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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 3 | Myricaceae | Comptonia

1. Comptonia peregrina (Linnaeus) J. M. Coulter, Mem. Torrey Bot. Club. 5: 127. 1894.

Sweet-fern, comptonie voyageuse

Liquidambar peregrina Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 999. 1753; Syst. Nat. ed. 10, 2: 1273. 1759; Comptonia ceterach Mirbel; C. peregrina var. asplenifolia (Linnaeus) Fernald; C. peregrina var. tomentosa A. Chevalier; Myrica asplenifolia Linnaeus; M. comptonia C. de Candolle; M. peregrina (Linnaeus) Kuntze

Shrubs , to 1.5 m, forming rhizomatous colonies. Branchlets red-brown to gray, pilose to villose, sometimes puberulent. Leaves: stipules nearly cordate, long-acuminate. Leaf blade very aromatic when crushed, 3-15.5 × 0.3-2.9 cm, lobes alternate to nearly opposite, base truncate, cuneate to attenuate, or oblique, apex acute; surfaces abaxially pale gray-green, densely pilose to puberulent, adaxially dark green, densely pilose to glabrate, gland-dotted, especially adaxially. Inflorescences: staminate in clusters at ends of branches, elongating to 5 cm, bracts broadly ovate to trullate, margins ciliate, apex acute to long-acuminate, abaxially gland-dotted; pistillate to 5 mm at anthesis, elongating in fruit to 2 cm, bracteoles to 1.3 cm, pilose, gland-dotted. Fruits 2.5-5.5 mm.

Flowering spring, fruiting summer. Dry, sterile, sandy to rocky soils in pinelands or pine barrens, clearings, or edges of woodlots; 0-1800 m; N.B., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que.; Conn., Del., Ga., Ill., Ind., Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Pa., R.I., S.C., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.

Comptonia peregrina has been reported from Tennessee (Scott County), but I have not seen any specimens.

Many Native American tribes used different parts of Comptonia peregrina variously: as an incense for ritual ceremonies; for medicinal purposes; as a stimulant or tonic; as a food seasoning; and as a poison (D. A. Moerman 1986).


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