Thursday, October 12, 2017


Milkweed is the host plant for Monarchs. The butterflies lay their eggs on the the plant and the caterpillars eat the leaves. Seems like most people know that. 

But did you know that the scientific name of this plant is Asclepias curassavica? And it was named after the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius. This plant has been used for "what ails you" for thousands of years. Intestinal parasites? Got it. Warts? Got it. Syphilis? Got it. And the list goes on. 

So, since it was named after a god, I consider it a sacred plant. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pomegranate--Another Sacred Plant

In Greek mythology, the pomegranate is a symbol of the underworld. It grew from the blood of Adonis, god of beauty and desire. 

Most people have heard the story of Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus. When she was out picking flowers, Hades came up from the underworld and stole her away. She was probably picking flowers in a botanical garden, which we all know is SO WRONG! Don't pick anything in a botanical garden! The pic was taken in the herb garden. at the UC Botanical Garden.

Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, grain, and fertility was sad and angry. She used her power to cause famine. Zeus decided to use his power to get his daughter back on earth. Here is where the pomegranate, food of the underworld, comes into play. Persephone ate pomegranate seeds while in the underworld, so she was obligated to stay. The gods and goddesses worked out a compromise and Persephone was forced to stay in the underworld part of the year. During that part of the year, winter arrives on earth. 

So we can thank the gods and goddesses for the seasons. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Growing Pipevine from Seed

So, it takes about a year. In June, cover the Aristolochia californica fruits so that the wasps don't eat the seeds. When the fruits split open, near the end of summer, take out the seeds and plant them. They sprout in January or so. And by June, the seedlings are looking good. My bags are now in place for the next crop.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


For years, I have seen Tortoiseshells at the UC Botanical Garden in March. I have looked for the offspring, but have never found any. Until today!

Today, someone told me that they had found Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars on some ceanothus. I believed that they had seen caterpillars, but Pipevine Swallowtails on Ceanothus? Not likely. But she was able to tell me where so that I could find them. I am calling these Tortoiseshells. I only saw them on one spot on one bush, but there are probably others in the Garden. I will have to keep looking!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Aberrant Gray Hairstreak

A friend sent me this pic, asking for ID. I couldn't figure it out, so I asked the experts. They said Gray Hairstreak. Normally, this butterfly has orange spots on the hindwings, but not the forewings. So this one looks different than most. I wonder what happens......?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Usually, when passion is mentioned, we think of sexual passion. But in the fifteenth century, people were more likely to be referring to religious passion. And that is what the missionaries who arrived in South America saw when they looked at the parts of this flower. Wikipedia explains it clearly: 

Symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:
Blue passion flower (P. caerulea) showing most elements of the Christian symbolism
This plant isn't sacred in a strict sense, but the religious history is interesting. 

This plant is common in the Berkeley area. Generally people grow it because it is easy and has beautiful flowers. It also attracts butterflies. As I have mentioned before, Gulf Fritillaries lay their eggs on it. My plant (the photo at the top) is "Sally's Rescue," officially known as "Berkeley." The Wikipedia photo is P. caerulea, one of the most common. Both are favored by butterflies. They also have a fabulous tunnel of nectar hidden below the filaments, which bees love. 

Highly recommended for a chain link fence. But it grow ferociously. Be ready with the pruners. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sacred Rose

The rose was associated with Venus and Aphrodite, the Goddesses of Love in ancient  Greece and Rome. In addition to love, the rose symbolized beauty and springtime.
Remember Venus on the Half Shell? Those flowers floating around the Goddess are roses. 

For a long time, Christians rejected rose symbolism because of their association with Greek and Roman myth. Then finally, in the middle ages, things changed, and the white rose became a symbol of Mary and her virginity. At that same time, the rosary became an important tool for prayer. And where does the word "rosary" come from? From "rose" of course! Perhaps the first rosary was actually a crown or roses or a garland of roses. 

In Islam, the rose, which usually flowers on a bush full of thorns, is a symbol of the soul, which may flourish in spite of misery of earthly life. 

And don't forget the Rosicrucians. Since the name means "Rosy Cross" the the rose must be a sacred symbol to them. 

I'm sure the rose symbolizes many other things, both sacred and profane, but that is enough for now.