettaste, is used as acondiment and, inthe past, it wasalso used as fuel.
THE BORAGEThe plant probably comesfrom the East and iswidespread in large partof Europe and of CentralAmerica, where it growsas a wild plant up to aheight of one thousandmetres above sea level. Itis cultivated in all thetemperate regions of theworld.
Its name comes from the Latin“borra” (“a cloth of roughwool”) owing to the downcovering its leaves. Or it maycome from the Arabic “AbuAraq” (“father of sweat”)through the Medieval Latin“borrago”, maybe because ofthe sudorific properties of theplant.It is a herbaceous plant and itcan reach the height of eightycentimetres. It has dark green,oval leaves that are covered ina rough down and are ten-fifteen centimetres long. Theflowers are made up of fivepetals, arranged in a star,violet- blue in colour.PROPERTIES:It is emollient and sedative ofcough; diuretic and depurant.
THE GENTIANELLAThe Gentianella or Gentiana ofKoch (Gentiana Acaulis)belongs to the genus Gentiana,family of Gentianacee. It is asmall plant that does notexceed twenty centimetres inheight. The leaves, green butalso yellow, are collected atthe base in a rosette. They areoblong and lanceolated, withan indented border, two tofive centimetres long. Theflower is apical, on a shortstalk, in the shape of a bluetubular corolla.
The fruit is a capsule with a largenumber of seeds.It blooms in late spring and insummer. It originates in Centraland Southern Europe, from EasternSpain to the Balkans. It grows inmountainous regions, betweeneight hundred and three thousandmetres of height above sea level. Itgrows in acidic soils and it has apreference for exposure in full sun.PROPERTIES:It stimulates appetite, helps withdigestion, abates temperature. Itsroots are used for preparingdigestive liqueurs.
THE ELDERThe common Elder(Sambucus Nigra) is awoody plant withdeciduous leaves. It is awidespread species inItaly, especially in dampwoods and alongwaterways. It is a four-sixmetre tall shrub. Itsleaves are composite,dark green in colour, ten-thirty centimetres long,lanceolated in shape witha sharp apex.
The flowers form showyinflorescences which are ten-twenty-three cm wide andperfumed. The single flowersare made up of five petalsfused at the base, an ovarychalice and four protrudringstamens. It blossomsbetween April and June. Itsfruits are shiny, blackberries.PROPERTIES:It is diaphoretic, diuretic,antirheumatic andantineuralgic. Its flowers arealso used as aromaticalcomponents in liqueurs.
THE PULMONARIAThe Pulmonaria(Pulmonaria Officinalis)is a plant belonging tothe family of theBoraginacee. It ispossibly the mostwidespread species inEurope. It was called“officinalis” by CharlesLinneus as it was used bythe chemists of the timefor treating cough andlung conditions.
It is characterized by itsheart-shaped leaves,spotted in light green.In Italy this species ispresent in themountainous regions ofthe North, starting from200 metres and reachingup to 1,600 metres inaltitude.PROPERTIES:It is diaphoretic andemollient (for treatingcough, hoarseness andlowering of the voice).
THE PRIMROSEThe Primrose belongs tothe Primulacee familyand it originally comesfrom temperate areas inEurope, Asia andAmerica. The namederives from the Latin“Primus”, to mean itsbloom’s precocity, thathappens just after thesnow thawing, when thegrass begins to grow inmeadows.
It includes about 600 speciesof annual and perennialherbaceous plants, from afew centimeters to somedecimeters tall, with basalleaves in the shape of arosette and colourfulflowers.PROPERTIES:The flowers have diuretic,sedative properties, they areuseful to insomnia andneuralgia. The roots canrelieve cough, easerheumatic pains and healbruises.
THE SILVER FIRThe Silver Fir (Abies albaMell. Or Abies Pectinata)belongs to the Abiesgenus, typical of theforests and of themountains in thenorthern hemisphere. TheSilver Fir is a majestic,slender, long-lived tree,in fact it can reach theage of 600 and about 40-45 metres in height.
The Silver Fir prefershumidity, cool and deepsoils, typical of shadedand very wet areas.PROPERTIES:It relieves respiratoryproblems and rheumaticpains. For external use, ithas antiseptic anddeodorizing properties.