As I was wandering around with my camera, un-mindfully it turns out, I walked into the bayonet-sharp leaves of a Mojave yucca, Yucca schidigera, and punctured my leg in two places. Ouch!! Mojave yucca is also known as Spanish dagger, and for good reason. I looked about to see what I might put on my bleeding wounds, but couldn’t think of anything, so I cleaned up the blood as best I could, and kept walking.

Later that morning, Leslie Mouriquand, archaeologist for Riverside County, demonstrates for us how she gathers pinyon pine pitch, Pinus edulis, the soft, sticky, wonderful smelling stuff she uses to make a medicinal pinyon sap soap. Using a scraper, she gathers a large blob from a wound in the pinyon tree where a branch had broken and the pine sap was oozing out. Pinyon pine sap, Leslie tells us, is strongly anti-bacterial and antiseptic. Perfect. I ask her for a small blob and put it directly on my two puncture wounds. I love how the antidote for our injuries so often grows in proximity to what injures us.

In the photo, Barbara Drake, a Tongva elder and edible plant specialist, stands in the foreground as Leslie gathers the pine sap in the background. When we leave at the end of the day, Leslie gifts all of us with a piece of her amber-colored pine sap soap, which I will treasure. She also promises us a natural facial session, beauty cosmetic stuff, gals only, and everyone agrees that is a fantastic idea.

Posted by deborah small

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  1. […] On Saturday, August 10, we returned from a trip to Baja organized by basket weaver Rose Ramirez and anthropologist Mike Wilken. Above is an image of Paipai elder Teresa Castro holding a skirt she wove of yucca fibers from a Yucca shidigera.  The skirt is now a part of my small but growing collection of artwork from extraordinary Baja weavers and potters. I have a special relationship with Yucca shidigera. Also known as Spanish bayonet, I was once punctured by two of the bayonet-like yucca leaves as I was (unmindfully) photographing prickly pear cactus in Pinyon Flats, CA. My yucca puncture wounds were treated, and healed overnight, with the near-miraculous pinyon pine sap. […]

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