loblolly

Loblolly pine, Pinus taeda, occurs widely throughout the southeastern United States. Aurally, the luscious assonance and mellifluous liquidity of its given name are sufficient to evoke some moonlit, blossom-saturated southern dreamscape all on their own. Loblolly is in fact a rather unpoetically onomatopoetic word—one meant to suggest the bubbling and plopping of a pot of thick glop simmering on a stove. In British nautical usage, it referred primarily to any gruel or porridgelike entree not greatly relished; secondarily, it referred to any unappetizing medicine of similar consistency, for which reason the ship’s surgeon’s assistant was called a loblolly boy. In America, a loblolly was a mudhole—a gooey, gelatinous mess suggestive of naval cuisine. Loblolly pine could tolerate low bottomlands, where loblollies were the bane of loggers trying to extract them from the swamps. As a noun, loblolly is now obsolescent, if not obsolete. The tree preserves it.

Franklin Burroughs