Thursday, May 12, 2016


We think of tobacco as a horrible habit. But at one time it was a sacred plant. Almost all tribes in North America and most tribes in South America used it. It was smoked during rituals, ceremonies and during social events.  It was used to connect the worlds because the it has long deep roots underground, a green plant on the surface of the earth, fire that represented the sun, and smoke that rises skyward. It was put in a fire in a sweat lodge to thank the creator.  It can be smoked during prayer to take messages to the creator and to those who have died. It was also used medicinally for stomach aches and fever.

In bloom now in the crop garden at the UC Botanical Garden.

Crown of Thorns

Remember the crown of thorns placed on the head of Jesus? It was probably made of this plant. It was common in the area and flexible enough to bend into a headpiece. I guess it is not a sacred plant, but a plant with religious significance.

It is in fruit now at the UC Botanical Garden. This plant is on the path above the Rose Garden. It grows in a big mound, and seems to invite people to pat it to find out exactly how spiny it is. Prickly Burnet: a good common name.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pipevine Seed Pods

People have been asking me what the fruits of Aristolochia californica look like, so here they are. They are ridged and about 2-3" at maturity. I am more excited that ever that my vine is fruiting because I have learned how to propagate the seeds. It's easy! But you do have to do a little work. The main problem is that the wasps like to eat the seeds. They clean out everyone if you let them. So, when the pods get to be full size, protect them with a bag. I tied some netting around them last year.
Then, when they break open, collect the seeds. Most seeds are collected when hard and dry. These are wet and weird when ready. They don't seem to have a full shell. It is like a tiny boat in a half-shell. And wet! And gooey! So weird!
Then plant immediately. I started mine in a four-inch pot filled 3/4 full with normal potting soil. Then I added a bit of seed mix at the top. I Spread the wet seed on the surface of the seed mix. Next, I sifted  some seed mix over the top to cover. Then I used a spoon to press the seeds into the soil. I watered once/day for 5 months. Yes! Five months! The directions I read said three months, but I saw nothing at the three month mark. I decided to wait a little longer, and wow! Success! Almost every seed sprouted!

The short version: Protect the fruit from wasps. Be patient! It takes five months for the seeds to sprout!

And let me know if your seeds spout. I'd like to know if my method works for others. Thanks!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar in January

At the UC Bot Garden on Aristolochia Baetica. I guess if the pipevine is evergreen, the butterflies take advantage of it.