Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Because the gumbo limbo tree is common in the West Indies and South Florida, it's no surprise that it has a diversity of uses. Before the advent of plastics, the horses and fanciful creatures ridden by children on carousels were often carved from the soft wood of gumbo limbo. The wood is still a favorite of carvers, but it's also used for matchsticks, wooden packing material, and some furniture. In many areas, gumbo limbo has been used to create living fences. All it takes is to cut sections of limbs from a tree and stick them in the ground; they readily take root, but also are short lived and decay quickly. The sticky aromatic gray sap of gumbo limbo has been used as glue to mend things and also to capture birds in much the same manner that fly paper captures flies. Gumbo limbo trees often grow in the same habitat as the poisonwood tree, a close relative of our poison ivy. Natives of the Caribbean consider the bark of the gumbo limbo a natural antidote to the effects of the poisonwood. The unique gumbo limbo tree has also been in folk medicines to treat intestinal irritations and kidney infections.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson,