“People comes from all over the whole island for this dash-a-long. Especially in the winter time when they have colds and fevers and all that. That’s why I grow all of these so that I can help any neighbours that comes that wants.”
– Nolan Smith (CINA Memory Bank Interview)
Common Name(s): Dash-a-long, Ramgoat dash-a-long, Cat Bush, Yellow Alder
Scientific Name: Turnera ulmfolia
Medicinal Uses: Tea made from the leaves of dash-a-long was said to aid in curing colds, liver and/or kidney issues, coughing, poor appetite, and heart ailments.
This salt-tolerant, sun-loving, ever-blooming bush has bright yellow flowers and dark green leaves with serrated edges.
It owes its species name (ulmfolia) to those unique leaves. The word ulmfolia is derived from the words ulmus meaning “like plants in that (elm) genus” and folia meaning “leaved”. So, the species name describes this plant as having leaves like an elm tree (Plant Biographies). Meanwhile, its genus (Turnera) honours English naturalist William Turner who studied plants and birds in the 1500’s.
The origins behind its common names are a bit more difficult to pin down with any certainty. It’s possible that the reason this plant is known by the common names dash-a-long and ramgoat dash-a-long is because it is often confused with Turnera diffusa. This plant is in the same genus but the flowers and leaves are quite differentin appearance. So, it could be that the common name for T. diffusa was transferred to this plant by mistake.
In addition to T. ulmfolia and T. diffusa, there is also a third species of Turnera found in the Cayman Islands: Turnera triglandulosa. This species is endemic to Little Cayman and Cayman Brac and is potentially a threatened species due to its highly restricted range (Proctor, 2012).
As noted above, tea made from the leaves of dash-a-long was said to aid in curing colds, liver and/or kidney issues, coughing, poor appetite, and heart ailments (McCubbin, 1995). In “Healing Plants of the Cayman Islands”, Lorna McCubbin notes that dash-a-long “is said to have aphrodisiac qualities” but this may be a continuation of T. ulmfolia being confused for T. diffusa, which is said to have earned the name ramgoat dash-a-long for being the reason behind goat’s rabid breeding in Jamaica.
Proctor, G. (2012). Flora of the Cayman Islands. Surrey: Kew Publishing.
McCubbin, L. (1995). Healing Plants of the Cayman Islands. Grand Cayman: unpublished.