Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ballota pseudodictamnus

Didn't I buy hoaround coughdrops awhile back? That is Marrubium vulgare, not Ballota pseudodictamnus. That is the problem with common names, two completely different plants can share the same name. The one pictured here, Ballota, has greenish-yellow leaves and makes a lovely ground cover at the UC Botanical Garden. It has flowers so small that it was difficult for me to get a picture, but you can see a flower if you look carefully at the first photo.

Holly Forbes, Curator, did a nice piece on this plant for the Garden e-newletter, Clippings: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs021/1102506130269/archive/1103523557867.html She says that it is rarely found in its native habitat, although it is common in cultivation. It certainly seems to do well in the Garden.

One interesting use of this plant is that the calyx was used as a wick for an oil lamp. A wick has to be absorbent so that it draws the oil or melted wax to the flame, but also flame resistant sot hat it doesn't burn. I guess Ballota has spongy calyxes with these properties. Even if you don't need wicks, I think this would be a great addition to the garden.

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