Monthly Archives: October 2022

Wednesday Weed on Friday- Mexican Fleabane Revisited

Dear Readers, so many people commented on yesterday’s post about the Mexican Fleabane that I found during my lunchtime wander that I felt it was due for a revisit. This piece dates back to 2014, when I was just starting out on my blogging adventures, and I regret to say that I no longer have the plant in its original position, though as I mentioned yesterday it is now in my windowboxes, so will hopefully spread from there.

I have had a quick look in my Alien Plants book by Clive Stace and Michael Crawley, and the authors mention that Mexican Fleabane is one of the plants with the highest tolerance for dry soil, which makes it perfect for those little pockets of stony-dry soil at the bottom of walls, or in the cracks between paving stones. The authors also mention it as being a plant of villages, especially those where ‘cottage garden’ style front gardens are cultivated:

These plants are often found as fly-tipped garden waste on roadsides at the edge of the village, and as self-seeded individuals on paths, banks and walls.“(Page 475).

And it’s not just villages, clearly – we often find garden rubbish dumped in our local ancient woodland, and this might be one reason why we have hybrid bluebells rather than the original native species.

Stace and Crawley note that the plant is often found in urban areas as well, as we’ve seen. They associate Mexican Fleabane as a plant that appears where people actually have gardens for it to escape from – it’s interesting how the flora of an area can change according to whether people have access to their own greenspace or not.

And now onto my original post on Mexican Fleabane, from what now feels like a lighter, more innocent time. Over the past eight years I have written about hundreds of ‘weeds’ and garden plants and foodstuffs of various kinds, but if there’s something you’d like to know more about that I haven’t covered, do drop me a note in the comments – I am always open to inspiration!

Mexican Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)

Mexican Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)

On Sunday, I decided that things in the garden had gone too far. My deciduous hedge was slapping me in the face with a wet branch every time I went to the shed to get the  bird food. I’d been allowing the stinging nettles to do their thing in a quiet corner, but they had busted out and were popping up all along the path, patinating my ankles with blisters. The branch on the whitebeam was so low that my husband nearly brained himself everytime he went to collect the washing. A little judicious, gentle pruning and a modicum of cutting down and pulling up was required, just to make the garden habitable for people, plants and animals.

I went to collect the green wheelie bin for the bits that we couldn’t compost or put in the log-pile. It lives in the dark alley at the side of the house, which attracts a wide variety of volunteer plants: Yellow Corydalis and Greater Celandine, Buddleia and even an intrepid Foxglove. But as I got to the darkest, dreariest part of the path, a little plant glowed up at me as if lit by moonlight: a Mexican Fleabane.

Mexican Fleabane by the wheelie bin

Mexican Fleabane by the wheelie bin

The flowers of this little plant are very similar to those of our native daisy, but it has very different habits. While our daisy is low-growing and short-stemmed, keeping its head down to avoid the blades of the mower, the Mexican Fleabane is straggly and dangly, and is most at home in tiny pockets of soil. In some parts of the country, it can be seen clinging to the gaps between the bricks in a wall, tumbling down like a floral waterfall.

Like so many of the plants I’ve discovered, it has come a long way. It was named after a Hungarian botanist and explorer with the magnificent name of  Baron Wilhelm Friedrich Karwinski von Karvin (von Karvin Karvinski). He found his sample plant in Oaxaca, Mexico. It arrived in the UK some time during the nineteenth century, and promptly ‘escaped’. Today, it is found on the west coast of North America, all over Europe and even in Japan, where it is categorized as an undesirable alien. One person’s dangerous weed is, as always, someone else’s desirable garden plant, and indeed, if you fancy a Mexican Fleabane for your garden, the online garden centre Crocus will provide you with one for 7.99 GBP.

Mexican Fleabane 3 BlogWhen I look at this plant, it makes me ponder on why we call somebody ‘weedy’. Are we complimenting them on their adaptability, toughness, resilience and savage beauty? Sadly, we are usually talking about a young man who has grown a little too tall for his girth, someone who is always picked last for the soccer team. I suppose that the Mexican Fleabane is a typical ‘weed’ in this regard – it is a droopy, unassertive little plant, a literal ‘wallflower’. Like many a human ‘weed’, however, it has the last laugh, having quietly succeeded in populating most of the planet where more aggressive, obvious plants have failed.

Mexican Fleabane 2 BlogFurthermore, it appears that it is not called ‘Fleabane’ for nothing. In less hygienic times, dried fleabane would be put into mattresses to deter biting insects, and it has been suggested that the same can be done today in the beds of dogs and cats to keep the fleas away. Certainly it’s worth a try – I know that Roundup and such chemicals work, but I always worry about how they work, and whether they have any deleterious effect on the creatures that they are used on. If any one has a go, do let me know!

So, in my brief stint of tidying up, I managed to discover a new plant. I will be delighted if it spreads – a bee was investigating the flower as I left to write this piece. I might even give it a little encouragement.

 

 

 

 

Around the Block on the County Roads

Dear Readers, today was an ‘in tearing haste’ kind of day, but I am sticking to my resolution to at least walk around the block every lunchtime, and as usual I was glad that I did. There’s always something to notice if you can clear your head of spreadsheets and other shenanigans. First up, Mexican Fleabane is getting well established in the cracks and crevices in some front gardens, and very handy it is too – it flowers prolifically and the hoverflies love it. I am very fond of it myself, having a few windowboxes full of the stuff in the front garden.

Here it is advancing along the garden wall, before no doubt making a break for freedom along Lincoln Road.

Someone has some plain and simple honeysuckle in their hedge, and although there are fancier varieties, you cannot beat the old-fashioned plant for scent, even on a chilly-ish October day. I always have to stop for a quick sniff.

And how about this tree?

What a very fine specimen it is! This is a hornbeam, but not as we usually see it in the wood.

It’s a variety known as ‘fastigiata’ or ‘pyramidalis’ – it has a very neat conical shape more suited to a street tree than the sprawling giants of Cherry Tree or Coldfall Woods. However, according to Paul Wood in ‘London’s Street Trees’, a City of London hornbeam was found to be more biodiverse than any other tree in the Square Mile, and that includes the oak trees.

I am very happy to see that the bollard on the corner of Lincoln Road is still upstanding. This must be a record for its longest period in an upright position. Please don’t take that as a challenge.

And what else is there to see? An abundance of Michaelmas Daisies, another great plant for late summer/early autumn. The ones in my front garden are flowering and flowering, though most of them are very pale lilac/white rather than this lavender colour. I have one honeybee left who visits them regularly, but everyone else seems to have already called it a day.

And yes, I know that Virginia Creeper is a) common and b) a bit of a thug, but just look at it. How could the spirits not be lifted by the sight of all that red and copper?

And, finally, as I turn for home I have to take another photo of the rowan, so heavy with berries, so yellow of leaf. Wherever you are, I would really recommend getting outside, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes. This year has been so spectacular for berries and leaf color that it would be a shame to miss it.

Who’s A Pretty Birdie?

Dear Readers, this lovely pigeon has been hanging around outside our local chemists in East Finchley for a month or so now, and has become something of a favourite with the shopkeepers and passersby. S/he has been named ‘Stephanie’ by one of the ladies who work in the hairdresser, and I suspect that quite a few people are offering food, which the bird accepts very graciously. S/he sits around with the other, more boring pigeons and watches the world go by with a placid demeanour.

I suspect that Stephanie is a Strasser pigeon, a ‘fancy’ variety which originated in Austria. It comes in several colourways, always with a white neck and body. I note that in some accounts, the bird is called a Moravian Strasser.

A Blue Strasser pigeon

A red Strasser pigeon

A yellow Strasser pigeon

Originally bred to produce squabs for meat, Strasser pigeons are rather less ‘fancy’ and eccentric than some of the other pigeon breeds, with their ruffs and feathery feet and other accoutrements. But what is Stephanie doing here? Surely she should be being cosseted on a velvet cushion somewhere. Strangely enough, she seems completely sanguine about her fate, and has developed an equanimity that I aim to emulate, what with us never knowing who is going to be Prime Minister from one day’s end to the next. I strongly suspect that if Stephanie stays long enough she’ll soon find herself behind the despatch box, opining on the size of the pie that we’re meant to be growing (though that could well be last week’s metaphor).Nonetheless,  I never knew a pigeon that didn’t like a pie, so she wouldn’t be a bad choice.

In the meantime, if you know someone in North London (or further afield) who is missing a beloved Strasser pigeon, do drop me a line, though as East Finchley has definitely taken her to their hearts, they might have a job wresting her away.

The Big Butterfly Count – Winners and Losers

Jersey Tiger (Euplagia quadripunctaria)

Dear Readers, Butterfly Conservation have just published their report based on the Big Butterfly Count this year, and it makes for very interesting reading. First up, the Jersey Tiger, the Vulcan Bomber of the moth world, is up by an amazing 136%, making it the species with the biggest single increase. Anecdotally, people have been tripping over these moths all over London, and at one point there were three in my garden alone. The caterpillars feed on hemp agrimony, of which I have several unruly clumps, so this might be part of the explanation.

In other news, blue butterflies have had an excellent year, with Holly Blues up 120% from 2021, and Common Blues up 154%, although the blues had a very bad year in 2021 so it isn’t quite as impressive as it seems.

Holly blue (Celastrina argiolus)

Gatekeepers had a very good year too, with nearly 143,000 spotted, making them the commonest butterflies in the count. They were up 57% on 2021.

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

However, while we celebrate these winners, it’s worth noting that overall, numbers are down – each person who counted for the survey only saw an average of 9 butterflies, an all time low for the 13 years that the survey has been running. There was a hope that the numbers would be up because of the hot summer, but clearly habitat destruction has a bigger impact. Some species, such as the Jersey Tiger and the blue butterflies are heading north, as climate change makes the temperature conditions more amenable, but some very common, iconic butterflies are still declining.

The Red Admiral was down 20% on the 2021 figures.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The ringlet is down 38%

Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)

And the Marbled White is down 71%. This, however, is a butterfly that has been making a comeback in London in particular, and which likes unimproved grassland. It lives very briefly as an adult (less than six weeks), and I wonder if the timing of the count didn’t quite coincide with its emergence this year. Fingers crossed. You can read more about this species, and some other London butterflies, here.

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)

So, there are ups and downs but it is something of a depressing picture. When we’re planning our gardens (if we’re lucky enough to have one), or campaigning for local green space, it’s so important to make sure that there’s something for caterpillars as well as adult butterflies, even if that makes the place a little untidier than we’d like. Let’s see if No Mow May has had an impact when the count takes place next year – I get the feeling that it was taken up as a challenge by more people than usual, which will have saved a lot of eggs and caterpillars. Long may it continue.

You can see the full results at the link below, including a breakdown by country which made for very interesting reading.

https://butterfly-conservation.org/news-and-blog/results-of-this-years-big-butterfly-count-revealed

 

In The Garden

Sparrows in the hawthornt

Dear Readers, in addition to all the Sciencing that’s been going on just lately, there’s been all the usual autumnal increase in activity after the quiet of the late summer. For one thing, a small flock of house sparrows has been hanging out in the garden every day. They take some suet pellets, are completely uninterested in my deluxe red and yellow dough balls, and are such a delight. They seem to me to be picking up small insects in the hawthorn tree – they don’t seem to want the berries, but there’s definitely something going on. I’m just very happy to see them.

The whitebeam has turned a shade of custard yellow that I don’t remember seeing before. I am having a bit of a dilemma here. I normally have it trimmed about every five or six years, along with the hawthorn, but it’s so stressful for both trees, and after the drought this year I wouldn’t want to cause them any more grief. On the other hand, they are both now pretty large and dominant in the garden, and I also worry in case the whitebeam in particular gets blown over in a storm. I wish there was someone that I could ask who didn’t have a financial interest in the outcome – if you have any ideas, do let me know.

The leaves on the whitebeam

On the other hand, the woodpigeons are loving the seed feeder that dangles from one of the branches. Although it’s a large feeder, it appears that only two woodpigeons are allowed on it any one time, otherwise there’s fisticuffs. One of those woodpigeons looks less than pristine, now that I’ve looked at the photographs. Maybe it’s just young.

We did a bit of tidying up today (not too much, we want the invertebrates to have somewhere to hide), and the robin appeared out of nowhere to check out what we were doing, and to investigate any grubs or worms who appeared. The plant supports that I bought for the hemp agrimony seem to provide a very convenient perch.

And finally, a small collared dove popped in to try her luck on the seed feeder. She’s only about two-thirds the size of the woodpigeon and I noticed that when she landed she seemed to try to make herself very small, and had one wing outstretched to protect her head from any pecks – those woodpigeons can be very aggressive. She only lasted for about 30 seconds before she thought better of it, and headed off to a branch to wait her turn. The whitebeam is valuable precisely because it provides so many perching and hiding opportunities – I’m always amazed to see the squirrel dreys, remnants of nests and other ‘artifacts’ amongst the branches once the leaves come down.

And finally, here’s a last house sparrow surveying his kingdom. I’m so glad that they’re visiting the garden again, after an absence of almost a year. Who knows what makes them come, and what made them go? The lives of even our most familiar birds can be such a mystery.

An Autumnal Walk in Bluebell Wood

Ancient Oak in Bluebell Wood

Dear Readers, I have been to Bluebell Wood, close to Bounds Green station and the wonderful Sunshine Garden Centre, several times, and am always impressed by the magnificent oak and hornbeam trees. This is a tiny snippet of ancient woodland in a very surburban area, and yet it hints at what used to be – once upon a time, this woodland would have covered most of this part of North London, from Cherry Tree Wood in East Finchley to Coldfall Wood a little further north, before the forest faded into Finchley Common. Today, you were in danger of being bounced on the bonce by falling acorns – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many as this produced as this year, maybe as a result of the earlier drought. There is a theory that when under stress, trees will produce more fruit and seeds because they fear that this year will be their last.

Some low dead hedges have been put in this year, presumably to protect the eponymous bluebells and other woodland flowers – I have certainly seen wood anemones here in previous years, and the additional footfall during Covid would meant much more trampling and soil compaction than in previous years. They wouldn’t keep a determined person or dog out, but they do give a ‘nudge’ in the direction of keeping to the paths.

There are a lot of leaves still to fall, but the leaf litter is already building up. Leaf fall provides an extraordinary amount of biomass every year which is recycled to feed the soil and all the detritivores that feed on rotting material.

On the way back to the garden centre, I was struck by the leaf colour in the front gardens. This Acer is stunning…

But there seems to be a fashion for Staghorn Sumac on this road, something I haven’t seen very much in other places. I wonder if someone planted one, and everyone else thought how splendid it looked in autumn?

And this is a very splendid smokebush (Cotinus), especially against the blue sky.

There are some very gravid spiders about too.

But what makes me really happy is this sign, because it shows that hedgehogs are finally coming back, even if they are at risk of being squished. How thoughtful to put up a warning! I hope that drivers pay attention.

And finally, as we walk back along the edge of the garden centre, the Pyracantha is magnificent. Will this be a waxwing year? These occasional migrants absolutely love these berries, and often turn up in hedges like this. Fingers crossed.

 

Eating to Extinction by Dan Saladino

Dear Readers, I am only part way through this book, but I wanted to share with you a story from it that I found extremely moving. Saladino is writing about various foodstuffs that are becoming extinct as we tend more and more towards a global monoculture – all of our bananas are clones of one variety, for example, and our cereals and other staple foods are barely any better. The author describes how, within living memory, different regions would have unique cereals, vegetables and fruit that grew happily in the local microhabitats, but how nowadays four companies control global cereal production, providing seeds that are hybrids and so don’t breed ‘true’, meaning that farmers have to buy new seeds every year, instead of saving them as they used to. Many of these varieties require much more fertiliser and pesticide than the original plants. The same goes for domestic animals, where again the multitude of breeds specific to a particular part of the world are disappearing – it’s estimated that 95% of America’s dairy herd are Holsteins, for example, and I suspect that the numbers are not much more diverse in the UK.

So far, so depressingly familiar. What I didn’t know, though, was the story of visionary  Nikolai Vavilov (1887 – 1943), who, as Saladino explains, was the first scientist to make the link between food security and plant diversity.

Vavilov coined the term ‘centres of origin’, believing that all the crops that feed us today originated as wild plants somewhere in the world, and that a plant’s origin is where its diversity will be greatest. That diversity will include plants that have pest resistance, or drought tolerance, or a multitude of other genetic attributes that might save us in the event of catastrophe.

One of these centres of origin was the ‘East Asian centre’, where Vavilov estimated 20 per cent of the world’s cultivated flora had evolved (including millet and soybeans). Another was the Inter-Asiatic, where wheat, rye and most of our fruit came from. The Central American centre was home to beans, pumpkins, cocoa, corn and avocados.

To check his theory, Vavilov travelled for 25 years on 180 expeditions, spending much of the 1920s and 1930s on horseback, travelling through the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Iran and Korea, across Spain, Algeria and Eritrea, and then on to Central and South America. Vavilov and his colleagues, working tirelessly, collected over 150,000 seed samples, and housed them in the world’s first seed bank, in what was then St Petersburg.

Vavilov realised that many of the habitats that the plants were taking from were disappearing due to urbanisation, industrialisation and increasingly intense agriculture. He recognised the risks inherent in monoculture – the Irish Potato Famine had showed what could happen if just one variety of a plant was relied upon for sustenance, and there had been crop failures in Russia that had led to widespread loss of life.

Alas, Vavilov found himself on the wrong side of a bitter feud during the late 1930s. Soviet biologist Trofim Lysenko had a theory that plants could be ‘educated’ and forced to be more resilient if exposed to harsh conditions, a belief that had more to do with Communist ideology than genetics. Vavilov fell out of favour with Stalin and was sent to a prison camp in Siberia.

His seed collection came close to being lost during the 28-month long Siege of Leningrad (St Petersburg) in 1942-44. The Soviets had plans for protecting the works of art at the Hermitage, but didn’t see the point in protecting the seedbank. The Nazis saw it as a possible source of food for the Russians, and planned to target it. But Vavilov’s fellow scientists had been so inspired by him that they moved hundreds of boxes of seeds to a basement and took shifts inside the dark building, in sub-zero temperatures, to protect the collection.

As Saladino says, what happened next is well known to botanists, but it’s a story that we should all know. In his words:

Surrounded by seeds they could have eaten, the caretakers of the collection faced hunger rather than jeopardise the genetic resource. By the end of the 900-day siege, in the spring of 1944, nine of them had died, including the curator of the rice collection. He was found at his desk surrounded by bags of rice. ‘We were the students of Vavilov’, one survivor said, explaining their heroic efforts to protect the seeds. By then, Vavilov was already dead. In 1943, at the age of 55, he was claimed by the very thing that he had spent his life working to prevent – starvation. He died in a Soviet prison and was buried in an unmarked grave”.(Page 54)

In these times of changing climate, it is more important than ever to respect and nurture biodiversity. Putting all our eggs in one basket has never looked like a more stupid tactic. Vavilov was a true visionary, and was ‘rehabilitated’ in 1955, with the seed collection that his colleagues saved in St Petersburg now bearing his name. He also has a crater on the far side of the moon named for him and his brother. Let’s hope that the ideas that he championed, which have already resulted in seedbanks all over the world, will continue to gain traction. Goodness knows, we need all the diversity that we can get.

‘Eating to Extinction’ is a wonderful book, full of interesting and thought-provoking stories. I’m sure I’ll return to it in a later post.

Sciencing Day Four….

Dear Readers, you might remember that I am just about to start an experiment for my Open University biology course, which requires my local birds to cooperate and to eat some sumptuous multicoloured doughballs that I’ve made, packed full of lard and bird-friendly peanut better and homemade mealworm flour. Well, the tray above is the result of my endeavours – this morning it was picked clean before the sun was even up. But who are the early risers? I haven’t yet actually caught them in the act, but a pair of magpies have been showing a great deal of interest in the garden, and tonight I heard both jackdaws and crows on the local rooftops. Collared doves and woodpigeons have also been popping down for a look. Sadly, the experiment is all about colour preference rather than the species of the bird that pops down, and as they now seem to clear the lot it seems that they don’t care one jot whether the dough is red or yellow.

However. On Monday morning, I looked out of the window to see that every single red dough ball had gone, leaving all the yellow ones. I had been very silly though, and had put all the red balls on one side of the bird table, and all the yellow ones on the other, so I suppose a bird could have methodically cleared away the ones nearest to him or her and then been disturbed. I have been careful since to provide equal numbers but all mixed up.

As you can see, at the end of a working day (today I have wrestled a £3.2m project to the ground just in time for final reporting) I am maybe not as meticulous about the size of the doughballs as I would normally be. I must perfect my dough-rolling for when the experiment actually starts, which will be on Sunday I think, now that someone is actually eating them. I hope to get some photos of the little darlings in the act very soon. But for now, let’s hope the weather isn’t too wet. Cleaning soggy doughballs off of the bird table is no one’s idea of fun.

The Season Turning….

Dear Readers, in the interests of retaining my (limited) sanity, I am trying to go out for a brisk walk around the block at lunchtime, and it’s amazing what you can see in ten minutes, even in the relatively urban surroundings of East Finchley’s County Roads. This rowan is absolutely busting out with berries.

My poor old busted tree is looking very pretty in its autumn finery.

And look at this very friendly blue cat. She sometimes turns up in my back garden, but I have completely forgotten her name.

Someone has done such a lovely job of this front garden – previously it had two enormous conifers (Leylandii I suspect), but now it’s as cute as a button. There’s lots here for pollinators! I’m most impressed.

We’ve had a number of new trees planted, including this ginkgo, which looks just about ready to start turning butter-yellow.

But at the end of the day, it’s all about the leaves. Going for a walk every day means that I should be able to take real notice of the way that they’re changing, and it (almost) compensates for the way that the nights are drawing in.

Wednesday Weed – Angel’s Trumpet

Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia sp.)

Dear Readers, I spotted this plant in Regent’s Park at the weekend, and was amazed at its beauty, but there’s more to this shrub than meets the eye. Angel’s Trumpet (and the closely related Datura) are some of the most poisonous ornamental plants in the world, containing the same poisons as those found in Deadly Nightshade (not surprisingly as they’re in the same family, the Solanaceae). Like many poisonous plants, however, their toxins have proved to have many uses. Medicinally, the alkaloid chemicals that they contain have been used for everything from anaesthesia and sedation to treating asthma. However, the plant was originally found in Central and South America, and here the local people used the plant mainly for external complaints such as rashes and arthritis. They were much more circumspect about using the plant internally, although it was sometimes used to induce vomiting and to kill parasites such as tapeworms.

However, Angel’s Trumpet is probably most famous for its hallucingenic properties. The effects of the plant have been described as ‘terrifying rather than pleasurable’, and I read with a certain amount of horror that children in some South American tribes would be given a drink containing Brugmansia so that they could be admonished directly by their ancestors in the spirit world. It was also used to drug slaves and the wives of important people so that they could be buried alive with their dead lords. And if that doesn’t make you shudder, I don’t know what will.

Angel’s Trumpet was also used by South American shaman for a variety of initiation and magical ceremonies. Apparently ‘bad shamans’ will add the plant to the brew served to gullible Westerners who want to take part in Ayahuasca ceremonies, seen as a way of raising consciousness, altering perception and as a cure for depression. As vomiting is seen as part of the ceremony, I guess that the Angel’s Trumpet is likely to make you vomit a whole lot (if it doesn’t kill you).

For a plant that can be seen in cultivation on a regular basis, Angel’s Trumpet is listed by the IUCN as extinct in the wild. How so? It appears that the plant had a long-standing relationship with some large species of megafauna which probably ate the seeds and dispersed them. The animal has since become extinct itself, and so it’s the shamans (and latterly the gardening industry) that have kept the seven species in the Brugmansia family alive.

Incidentally, the way that you tell a Brugmansia from the closely-related Datura is that in Angel’s Trumpets, the flowers hang down, whereas with the Daturas (such as the American Jimsonweed) the flowers stick out or up. They are just as poisonous as their dangly relatives.

Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) from Joshua Tree National Park

Another reason to grow Angel’s Trumpets has been their sweet scent, which is especially pronounced at night. As you might surmise, this indicates that the plant is moth-pollinated (and by moths with very long tongues, presumably). One red species (Brugmansia sanguinea) has no scent, and is pollinated instead by hummingbirds. Some butterfly larvae also feed on the leaves and are able to utilise the poison in the plant to make themselves distasteful to predators. The poison lingers on not just in the caterpillars, but through the pupal stage and into the adult butterfly.

Brugmansia sanguinea (Photo by By Derek Harper, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18092796)

So, Angel’s Trumpet is a plant of contradictions – exquisitely beautiful and sweet-smelling, but also so poisonous that a woman who pruned her plant and then rubbed her eye with her hand was blinded in that eye for 24 hours. It’s not surprising that Jimson Weed, with all of its strange, exotic beauty, was painted numerous times by Georgia O’Keefe. She frequently painted flowers which were common, but she had this to say, and I couldn’t agree more.

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment, I want to give that world to someone else.”

Jimson Weed by Georgia O’Keefe (1936)