Tickletongue, pepperbark, and toothache tree are folk names for prickly ash. It's not a very big tree, up to six inches in diameter and eighteen feet tall, but it's very instructive. When I have a toothache I chew the inner bark to numb my gums, because its alkaloids produce an analgesic effect without destroying tissue. Black willow is another dental tree in the ravine and provides headache relief as well. First Americans, equipped with the wild's messages, told Anglo pioneers about these medicines and many others that came from or were copied from nature.
Curious about such wealth at my doorstep, I review positive and negative values, aside from ornamentation, of the seventy plants I normally encounter in a year (see appendix). Some have many uses, for instance twistleaf yucca as food, fiber, soap, and medicine. Others, like red mulberry, are positive resources at one time (berry food if ripe) but negative at another (poisonous if green), and a few, like western soapberry, are helpful and harmful simultaneously, depending on how they're used. Altogether, forty-four percent provide material resources. Only eighteen percent are poisonous. And the rest? Who knows, but why disregard or waste the potential?
Utility is a worthy reason for conserving wild diversity, and other important considerations are aesthetic, ethical, spiritual, and recreational. However, as I pause to admire the festoons of feeding insects at a blooming tickletongue, I'm struck by connection as the one reason behind all others. The linkages this tree and its pollinating giving/feeding-taking insects display are the ultimate validation!
Without these services, we would have no goods -- no food, medicine, building materials, or other resources, because we simply wouldn't be here