The Bark of Trees

December 12, 2010 § 2 Comments

The bark of trees has been used for many things; for instance, it has been worn as clothes or armour, it can be used to make ropes, or used as a surface for paintings and map-making. Various hallucinatory chemicals can be extracted from bark.

When writing about Germanic tribes, the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela mentions that the people of these tribes wear the hides of animals and bark as clothing (Christopher Wood, p. 129). The bark-as-clothes is a sign that connotes the symbiotic existence between the people living in the forest and the nature itself. Mela describes the people of the forest tribes as being wild, aggressive and as having hardy bodies and being insensitive to cold. The practice of wearing bark as clothes reinforces the image of their bodies as being robust and resistant; the wilderness of nature being incorporated in their very own bodies.

Pliny the Elder suggests that the physiological structure of trees are analogous to that of the human body. To Pliny, the bark of the tree is like the skin of the human body (book 16, chap 55 and chap 72).

In the chapter about how the bark of trees is used, Pliny says that when a spy has been sent out he often leaves information for his general written upon fresh bark. The bark of the beech is also used for certain sacred rites (book 16, chap 14).

Pliny lists a number of remedies where the bark of branches, roots and trunks is used. For instance, the red bark of the roots of wild pomegranate, taken together with wine, promotes sleep (chapter 61, book 23). The bark of the upper branches of the willow, reduced to ashes and mixed with water, is curative of corns and callosities and can also be used to remove spots upon the face (book 24, chap 37).

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§ 2 Responses to The Bark of Trees

  • margaret says:

    Willow contains a compound called salicin which led to the manufacture of Aspirin – and research is still finding new uses for aspirin!

    • Maria says:

      I didn’t know salicin was found in Willow, and this is interesting information for me; thanks for commenting!

      The other day, in the news, I learnt that acetylsalicylic acid (I’m guessing this is related to the salicin) taken in small doses every day reduces the risk of dying of cancer. (Perhaps that was what you were thinking of too when mentioning new uses of aspirin).

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