The army of George Washington had a hard time keeping supplies coming through to the lines. Times were difficult and the pinch of hunger and cold made itself felt too often for the good of army morale. But something hot to drink, something aromatic and something that reminded men as closely as possible of the politically unpopular Oriental tea on which the British se1 a high tax, something like hot tea poured steaming after a long march, was vital to the army. They wanted hot tea, and they got it - Labrador tea if they were near the sphagnum hogs of New England, and yaupon and cassena holly tea if they were in the south, sweet gale tea along the coasts, catnip tea or goldenrod tea or sumac tea, or tea made from sassafras or sweet birch. But the tea made from the dried or green leaves of New Jersey tea, it is said, pleased the weary soldiers and was used extensively during the American Revolution. It also was used in colonial households which were in sympathy with the Cause. Many years later during the Civil War, the same plant provided tea in times of shortage or blockade.
Ceanothus americanus L.
June - July Sandy woods.
New Jersey tea. in spite of its eastern name, is found rather frequently in the dry hilly woods of Illinois. Here it makes a low bushy shrub seldom more than two or three feet high, with many slender woody stems springing from the base. It has dark green, veiny, oval leaves and clusters of fluffy white flowers, like tufts of white foam or ivory snow-flakes clustered on twig-tips. The flowers are flagrant and attract many kinds of butterflies and other insects. The deep ruddy root is used to make a bright red dye; it gives the plant its other common name, redroot.