Also known as flame lily, climbing lily, creeping lily, glory lily, tiger claw, agnishikha and fire lily, this deciduous perennial vine is native to tropical and southern Africa and temperate and tropical Asia (from China to India) where it grows in a variety of habitats including jungles, forests, thickets, grasslands and sand dunes. Not a true lily, it is a member of the Colchicaceae, a small plant family that also includes autumn crocus and bellwort. The plant usually grows 1-6′ long but may reach 15′. It has a fleshy, red-brown rhizome that produces 1-4 slender stems bearing alternate or opposite, lanceolate to oval, glossy emerald green leaves. The leaves are 5-8″ long, have strong parallel veining, and are tipped with tendrils that allow the plant to climb. From mid summer to fall, cup-shaped, lily-like flowers appear in the leaf axils on stalks that are up to 7.5″ long. The flowers have 6 reflexed yellow or red tepals that are 2-3′ long, have wavy margins, and surround conspicuous stamens and style. The fleshy fruit is oblong, 2-4.5″ long, and contains about 20 rounded red seeds. All parts of the plant are considered highly toxic if ingested and the rhizomes may cause contact dermatitis. In spite of its toxicity, the plant is in great demand for medicinal uses and the plants are valued in the garden or containers for their flowers. In some areas gloriosa lily has become weedy. The genus name, Gloriosa, is the Latin word meaning glorious. The specific epithet, superba, is the Latin word meaning haughty.
Linda Glaser’s book, It’s Summer, invites us to share a young girl’s thoughts and feelings as she enjoys the days of summer. She watches various animals engaged in their daily activities from dragonflies , ants, and spiders, to caterpillars, mosquitoes, and birds. She plays in the mud, goes to the beach, snacks on fresh fruits, and waters the flowers and vegetables in the garden. After a thunder storm darkens her day she enjoys the fresh clean air and rainbow that follows. After dinner she goes outside in the fading light and sees the bats and fireflies as they come out at night. A dropping yellow leaf and a crispness in the air signal the approaching end of summer and beginning of fall. Four pages of suggestions for summer activities conclude the work; included are directions for making a daisy or clover chain, starting a compost pile, and pressing flowers. [click to continue…]
Anise hyssop is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial native to the Midwest and Great Plains where it grows in prairies, plain, fields, and dry upland forests. It is a member of the mint family, Labiatae, that also includes oregano, deadnettle, and bugleweed (Ajuga). The scented leaves grow on square stems and are up to four inches long. They are dull green and have toothed margins . The tiny violet-blue flowers are densely packed into terminal spikes three to six inches long. They appear in mid to late summer over a long bloom time. Each tubular flower is two-lipped, 1/3 inch long, and is nectar rich, attracting bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, including the Red Admiral and Painted lady. A. ‘Blue Fortune’ is especially appealing to bees and butterflies. The decorative seedheads are persistent and attractive to small seeding-eating birds such as goldfinches so delay cutting the faded flowers until spring. [click to continue…]
Also known by many other names including gloriosa daisy, this native of eastern and central North America is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow, and lettuce. It grows 2-3′ tall and has bristly hairs covering the stout branching stems, the undersides of leaves, and the flowerheads. The lanceolate leaves are entire, 2-4″ long and usually three-ribbed. From mid summer to early fall solitary daisy-like flowerheads 2-4″ across appear that have a domed center of brown to black disc flowers surrounded by yellow ray flowers. Cultivars are available that are single or double, vary in height, and have various shades of yellow, orange, gold, and mahogany red ray flowers. The plants may decline in rainy or humid weather due to foliar diseases. Black-eyed Susans are good cut flowers and the plants are a good choice for wildflower, native plant, cottage, and cutting gardens. The genus name, Rudbeckia, honors Olof Rudbeck (1630-1702) a Swedish botanist and founder of the Uppsala Botanic Garden, and his son Olof Rudbeck the Younger a friend of Linnaeus. The specific epithet, hirta, is the Latin word meaning hairy and refers to the hairs on the stems and leaves that distinguish this species from other members of the genus. [click to continue…]
Rosa gallica is probably the oldest rose in existence. Native to southern and central Europe, it was first domesticated by the ancient Greeks and Romans and most modern roses can trace their ancestry back to it. The ancient Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder (d. 79 AD), identifies 12 kinds of roses, 2 of which may be R. gallica. A striped variety of this rose, R. gallica var versicolor, is illustrated in wall paintings from houses in Pompeii. This variety was thought to have originated in the 12 century AD and named Rosa mundi in honor of the mistress of French king, Henry II, but the examples from Pompeii prove this idea incorrect. The Romans highly valued roses and used them in many ways such as making perfume, medicine, and garlands. Photo Credit Wikipedia
Native to the prairies, plains, meadows, pastures, and savannas of southern and western Texas as well as much of Mexico, this evergreen shrub or small tree is a member of the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae, that also includes California lilac (Ceanothus spp.), and jujube tree. The plant grows 1-20′ tall (more commonly 6′), is much branched, and has a spineless stem. The elliptical to oval, dark green leaves are 1-3″ long and have prominent veins and slightly recurving margins. From summer to fall, clusters of small greenish flowers with 5 petals appear in the leaf axils and give way to fleshy, berry-like fruits that are 1/2″ across, one-seeded, and dark red, brown, or black . The seeds, as well as the leaves, are toxic to humans and livestock. In spite of their toxicity, the plant is valued for it heat and drought tolerance and used as an ornamental in the garden especially in hot, dry areas. The genus name, Karwinskia, honors Bavarian naturalist Baron Wilhelm Friedrich Karwinsky von Karwin, who collected plants in Mexico from 1826-1831, and 1840. The specific epithet, humboldtiana, honors Alexander von Humboldt, a German polymath, geographer, naturalist, explorer and proponent of Romantic philosophy and science.
Mark Bittman’s book, Dinner for Everyone, present a novel approach to everyday cooking. Bittman presents 100 classic main dishes from all over the world and includes such favorites as gumbo, coq au vin, and Korean BBQ. Each iconic dish has three versions: easy, vegan, and special occasion/company, for a total of 300 recipes. The easy recipes are designed to take 30 minutes or less to prepare and require a minimum of clean up so are recommended for busy weekday meals. The vegan options feature healthy ingredients while attempting to capture the flavor essence and satisfying elements of the original, and the company versions are for the pleasure of cooking and sharing a fantastic meal.
A native of Greece and western Asia, the opium poppy is a member of the poppy family, Papaverceae, that also includes bleeding heart and corydalis. It is the oldest poppy in cultivation and its domestication dates back to ancient Neolithic times, c5000 BC. The ancient Minoans, 2000-1450 BC, made opium from the sap of its seed capsules and opium was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a pain killer and sleeping aid. Today, opium poppy is grown for three reasons: poppy seeds used in cooking, opium used in medicines, and flowers in the garden. Poppies grown for culinary and ornamental uses have been bred for a low concentration of opium while cultivars for medicinal uses have been bred for a high concentration. Photo Credit Magnus Manske Wikimedia Commons
Also known as stinking nightshade, this herbaceous annual or biennial is native to rocky, arid areas of Europe and Asia and is a member of the Solanaceae, nightshade family, that also includes potato, petunia, and Chinese lantern. The plant grows up to 1-3′ tall from a branched tap root and has a woody stem base that is widely branched. The basal leaves are stalked, up to 8″ long, and have coarsely toothed margins while the stem leaves are stalkless and unevenly lobed. The foliage is covered with fine sticky hairs and is foul smelling. In summer, 5-lobed, funnel-shaped flowers appear singly from the stem just above the leaves. Each 1″ wide flower is subtended by leafy bracts and is greenish yellow to whitish, occasionally mauve, with a conspicuous network of dark purplish veins. The pineapple-shaped fruit contains up to 200 black seeds that can remain viable for up to 5 years. Plants reseed themselves and can become weedy. All parts of the plant, particularly the roots and seeds, are poisonous to humans and other animals if ingested. In spite of its toxicity, however, henbane has been used since ancient times as a sedative and pain killer. During the Middle Ages it was associated with witchcraft and more recently it has been used in making beer as well as to treat a variety of ailments from toothache to rheumatism. The genus name, Hyoscyamus, probably comes from the ancient Greek words ῠ̔οσκῠ́ᾰμος (huoskúamos), from ὗς (hûs) meaning pig and κῠ́ᾰμος (kúamos) meaning bean, and refers to the high toxicity of the seeds to swine. The specific epithet, niger, is the Latin word for black, and refers to the seeds. Photo Credit: Mikenorton Wikimedia Commons
Also called johnny jump up, this herbaceous annual is native to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa, and a member of the violet family, Violaceae. The ancient Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder (d. 79 AD) identifies several different plants that he calls violets, and one of them is believed to be V. arvensis, that we call field pansy. Pliny goes on to give the many medicinal uses of violets in general and white and yellow violets in particular but the specific plant involved is not certain. A carbonized seed capsule of V. arvensis has been found in the excavations of Pompeii.