PLANTS WITH STRANGE NAMES PART #2 ... BY GLADYS JEURINK
(Geum triflorum) is a good example of a plant with a strange name.
Unless you know its history, you might wonder what you are getting. Can
you imagine what a European might think if given this plant with just
its common name on the tag? It is also called OLD
MAN’S WHISKERS. They are perennial wild flowers you can purchase
at the nurseries with a dainty pink blossom that is followed by a
grayish, plumed fruit head. Goldfinches will eat as many seeds as they
can find so it may not spread fast for you.
Most of the seeds do not germinate but they do spread from the
roots. Only 8 to 12 inches high in full sun with good drainage (no wet
feet in winter especially). They got their names from the pioneers who
saw great patches of them with their seed heads from a distance.
Hybridizers have developed ones with red or yellow blooms, thus making a
good edging. Their seed heads still resemble "smoke" in a
large patch and some distance back.
ROOT (Sanguinaria canadensis)
is another wild, woodland flower who comes up early in the spring with
its leaves nicely folded and then expands to a very interesting, deeply
lobed leaf that contains the white, waxy bloom on its own 3-6 inch
stems. I have given away a number of “chunks” of my colony as it
spreads by roots rather well after its first two years.
It does need a protected area from wind as the blooms burn
easily. Leaves and all disappear in early summer if it is hot and they
run out of water. This year
they lasted until our spell of 100 degrees. The name comes from the fact
that it will bleed red if you cut the stem or leaf.
Some people are allergic to this sap.
You can plant them even in deep shade if soil is wet and acidic.
QUEEN ANN’S LACE (Daucus
carota) is also called wild
as it has a root much like a carrot in shape and smell but is white, not
orange. The original carrot had to be boiled for a long time to be
edible so our carrots have come a long way thanks to the efforts of
plant lovers. Fancy the new
one this year which is bright orange with purple rings. When you buy
seeds for QUEEN ANN’S LACE it generally is listed as a biennial, forming a
short rosette the first year and blooming the second. But I start seeds
early, sometimes inside under lights, and it blooms for me the first
year. The stems are slender
and tend to flop in the rain or wind so I usually plant seeds or set out
the plants inside a cage. They need full sun. It does well in bouquets
especially with red flowers. It gets its name from Queen Anne who was a
skilled lace maker. Be careful in the woods, as there are 2 poisonous
plants that look like QUEEN ANN (fools parsley and poison hemlock). The black swallowtail
butterfly lays its eggs on the plant or on parsley. Some catalogs list Ammi
visnaga as QUEEN ANN’S LACE which
has a greenish tinged bloom or Ammi
majus species also called white
dill. Any of these will give you the round lacy blooms. The
wild variety is very aggressive.
How about MOTHER-IN-LAWS TONGUE (Sansevieria
trifasciata) if you are talking to a new gardener? They might get
the idea you are viscious. Or some people call it SNAKE
PLANT. It is not hardy
here in Lincoln but is a good beginner’s plant, as it survives neglect
but not over watering. Natives
of Africa and India, the most common one makes a good houseplant and
grows to 4 feet and the long, pointed, thick leaves do not come from a
stem but directly from the soil. There
also is a “Birds Nest” which
grows only 12 inches tall. This last year a twisted leaf one has
appeared. The first plant I
met was in bloom in a large (20-inch) pot growing almost in the dark. I
was called in to administer first aid as it had cracked its pot from top
to bottom. As they grow
they send out rhizomes that will bend to fit in the pot and start a new
plant. Our patient had over 30 to 36-inch tall babies trying to find
room. After we broke them
apart and replanted several in a new big
pot there was a number I could use to start my own colony. When they are
happy, and several years old, they have a fragrant bloom. You can take a
single leaf, cut it into sections and each part will grow unless you
plant it upside down but your new plants will not have the stripes
across or the golden edge. It
is easier to dump the pot and tear off as many “kids” as you want.
Do not injure the leaf tips or that one stops growing.
They do not like wet feet, especially in the winter.
I have not found anywhere how it got its common name.
BOUNCING BET (Saponaria
officinalis) is a plant most of our mothers and grandmothers had. They had little time to care for flowers and Bet can take care of
itself. It is a fast spreading perennial by roots, and grows about 2
feet tall with white, pink, or red flowers.
I have the double pink form, which will bloom twice during the
summer if deadheaded. The double form does not form seeds but that is no
problem, as the roots are very vigorous.
The heads are heavy and can flop if in good soil. I cage the area
where the new roots have sent up plants and dig under the old ones to
keep it from “bouncing” all over the yard. The plant is also called soapwort
as it produces bubbles when oozing sap from its stems and leaves. In
addition to foam, the sap dissolves oil, fat, and grease so has been
used by ancient groups as soap and as a skin wash in rashes.
Plants are fun to watch grow and flower. It adds to the enjoyment
if you find time to explore the origin of the plant, its native habitat,
and especially the origin of the name,