Martinsville Virginia Henry County VA
back : Henry County, VA LEATHERWOOD : Dirca palustris : Wicopy : next

Gavel Made From Leatherwood On Display at the Bassett Historical CenterThe name Leatherwood Creek exists on early maps of Virginia.

The Jefferson-Fry Map of 1751 is one map with enough detail to show a Leatherhead Creek where Leatherwood Creek flows today. Leatherhead may have been simply a misspelling of Leatherwood.

In 1772 an explorer/adventurer named John F.D. Smyth documented the Leatherwood Creek and Wart Mountain in his travels from Hillsborough in present day North Carolina to Kentucky.

Patrick Henry lived in the area of Leatherwood Creek from 1779 to 1784 on a 10,000 acre holding named Leatherwood Estate.

If you like things orderly here is the U.S.D.A botanical classification for Leatherwood (which differs slightly from the Wilipedia entry in the Order name):

  • Kingdom Plantae - Plants
  • Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
  • Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  • Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
  • Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
  • Subclass Rosidae
  • Order Myrtales
  • Family Thymelaeaceae - Mezereum family
  • Genus Dirca L. - leatherwood
  • Species Dirca palustris L. - eastern leatherwood
Leatherwood Distribution
Leatherwood Distribution by States
Leatherwood Distribution by County in Virginia
Leatherwood Distribution by Virginia Counties
Working through this we see that Leatherwood is part of the Myrtle family: Evening Primrose, Pomegranate, Waterchestnut, Loosestrife and others but even more closely related to Daphne, Paperbush, False Ohelo, Lagetta and Burn Nose. Some of these are native to the U.S. and some are not. Botany majors will appreciate that Leatherwood has an alternate leaf arrangement, no terminal buds, lateral buds hidden by a petiole and conical in shape with 4 hairy scales, simple and deciduous leaves of an obvate shape, with a gray to reddish drupe type fruit which ripens in mid summer and yields 1 large brownish seed. The stems are light greenish brown and slender with white lenticels. The stems are aromatic when crushed. Leatherwood prefers moist deep soils and may be propagated by seed or layering. All parts of the leatherwood are somewhat poisonous: minor skin irritation when touched, low toxicity if ingested.

Leatherwood is rare now in Henry County. Report native or naturalized plants here.

Description of Leatherwood from Thoreau's journal >

References/Resources
http://plants.usda.gov/java/reference?symbol=DIPA9
http://plants.usda.gov/java/county?state_name=Virginia&statefips=51&symbol=DIPA9
Travels In Virginia In Revolutionary Times - John F.D. Smyth reprinted 1922

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