Several plants from temperate Chile are familiar to us though their introduction into British gardens. Among them Winter's bark (Drimys winteri) belongs to a small number of now ornamental plants that are still known by the name of the popular drugs originally derived from them.
This article outlines the first arrival of the medicinal drug Cortex Winteranus (Winter's bark) into this country following Francis Drake's circumnavigation. Its subsequent use as a treatment for scurvy was to determine shipping routes around the tip of South America. No description of Winter's bark can be complete with outlining the deep meaning this tree has in the native Mapuche culture of Chile.
" ...The distinctive Mapuche stepped altars, rewe, are traditionally carved from its wood; in ritual a machi climbs it as a means of transportation towards
the heavenly cosmos. ... "
" ... Clusius had named one exotic specimen after Drake (Radix Drakena, Drake’s root), but christened the useful bark, Cortex Winteranus, Winter’s bark. ..."
Banner image: A meeting in 1991 of Mapuche with the then President of Chile and his ministers.
They and the seated Mapuche shamans (machi) are holding Winter's bark leaves as a traditional symbol of peace.