Have you seen the fairies, sprites and nymphs making magic in the Garden lately? Well, no, I haven’t either, but on a recent naturalist-led walk through the Garden, we considered some of the magic as well as the medicine contained within the plants of the Garden. We also marveled at the charms, lore and fanciful musings related to these plants.
Back when humans lived in closer connection to the earth, they relied on plants to help them live free of disease and bad fortune. People didn’t always know what caused disease. It could just as easily be from the poisoned glance of a jealous neighbor as it could from the chilly night air. There were many plants said to confer protection from evil-doers. Running Myrtle, also known as periwinkle, Vinca minor, or “violet of the sorcerers.” was one such plant. Hung over your door, it would keep evil away. Modern science now uses an extract of the plant to treat cancer.
Red clover was another plant that was used for protection from evil. Whether or not this is true, the dried flower-heads make a delightful tea. Joe-pye Weed can be used in a love potion and also works wonderfully for attracting butterflies to any garden where it is planted.
Yarrow, or Achillea millefolium, was named after Achilles, a warrior who cured his soldiers’ bleeding wounds with the plant. Besides its traditional use as an astringent, yarrow, when wrapped in red flannel and put under your pillow, will help you dream of your future life!
To see how many children you will have, just blow the seeds of dandelion head on one big breath. The number of seeds left will tell you the number of children you will have. Whisper works of love and blow the seeds toward you loved one, and the dandelion seeds will carry your message. And, of course, if you blow all of the seeds off, your wish will come true. Beyond magic, dandelion plants have an amazing number of other uses. The leaves can make a magenta dye for wool, a tasty salad addition, or a spring tonic, diuretic or laxative. The tiny flower buds are excellent boiled and served with butter. And the roots, when roasted and ground, make a coffee substitute.
Who’s to say whether the genertions-old tales about the magic of plants are true or are complete fiction? Learning more about the lives and lore of our plant allies leads us to a deeper appreciation of nature and the Wildflower Garden.
Cathie Baldwin was a member of the Friends and has been a part-time Naturalist in the Garden. She holds a a BS degree in biology form Baldwin Wallace College.
Note: This article was published in the Fringed Gentian™, Autumn 1999, Vol. 47, No. 3 (issue was mis-labeled Vol. 50. No. 3