This plant, so useful to the North American Indians, retains some of their original names, as leatherwood, moosewood, swampwood, rope-bark.
Photo - F. Fyles.
The wicopy is a much-branched shrub from two to six feet high, with smooth, jointed, yellowish-green twigs and tough fibrous bark. Like the mezereon, it produces its small clustered flowers very early in the spring before the leaves have expanded. The calyx is petallike, pale yellow, tubular, with a wavy or slightly four-toothed margin showing the protruding stamens and style. The flowers grow in clusters of three or four and are protected from cold winds by dark hairy scales which look like folds of fur around the silky yellow calyces. There is no mistaking it when in flower, especially as it is one of the earliest shrubs to bloom. The leaves are oval, two to three inches long, alternate and very short-stalked. The reddish, oval drupe is about one-half inch long. The plant is in bloom in April.
It is a native of Canada and grows in damp, rich woods from New Brunswick to Ontario.
The bark contains poisonous properties similar to its relative mezereon (which see) and, when fresh, causes severe irritation to the skin, followed by blisters. All parts of the plant have a burning, nauseous taste. The poison is most powerful during flowering and fruiting.