Posts Tagged ‘yellow’

Leatherleaf Mahonia – Mahonia bealei

Leatherleaf Mahonia leaflets and fruit
Leatherleaf Mahonia leaflets and fruit

This evergreen is a native of China and brought to the United States in 1848 as an ornamental. In 1848, after the Opium Wars in China had ended which opened up trade, Robert Fortune first found this plant. An interesting story surrounding his first encounter goes like this: Fortune saw the leaves of this plant peeking above the walls of an enclosed courtyard of someone’s home. He didn’t know the people, but apparently that didn’t matter to him. He opened their front door and walked through the house to the courtyard where he considered digging up the shrub, but felt it was too large to survive. In the next town he offered a reward to anyone who would bring him smaller specimens he could carry with him. In short order he received three separate shrubs.


This interesting plant is recommended in the southeastern United States as a wildlife attractant, but it is that wildlife that it attracts that has contributed so heavily to its becoming an almost invasive plant there! The fruits are abundant and are greatly relished by the birds, which eat it and spread the seed in their excrement. So this once garden plant is now naturalized throughout the south. The Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council has it listed as a Rank 2 NIS plant (significant threat). This means that it poses a threat of becoming invasive, but as of yet is not spreading easily into native plant communities.


The leaves on this plant are very attention-grabbing. They resemble holly leaves in basic shape and in having points on the leaflets, but they are opposite unlike holly leaves that are alternating. The other major difference is that these are not opposite leaves, but leaflets…which make them all together one very large leaf! The flowers are an interesting yellow, growing abundantly in large clusters and appearing in late winter. Walk past on a crisp winter, very early spring day and get a whiff of citrus in the air…those are the Mahonia flowers!


The fruit which follows start out green but swiftly turn bluish black with a grayish bloom. If you can beat the wildlife to them (birds will strip the plant bare in a few short days) then they are actually edible. There are many seeds wrapped up in very little flesh, but the taste has a very refreshing, slightly acidic taste. They have been recommended added to cereal. They ripen in April and May and provide Vitamin C.


Since this plant is in the Barberry family of plants it has Berberine in the rhizomes which make it a bitter tonic with antibacterial effects. A decoction of the root and stems has been used to treat pulmonary tuberculosis, recurring fever, and cough in rundown body systems, rheumatoid arthritis, backache, weak knees, dysentery, and enteritis.


Sensitive Partridge Pea – Chamaecrista nictitans

Sensitive Partfidge Pea taken at Cape May, New Jersey
Sensitive Partfidge Pea taken at Cape May, New Jersey

Recoiling from the touch
Of him who seeks too much,
A dainty thing thou art,
Whose sweetness seems a part
Of all that round thee grows;
More subtle than the rose,
Thy faint perfume scarce fills
The lambent air, yet thrills
Like nectar, till one feels
Thy shyness half conceals
A deeper ecstacy
Than e’er he dreamed to be…

W. C. Campbell


This sensitive plant is native to North America, from Arizona to Maine south to Florida and Texas. It is found on disturbed ground. The flowers are irregular in shape, yellow and have reddish-orange stamens. They bloom from spring through fall. In New Hampshire they are considered Endangered. Like the pink sensitive plant of South America, the leaves are sensitive to touch, closing at the slightest motion.

This plant was used historically by the Shakers; Cherokee and Seminole Indians also utilized it for medicine. It was used as a tonic to prevent tiring (root), plant infusion to treat nausea and vomiting, as a decoction to treat urinary tract infections, and the leaves were used to treat topical infections.

This plant was not used for food, but several tribal peoples used to line a pit with the plants. They then placed persimmons in between layers of plant material, and then allowed the persimmons to ripen in the pit.

Seaside Goldenrod – Solidago sempervirens

Seaside Goldenrod taken at Bethany Beach, Delaware
Seaside Goldenrod taken at Bethany Beach, Delaware

“Graceful, tossing plumes of glowing gold,

Waving lonely on the rocky ledge;

Leaning seaward, lovely to behold,

Clinging to the high cliff’s ragged edge.”

Celia Laighton Thaxter (1835 – 1894)


This maritime plant is native to the coastal plains of North America and some areas of the Caribbean. It is easily found on beaches, dunes, and salt marshes. The one pictured here was growing along a dune fence on the dunes that protect Bethany Beach, Delaware. It is one of the plants whose roots help secure the sands! The very large flower heads can be seen from August through November. It is listed as Endangered in New York. And never becomes invasive as other goldenrods can.

A poultice is used for boils, burns, headache, toothache, wounds, and sores. Native Americans chewed the leaves to relieve sore throats and chewed the roots to relieve toothaches.

Thomas Edison used the naturally occurring rubber in goldenrod to produce the tires on the Model-T given him by Henry Ford! The rubber that Edison extracted was resilient and long lasting! Unfortunately the goldenrod rubber never went past the experimental stage.

Freesia – Freesia corymbosa

Freesia flowers
Freesia flowers

This perennial native of Africa is in the Iridaceae (Iris family). They are herbaceous plants that usually bloom from July to August. The flowers are strongly scented and are often used to scent hand creams, shampoos, and candles.

Freesia first appeared in the nursery trade in England in 1878. Although there is no record of how it appeared in England, it quickly spread to Europe and to America. It very quickly became a popular favorite everywhere it was introduced.

I first saw this plant in the Conservatory at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. At the time it was not labeled, but I took pictures anyway! The scent was wonderful, and drew me back to other plants placed around the Conservatory, until I finally found one plant that was labeled and identified! 

Angel’s Trumpet – Brugmansia suaveolens

These small trees have trumpet shaped flowers that hang straight down. The point of the flower points straight heavenward, therefore the name Angel’s trumpet! It is native to South America, notably the Andes, but it has escaped cultivation in Florida, Mexico, and South and Central America.

These plants produce large, white or yellow trumpet flowers that perfume the night air with its exotic scent. No references to use as medicine or food could be found. The entire plant is poisonous due to the presence of the alkaloids atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. Poisoning symptoms include hallucinations, dry mouth, muscle weakness, increased blood pressure and pulse, fever, dilated pupils, and paralysis.

If you would like to see examples of this tree there are beautiful specimens at Longwood Gardens in the Conservatory (Kennett Square, PA) and at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C..

Angel's Trumpet flower

Angel's Trumpet flower

Daffodil – Narcissus – Narcissus psuedonarcissus

There are thirteen descriptive divisions of daffodils. Miniatures have the same descriptive divisions as standards, only with smaller blooms, usually less than 1 1/2 inch in diameter. All have a central trumpet, bowl, or disc shaped corona surrounded by 6 petals on stem 14-20 inches tall 


The earliest record that I could find mentioned daffodils two or three hundred years BC. The first writing about daffodils was Mohammed somewhere about the 6th century AD. The bulb, leaves, and flowers are astringent and emetic. The bulbs are narcotic. 


In magic use they are used for love spells, to increase fertility and to ensure luck.


Daffodils are in the Lily family


Tall Buttercup – Ranunculus acris

All members of the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family) are poisonous. A toxic glycoside (ranunculin) most often found in the flowers, leaves, stems, and sap, causes Bloody diarrhea, excessive salivation, colic, and severe blistering of the mucous membranes and gastrointestinal tract. The toxicity most often affecting cattle, horses, and other livestock. Rarely does it affect humans, as they are less likely to graze it.

I doubt anyone in America hasn’t seen or done the butter test. You remember it, I know you do! Take a buttercup, hold it under the chin, get close to the skin…is the color yellow reflected there on the skin? If so you like butter! Oh I can remember doing this as a child, and teaching my children to do it…how simple fun used to be!

In an old legend Coyote was tossing his eyes up in the air and catching them again. Until, one time Eagle snatched the eyes from their mid air flight. Coyote now blind, made new eyes out of buttercups.

The plant has been crushed and applied as a poultice to the chest to relieve colds and chest pains. The fresh leaves have been used as a rubefacient in the treatment of rheumatism etc. The flowers and the leaves have been crushed and sniffed as a treatment for headaches. An infusion of the roots has been used in the treatment of diarrhea. The poulticed root is also rubefacient and was applied to boils and abscess. The plant sap has been used to remove warts. The sap has also been used as a sedative. The flowers are used in Tibetan medicine, where they are considered to have an acrid taste and a heating potency

Buttercups are all poisonous

Tall Buttercups