Getting to know the edible and medicinal native plants in your region is perhaps more important than any other skill you might acquire along with an in depth knowledge of fashioning primitive traps. Every region has its share of plants that the ancients utilized both as food or medicine and in the construction of shelters and hunting tools. You’ll find an article on my experiments with potential native bow woods of the Coahuiltecan geographical region below:
Search my blog and you’ll also find several articles on edible plants. I plan to include many more.
One fruit in particular that has been a favorite of mine since boyhood comes from a small tree called coma. The coma tree grows to a height of about 20 feet though depending on soil type and proximity to water sources the height can vary dramatically. I’ve seen coma trees growing alongside ox-bow lakes (we call them resacas in South Texas) that went upwards of 35 feet high.
As usual, we’ve been suffering from a nasty drought but I’m always amazed at how certain species, despite little to no rainfall, manage to stay ultra-green and produce an abundant crop of berries. The coma is one of those plants. No doubt these attributes did not go unnoticed by those who lived in the region long before Europeans showed up.
A member of the Sapodilla (Sapotaceae) family the coma tree is generally given the scientific name, Bumelia celastrina.
When ripe the berries take on a purplish color and a single tree can hold a couple of thousand berries.
The berries are oblong shaped and usually about a half-inch long. They contain a small seed that you’ll spit out as you chew the ultra-sweet pulp. Folks, these things taste like candy. They are perhaps the sweetest berry growing in the Brushlands of South Texas and on into northeast Mexico.
If you’re ever in South Texas between mid-April and late June and you happen to wander the Brushlands then look for a coma tree. Now take extra care that you have, in fact, identified a coma and not some other plant; one in particular known as coyotillo (ko-yo-tee-yo) (Karwinskia humboldtiana) is deadly! So it’s probably best you accompany an expert through the woods before you start picking and eating juicy looking fruit.
A note about nomenclature: I’ve spent a lifetime studying and writing about nature and the environment, especially South Texas and the Southwest United States. Some people call coma, by the name la coma. That common name is in error: A term applied to a plant by some lazy botanist who once upon a time didn’t bother to check his/her facts. The word la in Spanish means “the” and calling the plant la coma is simply saying “the coma” which makes no sense and tends to aggravate serious naturalists and biologists who are sticklers on proper folk-name or common name usage. Oh well, we’ve all got our pet peeves.