Station #3: Toothache Tree and Early People
The toothache tree near the canoe shelter has large pointed thorns protruding from the trunk. This tree was well known to the indigenous people who preceded the arrival of the first Europeans. It’s a great pollinator, and it is also the host plant for one of our largest butterflies, the Giant Swallowwtail. The tree is a calciphile, and it loves the calcium rich soils left behind by the prehistoric tribes who created shell “middens” all along the coast. One of the nearest preserved shell middens is right across the waterway. These middens often include pottery pieces from the Woodland Period. There are pieces of this pottery on display in our nature center.
Radio carbon dating of shells shows that the Sewee shell midden was built about 4000 years ago. Our pottery shards date from about 500 BC to 500 AD. There is evidence of a complex hunter-gatherer society, but we don’t really know very much about these early native Americans.