I am almost done with school; 3 weeks until graduation. My heart is bursting with joy. As the end nears, I find myself needing some reflection, processing, integrating and closure at my experience, so please forgive this semi-gushy personal post. » Read the rest of this entry «
What is it about poppies?
I don’t get them, but as if I’m entitled to understanding. They are so tender, fragile, delicate, finicky. Their petals are like tissue paper and their fuzzy buds look like they could barely be supported by their thread-like stem. One little bump and the plant falls over. But yet they contain some incredibly powerful medicine, and not just the opium poppy but many plants in the family (Corydalis, California Poppy for two). » Read the rest of this entry «
I have cleavers on the brain. They are growing tall and thick this time of year in the city and in the woods and meadows. I’d like to share a few links about this awesome and prevalent herb I found out there on the interwebs. » Read the rest of this entry «
It’s been a spectacular spring so far in SE Portland (all 8 days of it). Today was in the upper 60’s, sunny with a few white puffy clouds. The flowers, cherry blossoms, herbs and buds have been quite wonderful, too. Each day a new bloom is heading the show. Floral perfume wafts the streets. Bees are on the prowl for fresh nectar. » Read the rest of this entry «
Abandoned houses can be found everywhere. Bad for the economy, yes; but very good for herbalists! » Read the rest of this entry «
Best and dearest flower that grows,
Perfect both to see and smell;
Words can never, never tell
Half the beauty of a Rose -
Buds tht open to disclose
Fold on Fold of purest white,
Lovely pink, or that glows
Deep, sweet-scented. What a delight
To be a Fairy of the Rose!
-Cicely Mary Barker
Portland calls itself the City of Roses and I must agree that it lives up to its name. Rose bushes adorn meridians and lawns, whole parks are dedicated to hybrid roses. The Rose Test Garden has over 500 variates of roses in just about any color you could imagine. The Shakespeare Garden is my favorite part of the Test Garden, which only contains plants mentioned in his plays (which makes for lots and lots of culinary and medicinal herbs). Unfortunately, the majority of these test, hybrid roses are lacking the most transcendent, beautiful and impactful quality of roses: scent.
What the hybrid roses lack, the wild and forgotten roses more than compensate. They are teeming with the heady, rich, intoxicating and lingering scent. So much so that sometimes I catch a whiff of rose before I actually see them. That is precisely how I stumbled across roses growing in some trees on the far edge in the park adjacent to where I live. Pink, butter-cream and white roses where each in a tree which where, incedently, climbing in a hawthrone, wild cherry and a Japanese maple – all members of the rose family themselves. Coincidental?
During a walk through the woods, I saw a fine, delicate set of leaves arranged in a rose-like fashion. One frond could fit in my hand. Upon closer examination, I saw teeny, tiny little roses smaller than my pinky finger nail (and I have small hands). Sure enough, there were rose blossoms that were silver dollar to quarter size, with a larger-than-life fragrance.
This dwarf rose may very well be the Baldhip rose, Rosa gymnocarpa, but the confirm this I will have to check the hips out too see if they are indeed “bald” (no sepal remnants on the tip of the hip, or hip tip if you prefer). I made a tea from the fresh leaves and it was deliciously delicate and soothing.
It’s been a few weeks since my last blog entry, and it will most likely be a few more until the next because I am in transit. All my herbs books and field guides are packed away, as are my computer and cords to import photos; tinctures, dried herbs are put away, too. That leaves me to experience herbalism in the simple, joyous way of meeting plants along the road, field or woods and wondering about them.
I have met a bunch of plants for the first time recently this way, some of which I recognize from books or from seeing their cultivated varieties, others are plants that don’t grow around Duluth that I don’t get to see often. Here are a few that have piqued my interest…
- Lobelia inflata – I am pretty sure this is the variety that grows in my area. It must be, because one tiny bit of leaf left on the tongue for barely a minuet was quite stimulating and moving for the entirety of my body, and it’s seed pods have the characteristic inflated appearance.
- White vervain – Verbena urticifolia looks just like blue vervain in the stem, leaf and flowers, except smaller and more delicate. This white variety grows in similar locals as blue vervain, along roads, in ditches, on shores of rives and lakes. What a beauty!
- Anise hyssop – I have seen this herbs cultivated in many an herb garden, and have cultivated it myself. It is one of my favorite herbs for children, as Agastache foeniculum is deliciously calming and carminative. When I grew it in Northern Minnesota, it never came back as a perennial, but a couple hours south it is a common weed in the country, growing in the much the same places as the white vervain. One thing that strikes me about the wild anise hyssop is that it seems even more aromatic than the ones in the garden, as if it’s qualities are augmented by wildness.
- Wild ginger – I love this plant. Asarum caudatum creates a shiny dark-green blanket under hardwoods and ceders along the steep bluffs of the St. Croix River valley. It’s rounded heart-shaped leaves mingle with another heart-shaped plant, violet. Maude Grieve says that wild ginger’s medicinal actions include “stimulant, carminative, diuretic, diaphoretic”, and that is is “used in chronic chest complaints, dropsy with albuminaria, painful spasms of bowels and stomach”.
- Bee balm – I am not sure exactly what Monarda species grows around here, but it doesn’t really matter because it is sooo freshly fragrant and spicy! I have one cup of honey from Cloquet, MN left that I have been wondering how to use; after tasting the local bee balm I was inspired by Kiva Rose’s blog to make a little Beebalm flower infused honey, with a few anise hyssop flowers added for good carminative and nervine measure. When I get to Oregon this fall, I’ll open up a jar of sweet Midwest summertime.
- One more mint – Catnip. Nothing too special here, as catnip grows just about anywhere, even in Duluth. None the less, it’s around and I love it. What can I say? The gentle and effective herbs used for children are some of my favorites, chamomile, elder flower, anise hyssop and of course catnip. Fresh Nepeta cataria tea tastes a little ‘green’ but is easily enhanced by lavender, lemon balm and a bit of honey. I can’t say for certain if it was the catnip or the OTC anti-prostaglandins, but after having a strong tea of it with the two other mints and two Aleves, a bad case of cramps were relived and I was able to get the best night’s sleep I’ve had in months.
- Figwort – The mouth-watering delicious smelling (in my apparently singular opinion) figwort, Scrophularia nodosa, is already to seed but it doesn’t stop me from munching on it’s leaves. It grows in all over the country side as well as in abandoned lots and alleys in towns. Mullein and foxgloves are in the same Scrophulariaceae family, as can been seen in the snapdragon-like flowers.
- Speaking of mullein, there is plenty out right now in flower. I am not using the leaves or employing it as medicine in any way, just sticking my nose in it’s sparkly yellow flowers on a daily basis. Yum! Verbascum thapsus is one of my favorite smelling flowers, it is so unapologetically floral.
- Solomon’s seal – One of my first blog entries was about Polygonatum multiflorum, Solomon’s Seal, and it has captured my attention since although I haven’t had a lot of experience using it in practice. Whenever I find it in the woods it takes my breath away for a moment. Its’ line and drape is gracefully beautiful, and it’ particular shade of grayish-, blueish-green is soothing to look upon. What strikes me the most is it’s surprisingly large size; although I probubly think that because I am used to seeing the false Solomon’s seal everywhere, which is quite minscule in comparison.
- Collinsonia - C. canadensis is quite prolific around these parts. At first it resembels a stunted, rounded nettle more than a mint family member, as can be seen in these pictures. If you look closely, you can see their flowers are indeed little mint flowers. I have not used Collinsonia medicinally, but I have come across it in researching formulas for hernias and vericose veins. Here’s what Henriette’s Herbal has to say about it (actually, it is Harvey Wickes Felter from the Eclectic Materia Medica). What an awesome online resource!
- One more, actually two more: an uni-dentified pea family member with tiny pink flowers and transluscent green seed pods, as well as a smaller than dime-sized wild orchid growing on a long (1-3 feet) thin stalk, having pinkish white flowers. I have looked online in an attempt to identify these pretty plants to no avail. Sigh. Sometimes the internet just doesn’t cut it…