≡ Menu

Also called Australian beech and red box, this small to medium evergreen tree is native to southeastern Australia and is a member of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae, that also includes guave, bay rum tree, and clove.  It grows up to 75′ tall and has fibrous mottled bark and fragrant gray-green leaves that are up to 3″ long and are round or oval when young but lance-shape and up to 4.3″ long when mature.  In spring to summer, clusters of 7 off-white flowers appear at the ends of branchlets but are not ornamentally significant.  They give way to woody, barrel-shapped to conical fruit capsules that are about 1/4″ long.  The trees are popular street trees and shade trees, and used as windbreaks.  The young leaves are often used in dried arrangements.  The genus name, Eucalyptus, is from the Greek eu meaning well, and kalypto, meaning to cover, and refers to the lid formed by the united calyx-lobes and petals covering the inner parts of the flower before it opens. The specific epithet, polyanthemos, comes from the Greek poly- meaning many, and anthemon, meaning flower. [click to continue…]

verbena-n-vincaVivid combinations are not to everyone’s taste but sometimes jewels tones can be eye catching and pleasing. Here, vivid pink vinca is combines with electric blue verberna ‘Homestead Purple’. The verberna starts blooming early while the vinca is just getting established. As the warm weather arrives the vince really gets going and forms large clumps while the verbena is spreading through the flowering branches. You have color from verbena in spring, from the combination all summer, and the in the fall from the vinca. Both plants do well in full sun and moderately dry, well-drained soil. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rose The McCartney Rose

Long , narrow, rosy pink buds open to large cup-shaped flowers that have broad pink petals with a deep pink reverse, and  loosely scalloped edges.  The flowers appear singly or in clusters of up to 5, and are very fragrant.  They come in flushes throughout the season but are not good cut flowers.  The upright bushes are vigorous and carry mid-green, semi-glossy leaves that may be, susceptible to blackspot.  In warm climates the bushes can reach 6.6′ but are usually kept trimmed at 3-4′.  The rose honors Paul McCartney of music world fame. [click to continue…]

Native to Europe, North Afrcia, and the Middle East, this herbaceous perennial is also known as pennyrile, hillwort, brotherwort, run-by-the-ground, lurk-in-the-ditch, pudding grass, and pulegium.    It is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, that also includes rosemary, beebalm, and ajuga.  American pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides) is in the same family as the European kind but not in the same genus although the two species share a number of characterisitics.   European pennyroyal grows up to 1′ tall and has square stems and elliptical to  obvate leaves with smooth or slightly toothed margins.  The leaves are about 1/2″ long and are covered with fine hairs.  In late summer, whorls of two-lipped, bluish lilac, 1/4″ long flowers appear in the leaf axils.  European pennyroyal has been known from ancient Greek and Roman times and has been used medicinally, as a pest repellent, and to flavor food.  Pennyroyal oil is toxic to both animals and humans and should be used with extreme caution.  The genus name, Mentha, honors the Greek water nymph who was transformed by Persephone into a mint plant as revenge for the nymph’s affair with Persephone’ s husband, Hades. The specific epithet, pulegium, comes from the Latin word, pulex, meaning flea and refers to its pest repelling qualities. [click to continue…]

According to Wikipedia, orange wine is a type of wine made from white wine grapes which are fermented with their skins.  Since the skins contain color pigment, phenols, and tannins that would normally be separated early in the conventional production of white wine, orange wine has a different color, flavor and texture than ordinary white table wines.  The unique process that results in orange wine goes back hundreds of years in Slovenia and Friuli-Venezia Giula, thousands of years in the eastern European country of Georgia where it was known as amber wine due to its color.  The name orange wne for this beverage was initiated in 2004.  My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, did not include any recipes for amber wine in her book Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines,  but has several for orange wine made from oranges. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra)

Also known as white sumac, upland sumac, and scarlet sumac, this suckering, deciduous shrub is a member of the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, that also includes smoke tree, mango, and poison ivy.  It is native to northeastern US, occurs  throughout much of the country, but is most common in the East where it is found in  prairies, fields, abandoned farmland, woodland edges, roadsides, and railroad right of ways, often in dense colonies.  The plants grow 8-20′ tall and have thick smooth stems that are hairless or covered with fine white hairs.  The shiny dark green leaves are  eighteen inches long and pinnately compound with nine to twenty seven leaflets. Leaflets are covered with fine white hairs on the backs and turn bright orange to red in autumn.  Small, yellow-green  male and female flowers appear in separate terminal panicles  on different plants from late spring to early summer.  The panicles are five to ten inches long and female flowers give way to erect, cone-shaped clusters of berry-like fruit up to eight inches tall.  Each fruit is hairy, red when ripe turning brown with maturity, persistent into winter, and attractive to birds.  Plants spread by seed and root stock and can be weedy and invasive but is an important food source for wildlife.  It is drought tolerant and suitable for a xeriscape and for erosion control.  The genus name, Rhus, is the Greek name for one species, Rhus coriaria.  The specific epithet, glabra, is the Latin word meaning smooth, and refers to the stems. [click to continue…]

This watercolored illustration from the 13th century work De proprietatibus rerum (On the Properties of Things) shows some of the plants that grew during the Middle Ages in Europe.  De proprietatibus rerum was written at the school of Magdeburg in modern day Saxony  by the Franciscan monk Bartholomaeus Anglicaus (before 1203-1272 ), and was intended to be used by the students and general public.  It was an encyclopdia-like work with a focus on theology and astrology as well as the 13th century concept of natural sciences.  [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Threeleaf Sumac (Rhus trilobata)

Native to the grasslands, shrubland, deserts, and forests of Western US from Washington to California, east to the Dakotas and Texas, this suckering deciduous shrub is known by many  names including skunkbush, stinking sumac, squawbush, lemonade sumac, polecat bush, quailbush, basketbush, and sourberry.  It is a member of the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, that also includes smoke tree, mango, and poison ivy. Plants grow 3-8′ tall and have arching stems and pinnately compound dark green leaves with three leaflets that are 1.5″ long, coarsely toothed, and turn orange-red in the fall.  The leaves are aromatic but the scent is disagreeable to some and gave rise to the common names like skunkbush and stinking sumac.  In spring before the leaves appear catkins of  male and female flowers are produced on the same or  different plants.  The male flowers are inconspicuous and yellowish, while the female flowers are bright yellow and carried at the end of branches.  The fertilized female flowers give way to small sparsely hairy fruits that persist through fall and winter and are eaten by birds and small mammals when better food is unavailable.  In addition, the thickets formed by the plants provide nesting cover and hiding sites for wildlife.  Threeleaf sumac is one of the most drought tolerant sumacs and is useful for erosion control, xeriscape, windbreak and a hedge.  The genus name, Rhus, is the Greek name for one species, Rhus coriaria.  The specific epithet, trilobate, comes from the Latin prefex tri- meaning three, and the Latin word lobatus meaning lobed, and refers to the leaves. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Lovage (Levisticum officinale)

This herbaceous perennial is native to the Mediterranean where it grows wild in the mountainous area of southern France, northern Greece, and the Balkans.  It is a member of the carrot family, Apiaceae, that also includes celery, parsley, and Queen Anne’s lace.  Although valued in past times for  its medicinal benefits there is no medical evidence to support its use for health care and it is now considered valuable primarily as a culinary and aromatic herb.  Plants grow 5′-8′ tall from a thick fleshy root 5-6″ long.  Hollow ribbed stems branch at the top and have a basal rosette of dark green leaves and  smaller stem leaves. The basal leaves are up to 28″ long and are tripinnately compound into wedge-shaped to triangular pointed leaflets with toothed margins and a celery-like aroma when bruised.  From late spring to early summer, tiny yellow to greenish flowers appear in terminal globose compound umbels 1.5-5.9 ” across and give way to a dry, very aromatic, 1/4″ long fruits that mature in the fall.  Lovage is easy to grow and makes a good background plant in the border but is not striking in appearance.  It is best considered a culinary herbs with seeds and leaves being used in such dishes as stews, salads and sauces.  The genus name, Levisticum, is a corruptionof the word Latin word ligusticum meaning of Liguira, northwest Italy, where the herb was grown extensively.  The specific epithet, officinale, is the Latin word meaning sold in shops, applied to plants that were believed to have medicinal properties. [click to continue…]

Craterellus_cornucopioides_Wikimedia commons John Kirkpatrick Mushroom ObserverAlso called trumpet of the dead, this culinary prize is found primarily in moist areas in deciduous woods of North American, Europe and Asia. It occurs in dense colonies from late to summer to fall but is difficult to find because its dark color blends in with the leaf litter in which it grows. The funnel shaped mushroom is l.5 to 4.5 inches tall and l.75 to 4 inches across. The cap is black and has a fringed reflexed margin that becomes lobed with maturity. The spore-bearing surface is smooth to slightly wrinkled, and grayish black, distinctly lighter than the cap. The hollow stem is black and ¼ to ¾ inch in diameter, the spores are white, and the flesh is gray to black. [click to continue…]