Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

University of Delaware Botanical Gardens

On a recent visit to the Botanical Garden at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE I ran into some plants I had never seen growing in this region.

The American Spikenard (Aralia racemosa), Possumhaw (Ilex deciduas), Green Dragon (Poncirus trifoliate), American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) and Brandywine Smooth Witherod (Viburnum nudum) were all producing fruit.

I was lucky enough to see the flowers on the Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata), and Red Bistort Firetail (Persicaria amplexicaulis) for the first time. I also found a pretty pink lily and a black eyed Susan look alike I had not seen before.

I was very disappointed though with their labeling of plants. Some of them were placed in front of plants that were not what the label said at all. Some were missing labels totally. Other labels were broken in half (or worse), some of the labels were buried so deep that there was no reading them at all! How do the students at the University learn that way?

Unknown Lily

Unknown Lily

Cornflower – Centaurea cyanus

Cornflower or Bachelor's Buttons
Cornflower or Bachelor’s Buttons

The wintergreen, the juniper
The cornflower and the chicory
All the words you said to me
Still vibrating in the air


Centaurea, the genus for these flowers, was named for an ancient Greek centaur, Chiron. This centaur, according to myth, taught humans the healing power of plants and herbs. He showed them how to heal, by using them on battle wounds, including those he had acquired himself in battle.

Just as Chiron taught in antiquity, this herb is used to wash out wounds, heal mouth ulcers, for eye problems (such as corneal ulcers), conjunctivitis, and minor wounds! It also sooths inflamed and irritated skin. Internally it is used to improve digestion, improve the immune system, tone and regulate the gall bladder, liver, kidneys, and to treat menstrual disorders.

It is also used as a Flower Essence to encourage self knowledge and acceptance of the infinite differences among others. The intense blue color of the flower has been prized for centuries, used as an ink color when mixed with alum, it was often used in Books of Shadows, used to dye linen (but not permanent), and used in watercolor painting. The Minoans of the island of Crete (during the Bronze Age) used the flower petals to invent the blue on their ceramics for which they are so famous.

Cornflowers or Bachelor’s Buttons are used in tea, salads, and garnishes for entrees and drinks. Not only are the flowers edible, but so are the young shoots. And the dye obtained form the flowers is also safe to use in cooking.

Nasturtium – Tropaeolum majus



A lone red nasturtium
Glows like a star
This Christmas day
On top of the wild
Woodbine plant…

By Mary Guckian


This native of the South American Andes Mountains is a wonderful addition to most any garden. It acts as a trap plant for aphids and can also be eaten. But be careful, if you live on Hawaii, Lord Howe Island or on New Zealand this pretty little vine is considered invasive!


The leaves and flowers of this plant have a peppery taste and can be added to a salad. The seeds can be used as a caper substitute. These flowers and leaves are a rich source of Vitamin C, being 130 mg per 100 g edible flowers.


In the Andes Nasturtium has an extensive history of being used as a disinfectant and as a wound healer. It has also been used as an expectorant to heal chest conditions, such as to clear nasal and bronchial catarrh. Externally it has also been used in the treatment of baldness, minor injuries to the skin and for skin eruptions.


If you were to make an infusion of the leaves, and then add soap flakes, you will have a very effective insecticide!

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.

Mayweed Chamomile – Anthemis cotula


This native of the Mediterranean region has been introduced to North America, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. It has spread and taken over so effectively that it is considered a noxious weed in many places. By 1995 Mayweed was found in almost all of the lower, contiguous 48 states. Mayweed is also called Stinking Chamomile due to its foul smelling scent, but that same scent is very attractive to ladybugs!

Although Mayweed is related to chamomile, it is not as effective a medicine as chamomile. It has historically been used as an antispasmodic, to encourage menstruation, and to treat ‘hysterical’ conditions of the uterus. Although rarely used, the whole plant is considered antispasmodic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue and tonic.

In Peru the plant is used as a flavoring, and the flowers are used to make tea. The flowers make a less unpleasant flavored tea than the whole herb. Care must be exercised in using this herb as just touching it can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Jagged Lavender – Lavandula buchii

Jagged Lavender
Jagged Lavender

This tropical evergreen lavender is native to the Canary Islands and the Island of Madeira. Seeds and plants are obtained from the Tenerife Botanical Garden. In full sun this plant blooms from spring through fall. L. buchii has violet lavender colored flowers with a pleasant aromatic scent

The ancient Egyptians used lavender in their mummification process, and also to perfume their skin. Decorative urns were found in the pyramids with traces of lavender still within.

Lavender was used during the Renaissance period to protect against the black plague. The plague was transmitted by fleas on rats, and lavender repels fleas!

An interesting note that was found in several sources was that the flowers of this lavender are not for human consumption!

Winter Red-Hot Poker – Veltheimia bracteata

Winter Red Hot Poker

Winter Red Hot Poker

This plant is found in the wild in the Eastern Cape area of South Africa it is also called a Forest Lily. They grow from fall planted bulbs. It is cold sensitive and therefore should be planted in pots that can be brought into the greenhouse or indoors during cold weather. In its native planting area it is semi-evergreen, dying back in the summer, hot months.

During Victorian times this plant was very popular, but has since fallen out of favor. There is no reference to Veltheimia bracteata being used medicinally in South Africa