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Tree Treasures

Money grows on trees up here in the U.P., though it takes some education to spot it.

That scorched stump on the side of a birch tree is actually chaga (Inonotus obliquus or pakurikääpä), whose potent antioxidant properties improve the skin, cure ulcers and shrink tumors.

Those warty growths on hemlock bark are reishi (Ganiderma lucidum or Ling Zhi) which improve memory and regenerate the liver.

And these dessicated parasites are actually Fomens fomentarius, or tinder conk. Underneath their crusty exterior lies a precious substance called amadou, the primitive panacea for surviving a Keweenaw winter.

Scrape off the outer layer and it's a fire starter. Soak and pound it thin, and it becomes a waterproof fabric for hats and clothing. Grind it to powder and it works as a tobacco substitute. Swallow it and you can cure hemorrhoids and constipation. Place it on a wound and you'll stop bleeding. Burn it and it wards off the devil. Distill it and the essence will reinvigorate a burned-out artist.

All this, and it promotes a healthy ecosystem by hastening the decomposition of diseased trees.

As Emerson said, "A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."

Or as the Finnish proverb goes, "Jotta optimisti jokainen ruoho on kukka; että pessimisti jokainen kukka on rikkaruoho."