Archive for June, 2011

Lace Cap Hydrangea – Hydrangea macrophylla

Lace Cap Hydrangea
Lace Cap Hydrangea

Our Hydrangea
decides for itself

which blue to be
or not

reaching through pinks
into purples

By Anne Selden

To read the remainder….click here 

This native of Korea and Japan is a deciduous shrub that is pH sensitive. It produces purple or blue flowers in acidic soil, white or green flowers in neutral soil, and pink flowers in alkaline soil.

 

These fragrant flowers have been used in the orient for tea and as medicine to treat malarial type diseases (periodic fevers), as an antitussive (stopping cough) and as a diuretic. It is reported the hydrangea was used by the Cherokee Indians and later the settlers to treat diseases that cause stones. It does not cure the cause, but does reduce the pain and help in passing the stones or gravel.

 

Ama-cha is a tea like beverage used in Japan that is brewed from tea leaves and hydrangea petals. The young leaves are dried, rubbed between the hands and used to make a sweet tea called “Tea of Heaven,” which is used in Buddhist ceremonies.

 

Due to Hydrangin (a Cyanogenic glycoside) found in the bark, leaves, and flower buds are moderately toxic if eaten. The toxicity causes nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and sweating. It is reported that the levels of hydrangin are reduced as the leaves and bark ages!

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Musk Thistle – Carduus nutans

Musk Thistle
Musk Thistle

…In Scotland grows a warlike flower,
Too rough to bloom in lady’s bower;
His crest. when high the soldier bears,
And spurs his courser on the spears.
O there it blossoms – there it blows
The thistle’s grown aboon the rose…

 

By Allan Cunningham (1784-1842)

 To read the rest of the poem click here

This native to Europe and Asia is now found in the United States everywhere except for Maine, Vermont, Florida, Alaska, and Hawaii. It was first found in 1942 in Tennessee. It has spread so rapidly that 25 states have declared it Noxious! Although it will destroy rangeland, making impossible for cattle to graze, they rarely eat the foliage. They have been observed eating the flowers and seedheads.

 

Nodding Thistle produces high quality nectar that allows bees to produce superior honey. In the past the dried flowers have been used like rennet to curdle milk. Also, the pith of the stem is edible; care must be exercised when peeling it to avoid the thorns!

 

In folk medicine the flowers were used to reduce fever, and purify the blood. The leaves and seeds have been used as a bitter to stimulate the liver.

 

In magic use thistles have always been an herb of protection and vitality. A bowlful, placed in a room or on an alter will strengthen the spirit, renew vitality and afford protection for all present.  

Yarrow – Achilla millefolium

Wild Yarrow flowers
Wild Yarrow flowers

“An ounce of Yarrow sewed up in flannel

and placed under the pillow before going to bed,

having repeated the following words,

brought a vision of the future husband or wife:
‘Thou pretty herb of Venus’ tree,
Thy true name it is Yarrow;
Now who my bosom friend must be,
Pray tell thou me to-morrow.’”

Halliwell’s Popular Rhymes, etc.

This native of Europe and Asia is naturalized in North American and most other countries throughout the world. It can be found in meadows and pasture, and in late May and June along roadside throughout Maryland and Delaware. Yarrow has the ability to repel unwanted insects and has been burnt to repel mosquitoes. Placed in the garden it discourages beetles, ants and flies! If a handful is added to the compost it will speed up the breakdown of the plant material. In the garden it is a very good companion plant improving the health of all plants around it.

Driving down the road here in Delaware the edges of the road are often lined with Yarrow, sometimes thickly, sometimes sparingly. But regardless of how many plants you see, Yarrow is a frequent flower this time of year (June). This flower in the wild is white, but yellow and red varieties can be found at nurseries to plant in the home garden.

In Rome it was called Herba militaris and was used and highly valued for treating battle wounds. In Cherokee i ma dah (snakegrass) was used to treat fever, stop bleeding and as a poultice in compound with wintergreen or birch used to treat rheumatism. It was also used as an astringent and an anti-inflammatory, used also to treat gout and edema, and as an appetite stimulant.

Dye can be obtained from the flowers, both yellow and green. Birds, such as Starlings, use the plant in their nest to act as insecticides to keep their babies safe! A tea is made from the flowers and leaves are very aromatic.

In China, it is said that it grows around the grave of Confucius. Chinese proverbs claim that yarrow brightens the eyes and promotes intelligence. The most authentic way to cast the Yi Jing uses dried yarrow stalks. The stems are said to be good for divining the future.

Fern –Osmunda spp

Sacred to: Laka, Puck

Myth 1: In Russia, throwing fern seeds in the air on Midsummer Eve will direct you to a vein of gold or hidden treasure.

Myth 2: In Bohemia, it was believed your money would never run out if you hid fern seeds among your holdings.

Myth 3: In most of Europe ferns concealed not treasures, but poisonous snakes. Generations of children were warned to keep away from the “Snake Ferns”, which supposedly held such unspeakable creatures no child was brave enough to discover whether the stories were true. They must have been started by a well meaning elder to keep toddlers away from dangerous, boggy areas.

Other Notes: Fern fronds were included in flower arrangements to secure protection. Fern sap, if you can find any, is said to confer eternal youth. The seed is carried for invisibility!

Ferns growing at High Falls in Alabama

Ferns growing at High Falls in Alabama

Cinnamon Fern – Osmunda cinnamomea

Cinnamon Fern
Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon fern grows brown fertile fronds
in the center of its tall green vase.
These fertile fronds are segmented tubes
that twist and clasp each other as they grow,
a hundred worms stuck to a central spine
and trying to climb. In the end they become alien
organic cannons filled with spores–
tubes break at the tips, spill BBs into breeze.
I looked at them today. The spores are small
and my eyes grow wonder wide
at my new magnifying eyes—the spheres of life
repeat so many times and ways
it spins my mind. I orbit awe.

By John Caddy

 

This perennial member of the Royal Fern Family is a native to the Western Hemisphere, it occurs throughout South America, Central America and on through to Minnesota in the north and southern New England in the Northeast. If you are thinking of looking for this fern in the wild search out wet, moist habitats like wet woods, the shore of lakes and rivers and in bogs and swamps. Finding it might be tricky as it is considered Endangered or Vulnerable is some places.

 

Native Americans used this fern in decoction to treat rheumatism, headaches, chills, colds, and snakebite. The Cherokee used a decoction of the root on warmed hands for treatment of arthritis, as a febrifuge, and the chewed root applied to snakebite.

 

The Cherokee also used the cooked early fronds in spring as a vegetable. The fiddleheads are edible and reportedly taste like a blend of broccoli, asparagus, and artichoke.

 

In Florida it is a “Commercially Exploited Species.’ This means it cannot be removed, for any reason, from the wild without permit. It is available legally through many native plant nurseries.

Black Eyed Susan – Rudbeckia hirta

Black Eyed Susan flowers
Black Eyed Susan flowers

Though battle call me from thy arms
Let not my pretty Susan mourn;
Though cannons roar, yet safe from harms
William shall to his Dear return.
Love turns aside the balls that round me fly,

Lest precious tears should drop from Susan’s eye.

from “Black-Eyed Susan”
by John Gay
(1685-1732)

This perennial herb is probably the most common of all American wildflowers. It is endemic throughout all of North America, and was at one time thought of as native to the plains, but in reality is native to the eastern part of North American, east of the Rockies.

The Cherokee called Awi akta, (deer eye) since the domed brown center resembles the eye of a white tailed deer of the east. The other named in Cherokee is a ga do li, ne ge i means ‘black eye.’ The Cherokee mixed it with yellow dock (Rumex crispus) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium)  and used in liquid form to treat earache. It was also used for treating urinary tract infections and other complaints. Dr James Duke, PhD states it is a strong immune stimulant.

Mary Chiltoskey (Cherokee) reported it was used to make a wash for ‘women’s private parts.’ It was combined with hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) and fairywand (Chamaelirium luteum)  to treat swelling and back pain.

The Potawatomi used the flowers to make a yellow dye. They mixed them with rushes to afford some variation in the color of their woven mats and other things.

The Black-eyed Susan is reputedly a toxin for grazing animals, cattle, sheep and pigs being the most susceptible. It is also the state flower of Maryland since 1918.

Lamb’s ear – Stachys byzantine

Lamb's Ear flowers
Lamb’s Ear flowers

This native of Turkey, Armenia and Iran is one of the few plants that can survive in the shade of a walnut tree. From May through July this short lived perennial puts up flower spikes that are adorned with small velvety purple-pink flowers that put out a fragrance that is reminiscent of bubble gum!

 

During the Middle Ages Woundwort provided bandaging for wound in the battlefield. Even as late as the Civil War it was used in the field to bandage soldier’s wounds. It is a use to remember for emergency first aid when you are out hiking or during a disaster. There is also some speculation that the center of the plant stays warmer during the winter, and therefore you could put your fingers into the center of the plant to avoid frostbite.

 

This plant is an entertaining plant in a child’s garden. Touching the velvety softness is fun! It makes a great edging plant and due to its silvery leaves is oft used in Moon gardens as it will reflect the Moon’s light brightly.

 

This plant of Jupiter was burned at Midsummer (Litha) for purification, protection and psychic awareness. Just burn it on the bonfire, and jump through the smoke to obtain the purification against illness and evil. It was also carried to prevent lover’s quarrels, to prevent intoxification and to prevent ‘elf disease.’