Prairie Tea Croton monanthogynus Michx.
My aunts and uncle said her name was Ruth Alice Daleria Salili Jane Tucker. She taught them her entire name as children and said “never forget it”. We assumed it was the name of her slave grandmothers, our family history. She was born in Oxford, Alabama to William (part Choctaw) and Alice Tucker. She moved to Dallas,Texas and married Charlie H. Smith. The dates are questionable that’s why they aren’t noted. Sadly this is the way it is in African-American families,we sometimes had to move around a lot. She passed away when I was 13, in 1972. She had three daughters, my grandmother Lucille Smith Lewis was born in 1913 she and my grandfather John Lewis had their first child my mother Lois Arnette Lewis Hayes in 1933. A little family history. Back to the story.
About ten years ago I was working in my garden in the front yard it was winter. The reason I know it was winter my hubby of thirty-two years had a nasty cold. Gardening is my favorite past time so I’m outside ever chance I get. I live in Texas so we can work outside practically year round. While I was working a scent hit me hard and heavy and I was knocked off my feet. Some describe it aroma like sage or marjoram, spicy and even sweet. I knew that scent, and it took only a few minutes to remember where I knew it from. My mother Ruth is what we called her, had given it to me as a kid in a tea. We had just moved to our new house, she was visiting I had to be about six years old ready for first grade. The lot next door was empty and the prairie tea plant was growing wild. She made a tea for me with honey. She also cut of white onion covered it with sugar and had me drink it. Her great grand-mother had probably given it to her as a child. All those memories came pouring in my mind. I felt all kinds of emotions, happiness, sadness, excitement. My mother Ruth, was a grand great-grandmother and my mother adored her. She was the oldest member in the gospel choir. She and my paternal great-grandmother helped put the first bricks on our family church, Greater El Bethel Baptist Church over a century ago. She gave me the healing spirit. I can’t help but get emotional thinking of her. Ok again back to the story.
When I found the prairie tea-plant, I knew exactly what to do with it. Isn’t it amazing? I made a tea for my husband. And with his Arkansas heritage,( Washitaw Native American from his mom’s side of the family), he drank it without question. Suffice it to say his cold didn’t last long. This is just one example of the power of the sense of smell. The scent of the prairie tea-plant had been stored in the limbic system of my brain for over forty years.
It’s been coming up in my yard for years and I could never identify it. I’ve looked through many plants books.I searched online for native plants from Texas and could not find this plant. I’ve chosen the maceration process as my field of study in aromatherapy. Infusing plant material in oils. You not only receive the essential oils but medicinal compounds are also retrieved from the plants. Which make the oils double strength. I use these maceration’s in my natural products. Without a name I couldn’t use the prairie tea in my salves. The cold season is on its way and I’ll be ready this year with salves and tea for anyone that needs it. Thanks to Central Texas Gardener and David Hibbs my great-grandmother’s plant has been identified. They responded and within hours I had replies and a name. I love you guys. And my great-grandmother Ruth would be proud!