A black gum twig makes a great “old fashioned toothbrush” that was quite common among many of our grandparents or great-grandparents.
“Hog-hair toothbrushes were available at a general store, but many people made their own out of twigs of birch, blackgum, sassafras, and willow. The twig was stripped of its bark and one end was chewed to form the brush. A willow twig made a soft brush that was usually discarded after one or two uses. A blackgum twig made a hard brush that was used several times before disposal. Birch made a soft brush and was probably selected because of its sweet taste.” source
Also called “Black Tupelo,” this tree can be found all over The Natural State.
“Native from Ontario, and spreading south to Texas and Florida, this underutilized tree is a ‘hot plant’ for Arkansas. Black gum may have the most reliable red fall color of any native tree.”source
Recently, my friend Vickie told me a story about how her grandparents taught her how to make a toothbrush from a blackgum twig.
Here is the story Vickie told me:
I was recently reminded of a time when I stayed at my moms parents and I forgot my toothbrush. My granny sent me down the road just a short way from their house and told me to get a twig off of the black gum tree.
I got the twig and took it back to her and she showed me how to peel the skin off the twig…
…and chew the end to make it look like a brush.
Then she got some baking soda and had me dip it in and that is how I brushed my teeth.
She said they never had toothbrushes and they always used the black gum twig as a toothbrush. My dad’s family did this also. The actual tree that I took the twig from is gone now but my cousin has one on his land and he was telling me that all his family used the black gum toothbrushes.
Now, you all know what to do if you forget your toothbrush while camping in Arkansas! While you’re out there exploring with your new toothbrush, don’t miss this: Things to Do in the Ozark National Forest
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