(Photo credit: Vinayaraj via Wikimedia Commons)

Turnera ulmifolia – Plant of the Month, February 2022

Latin Name: Turnera ulmifolia 

Common Name: Yellow Alder, Yellow Elder, Ramgoat Dashalong, West Indian Holly, Sage Rose

Family: Turneraceae

Habitat: T. ulmifolia is a small woody shrub native to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean basin that can also be found in many tropical parts of the world. It grows in partial sun/shade. However, the plant will branch more and stay fuller when in full sun. Open woods and disturbed areas, such as roadsides and abandoned fields, are some of T. ulmifolia’s favorite places to grow.

Parts Used and Uses: The leaves make teas to help ease the symptoms of constipation and diarrhea, colds, flu, menstrual cramping, heart palpitations, hair loss, thrush, and other conditions.

History/Tradition: One of the first specimens from Florida may be from Key West, and while considered non-native, it is sometimes treated as native to Florida. Aside from its medicinal use, it is often grown as an ornamental ground cover or border plant due to its showy yellow flowers that blossom all year long.

Traditionally, it was a favorite food of goats, which may have contributed to the common name Ramgoat Dashalong.

Systems: Gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and circulatory.

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and a 2009 study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies showed that extracts from T. ulmifolia could be used as a new weapon against the problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics demonstrated in MRSA strains.

Cautions: This self-seeding plant can grow out of control and is considered invasive in many places in the world. Florida, the only state in the US where the plant grows wild, does not consider it intrusive.

References:

CABI: Invasive Species Compendium. (2019). Turnera ulmifolia (West Indian Holly) Datasheet.  Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/55353 

Coutinho, H. D. M., Costa, J. G. M., Lima, E. O., Falcão-Silva, V. S., & Siqueira Júnior, J. P. (2009). Herbal therapy associated with antibiotic therapy: Potentiation of the antibiotic activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus by Turnera ulmifolia L. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-9-13 

Gilman, E. F. (2021). Turnera ulmifolia yellow alder, Yellow Elder. AskIFAS Powered by EDIS. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FP593 

National Garden Association. (n.d.). Plant Database entry for Yellow Alder (turnera ulmifolia). Yellow Alder (Turnera ulmifolia). Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://garden.org/plants/view/111401/Yellow-Alder-Turnera-ulmifolia/ 

Nascimento, M. A., & et al. (2011). Turnera ulmifolia L. (Turneraceae): Preliminary study of its antioxidant activity. Bioresource Technology, 97(12), 1387–1391. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biortech.2005.07.009 

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