|Friday Five: Odd Plant Relatives|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Friday, 29 March 2013|
Botanically speaking, some plants just look like they are “all in the family” and others definitely do not. Who would ever suspect that Spanish moss is in the Pineapple family or that mangos and cashews are related? Without further ado, here are five plants in the Cashew (Anacardiaceae) family that you might not suspect are related either.
Native to Southeast Asia the tropical evergreen mango tree is also found in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Africa. The edible mango fruits (pictured above) have been cultivated for thousands of years and there are numerous varieties with red, yellow, and orange skins. The seed is large and flat and the pulpy flesh (the edible portion) has a sweet but distinct taste.
2. Cashew Nuts
Raw cashew nuts are poisonous and the seedcoat surrounding the drupe is highly toxic; however, both are “neutralized” by the roasting process. Cashews labeled as being raw are actually heated but not roasted. Pistachio nuts (pictured above) are also members of this plant family but the raw drupes are not poisonous.
3. Poison Ivy
Poison ivy is one of the few members of this plant family that is a vine. Many parts of the poison ivy, especially the leaves, are extremely irritating to the skin. Poison ivy’s relatives, poison sumac and poison oak are in this plant family as well.
4. North American Sumacs
Many North American sumac shrubs (except of course for the poison sumac mentioned above) are not toxic and are used for horticultural purposes. Examples include red sumac and chaparral sumac, which both have edible berries.
5. Lacquer Tree
Native to China and Japan, the milky sap of the lacquer tree (Rhus verniciflua) is used as a natural wood varnish for lacquerware. When applied to wood, the sap dries to a dark glossy finish that is resistant to heat, moisture, acids, alkalis, and alcohol.