Sunday, March 2, 2008

Little Magical One

A member of the family Rosaceae, Alchemilla mollis or Lady's Mantle and A. xanthochlora, (which is much smaller with deeply lobed leaves), is one of two plants I'm considering planting in memory of Lisa.
Since she passed away I have been deeply affected by the condolences filtered through me. I'm in awe of countless, countless hearts broken and missing her friendship. She was a true healer to many. For this reason I've been drawn toward plants that heal, figuratively and otherwise.

Alchemilla has long been associated with healing and alchemists. From an Arabic word, alchemelych, meaning alchemy; the plant is named so for its "magical healing powers", with folklore suggesting that even dew collected from alchemilla leaves has healing properties.

Young leaves, raw or cooked, have a dry, bitter flavour. They can be mixed with the leaves of Polygonum bistorta (Common Bistort) and Polygonum persicaria (Spotted Ladysthumb / Redshank) then used in making a bitter herb pudding called 'Easter ledger' which is eaten during Lent.
The root is also edible; and the leaves are often used in tea.

It tolerates most soils densities, although requires it to be well-drained, and prefers it in the range of neutral to alkaline. It can grow in semi-shade to sun, and is drought tolerant.

There's a certain photographic side of me that, like many, adores this plant very much for how the water and dew collects like pearls.

books to read in the bathtub:

Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim 1959

Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books 1984 ISBN 3874292169

Stuart. M. (Editor) The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism Orbis Publishing. London. 1979 ISBN 0-85613-067-2

The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines by Matthew Wood

The other plant I'm considering for Lisa is

Althea officinalis Marsh Mallow

The generic name, Althaea, is derived from the Greek, altho (to cure), from its healing properties. The name of the order, Malvaceae, is also derived from the Greek, malake (soft), for the special qualities of the Mallows in softening and healing. Theophrastus (c. 372-286 BC) reported that it was taken in sweet wine for coughs, and Hippocrates cites althea in the treatment of wounds.
Leaving Greece, Mallow was considered a vegetable among the Romans.
...and oddly (but not), The Grateful Dead song Althea comes to mind, being one of Judith's favorites, and reminds me of conversations in the department office, and Lisa.

The leaves, flowers and the root of Althaea officinalis all have medicinal properties.

"Bot. [L. althaea, a marsh mallow, f. [the Greek] to heal.] A genus of the plants of which the Marsh Mallow and Hollyhockare species; by florists often extended to the genus Hibiscus. - Oxford English Dictionary

Flowering from July to September, it tolerates almost any soil type, ..but doesn't grow well in the shade.

"Whosoever shall take a spoonful of the Mallows shall that day be free from all diseases that may come to him."Pliny the Elder

more books for the bathtub:

Usher. G.
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable 1974 ISBN 0094579202

Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants. Van Nostrand Reinhold 1982 ISBN 0442222009

Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London 1996 ISBN 9-780751-303148

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