Plants, trees with a lot of pith?

ClareBroommaker's picture

I'm looking for plants, including trees, that have a lot of pith, and also maybe an inch or more across the stem. So far, all I can think of is ailanthus tree, cattails, and I think the yucca that grows wild here in the midwest US and also is planted in gardens. Maybe you can help me think of more, in case I need to try several.

I'm hoping to use sections of pithy stem on top of pokey wire pieces that I use as supports in our mostly ornamental garden that is open to the public. The purpose is to protect people from getting scratched or snagged. The wires are those H-shaped supports for corrugated roadside signs that solicit run-down houses to buy, diabeteic test strips, weight-loss schemes, and so on. Presently, I have plastic toy golf balls on the pokey ends, but want to use something biodegradable and free. So, pithy stems cut into two inch sections is my idea.

So, do you know of any other pithy stems? Or have any other ideas for caps on the wire ends?

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Poke weed stems have a pith center and can attain a diameter of an inch or more.
BTW, Clare, I was thinking of you earlier today as I made a big batch of one of my favorite soups for freezing. I call it "Slippery Soup". Other than seasoning, it only has 3 ingredients: tomatoes, okra, and malabar spinach ;-)

ClareBroommaker's picture

That's a meal I would prefer to skip. Okra, no! Malabar spinach, no! Does the tomato cut the slime at all? Did you ever hear that okra slime was trialed as a blood substitute for war surgery? I imagine all the poor patients died. This might be only a legend. Don't remember where I read it. Seems like it was in a comic book when I was about 10 y/o, though I rarely read comics.

Now back to pith. We do have pokeweed everywhere. I could check it out tomorrow. Thanks.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I had heard that about coconut water but not okra. A google search on "okra as a plasma replacement" suggests that it is not a myth. No mention though of all the patients dying.
Well I guess I know what to serve if you are a houseguest that stays too long ;-)
Looking at my notes from yesterday, soup batch was 9 1/2 lbs tomatoes, 5 lbs malabar spinach, and 2 1/2 lbs okra. The tomatoes thus are over half the total. Whether the slipperiness is reduced beyond just the dilution factor I do not know but possibly it is.

have a LOT of pith that dries very nicely. I have thought it would be good for stuffing in cracks for winterizing or caulking boats. It is like cork, almost.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Cool ideas. I bet that sunflower pith is worth experimenting with for all sorts of things. I remember that the stalks of the Mammoth Russian I grew years ago took about three years to decay when just left on top of the soil. They are persistent.

I've got just one sunflower. It is a volunteer and it looks like it is going to be one of those branching ones with flowers popping out every which way. Yes, this will be another plant to look into after it has gone to seed. Thanks!

Elderberry stems are also pithy and I seem to recall that willow is too, but I am not sure about that one.

ClareBroommaker's picture

I should have listened to my husband when he suggested I make notes and maps of where we see elderberry bushes. They are easy to spot when they are in bloom, but as soon as the berries begin to color up, they are hard to spot, all the more-so because they usually seem to grow in the midst of other shrubs and tall grasses. We would have to snatch some from city property, like a bicycle greenway or park. I should have a look, though. Thanks.

ClareBroommaker's picture

My mate made some flower photos and I hoped he had some that showed the supports I'm taking about. The closest he came is in this gladiolus picture. You have to look for the white specks in the background. Those are the toy golf balls on H-support for those pink lilies. Can you see them? One time some one walking by asked me what kind of flowers the balls were. so I guess they blend in well enough.

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Wow! That looks like a very nice garden. My garden buddy and I planted a bed of flowers this year in the community garden. Just starting to bloom now. Zinnias.

I'd be careful with pokeweed pith.

Pokeweed can cause a contact allergy, similar although not nearly as bad as poison ivy.
It takes time to develop. I used to pull pokeweed with my bare hands.
I can't anymore.

I have no idea if the pith contains the same contact allergen that the skin does.

lathechuck's picture

The core of a corncob is about 1/4" pith, and the dried cob about 1". I suppose that the cobs from dry ornamental or dent corn would be better than even carefully gnawed sweet corn (which always leaves some debris). I have a few bits of it in my workshop to protect my eyes from sharp pokey things. I've also used a corncob as a file handle, when the wood and plastic ones have split.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Good idea. I knew here must be lots of pith around! :-)