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Apple Crusher (Photo Credit: Man vyi Wikimedia Commons)

The name Burgundy champagne is a absurdity as most wine drinkers know because champagne can only be made in the French region of  Champagne. My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, included a recipe for this beverage in her 1909 book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines and it is difficult to determine why she attached either name to the resulting drink as it is made of sweet cider rather than grapes and bears little resemblance to any wine. Perhaps the drink was pink and bubbly and the name was suggestive.

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Native to the mountains of Iran and Turkmenistan, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the parsley family, Apiaceae, that also includes carrots, celery, and poison hemlock.  Growing from a thick taproot, the plant is about 3′ tall and has a smooth, hollow stem.  It has finely divided tripinnate leaves with a stout basal sheath clasping the stem.  In late spring  umbels of  small yellow flowers appear and produce seeds that ripen in summer.  A fetid yellowish-brown gum resin called galbanum is produced by the stem of the plant and is valued for its medicinal qualilties.  In addition,  the gum resin was used by the ancient Egpyptians and Israelites as an ingredient in incense.  The genus name, Ferula,  is the Latin word for the hollow light rod made from this plant and used for walking stick, splints, stirring boiling liquids, and corproral punishment.  The specific epithet, galbaniflua, comes from the Semitic word galbana, the gum resin produced by the plant and the Latin word fluo meaning flow suggesting the way it emerges from a wounded stem. [click to continue…]

Toad flax might not be the star of the show in any garden but it adds a lot of charm even growing in lean dry soil.  True, it is a rambunctious plant and will need some contraints on its spread but it sports its pretty yellow snap-dragon like flowers in dense spikes for about a month in mid to late summer and attracts butterflies, bees, and other insects.  In addition it has a history of being a source of dye in colonial times and a medicinal herb then and now.  Other names for the plant are butter and eggs, and wild snapdragon, but toad flax is perfect for a zoo garden and a good addition to a pasture, meadow, wildlife, butterfly or children’s garden. [click to continue…]

Also known as rose of Jericho, Maryam’s flower, flower of St. Mary, St. Mary’s flower, Mary’s flower, and white mustard flower, this annual herb is native to the deserts of western Asia and is a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, that also includes cabbage, broccoli, and alyssum.  The prostrate plant grows about 6″ tall and has a heavy tap-root that produces a 12″ wide flat disc like structure of numerous slender branches that bear small, obovate, gray leaves and tiny, white, axillary flowers.  When dryness occurs the leaves drop, and the branches contract into a tight ball with the tips at the top and the fruits inside and attached.   At this point the wind may break the ball from the root and blow it around as a tumbleweed.   The seeds can remain dormant for years and when the rains come again the ball containing them uncurls, the plant seems to come to life again, the seed capsules pop open, and the seeds germinate.  The genus name, Anastatica, comes from the Greek word anastasis, meaning resurrection, referring to the fact that no matter how dry the plant gets it can recover its shape by being placed in water.  The specific epithet, hierochuntica, comes from the classical name for the town of Jericho, Hierikous. [click to continue…]

Plants of the Bible: Atriplex dimorphostegia

This annual shrub is a member of the Amaranthaceae family that also includes spinach, beet, and celosia.  It is native to western Asia from Arabia to Afghanistan and Tibet where it grows in deserts, dunes, sandy places, and alluvial fans. The decumbent or spreading plants grow 5-16″ tall and are many branched.  The gray-green succulent leaves are .4-1″ long, subsessile, and ovate, deltoid, or cordate.  Inconspicuous male and female  flowers appear in the leaf axils on the same plant in summer. Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]

Fritillaria Great Spangled open 2The great spangled fritillary inhabits moist meadows , pastures, prairies, and woodlands all over the US except Florida.   The common name fritillary comes from the Latin word fritillus meaning chess board or dice box which refers to the checkered black pattern on the orange ground of these butterflies.  Viewed from above, the fore wing has five black dashes along its base while the hind wing has several black dashes at its base.  An irregular black band lies in the middle of the wings, with a row of black dots and two rows of black crescents along the outer edges. The females tend to be darker have a more smudgy look than the males and western species of both genders are brighter orange than their eastern counterparts.   Fritillarias are often difficult to distinguish in the field but this one is the largest of the genus with a wing span of 2.25 to 3.5 inches. [click to continue…]

Also known as Jerusalem thorn, garland thorn, or crown of thorns, this deciduous shrub or small tree is native to the Mediterranean region and southwest and central Asia.  It is a member of the hawthorn family, Rhamnaceae, that also inclues California lilac and jujube tree. The straggly plants grow 16-20′ tall and have zigzag pliable branches bearing  ovate to round, leathery, glossy green leaves  3/4-1″ long.  Each leaf is finely toothed and has a straight and a curved stipular spines on the outside of each twist.  From July to August clusters of small greenish flowers appear and are followed by leathery, brownish yellow nutlets surrounded by a circular wing about 1″ across.  Christ’s thorn is sometimes used as a hedge.  The branches may have been used to make the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head before the crucifixion but Ziziphus spina-christi (Christ’s thorn jujube) has also been suggested.   The genus name, Paliurus,  is the ancient Greek name for this species.  The specific epithet, spina-christi, are the Latin words meaning thorns of Christ and refer to its supposed use at the crucifixion.  Photo Credit Fritz Geller Grim Wikipedia [click to continue…]

Attract ruby-throated hummingbirds, bumblebees and Baltimore checkerspot butterflies by adding a clump of this perennial with its flowers that resemble the head of a turtle peering out of its shell. The white, two-lipped flowers appear in 6-8″ long dense terminal spikes in summer for 3-4 weeks and are set off nicely by the dark green foliage that remains attractive all season. Also known as snakehead and balmony, turtlehead is related to snapdragon and foxglove, and is native to partly shaded, moist soils in North America from Newfoundland to north Georgia, and west to Minnesota. It is an excellent choice for shade, bog, and woodland gardens as well as native plant, wildlife, and wildflower gardens.

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Native to riparian sites of southeastern Europe to western Asia, this long-lived deciduous tree is also known as oriental plane and is a member of the small Platanaceae family that also includes London plane tree and American sycamore.  The deep rooted tree may grow up to 120′ but is usually less than 90′ tall and has a spreading crown, horizonatal branching, and a single trunk with flaking, scaly,  gray-brown bark.  The palmate, maple-like  leaves have 5-7 distinct lobes and coarsely toothed margins, and may provide red, amber and yellow color in the fall.  Globose clusters of male and female greenish flowers appear in spring on the same tree and pollinated female flowers give way to 1 3/8″ wide balls of small, one-seeded fruits that ripen in the fall and persist into winter.  Old World plane tree is resistant to drought, pollution, and soil compaction so is valued as a shade tree.  The wood is used to build furniture, and various parts of the tree have been used medicinally and to make fabric dye.  The “Tree of Hippocrates” in Kos and the grove of trees in ancient Athens may have been plane trees.  The genus name, Platanus, is from the Greek ord πλάτος, meaning breadth,  referring to its wide-spreading branchesThe specific epithet, orientalis, means from the east, and refers to the origin of the species. [click to continue…]

Native to the semi-desert areas of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle-East this  herbaceous perennial is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow and lettuce.  It has a thick, woody, verticle root and produces a rosette of leaves  that gives rise to a low branching stem with 10 or more branches bearing pinnately dissected, toothed leaves measuring  2.7-12″ long and tipped with spines. The prominent mid- and side- veins are white sometimes tinged with purple and the leaf surface may be covered with spider-like hairs.  The terminal compound flower heads are spiny, appear from late winter to mid spring, and consist of a single  floret surrounded by its own involucre. The florets may be cream, white, yellow, greenish, purple, reddish or silvery.  The fruit is an achene.  As the plants mature they dry up, and from late spring to summer detach from the root and are rolled by the wind as a tumbleweed, dispersing their seeds over a wide area.  Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]