Thursday, June 29, 2006

Our visitors from Romania

Early yesterday evening I was watching "Jeopardy" (yes, I know, I'm a square) when there came a knock at the door. I was expecting the usual visitor asking to sign a petition or to dump chemicals on my lawn "because your neighbors all do it and (sneering askance at our scraggly-ass grass), well, damn."

However, it turned out to be a short, dark-haired, middle-aged woman with a young child in tow and a babushka'ed babushka a few paces behind.

"Sorry to bother you," she said in heavily-accented English, "but you have some flowers in your yard and we wondered if you could tell us what they are. We are from Romania and we use the flowers to help stomach aches. We have not seen them anywhere else."

I explained that I'm not much of a gardener, as one could tell by looking at our scraggly-ass grass, 'cause, well, damn. But I went out with her to the phalanx of flowers that our house's previous owners had planted around the front edge of our lawn. She pointed out some flowers that bore yellow blossoms about the size of a quarter:

I told her she was welcome to take as many as she wanted and show them to somebody who knew at least SOMETHING about flowers. The woman translated this for the babushka, whose broad smile revealed a number of metal covered teeth that glinted in the afternoon sun. She began gathering the plants and flowers as her (I guess) daughter explained how one can dry the greens in the sun and then make tea out of them. "Very good for stomach," she explained.

An aside: I had a total "Curb Your Enthusiasm moment" as the elderly woman straight from "Babushka Central Casting" pulled up more than half of the flowers. I am ashamed to admit that I felt like yelling, "Hey! Hey! I didn't say you could take ALL of them!" even though it was obvious that tending the foliage was not a top priority for me.

Anyway, my money is on my sister, Tavia, for the first to identify the flowers in the photo. Dr. Lizardo may come in a close second. I just hope the flowers aren't some lethal mutant variety that have killed all our Romanian neighbors by now.

"Ah yes," the forensic botanist will explain as they haul me off to jail, "this isn't dandygold. This is 'fool's dandygold,' better known as 'deadly creeping yellow gut claw.' It's a common mistake."


Tavia Rowan said...

OK, West Coast plants--not my strong suit. But my best guess is one of the plants called "St John's Wort." Hypericum calycinum, the Latin name, will be the same globally, but some common names are: Aaron's Beard, Hypericum, St J's Wort, and (in the U.K.)Rose of Sharon. You see why it's useful to learn the Latin! It's from S.E. Asia/ Asia Minor, and is semi-evergreen. Its growing zone is 6 (just right for y'all). But the flowers are supposed to be 7-8cm, bigger than quarter-sized, with lots of little stems in the center of the flowers, like little pincushions. It likes shade, not sun. Possible??

liz said...

Dangit, dangit dangit....among all the 13 or so cartons of books that TheLimey packed up, including many books that I'd really like to have available over the next two years instead of in a box in a storage facility are most of my herbal books. Especially the big ones with nice photos.

liz said...

...but it certainly does look like Hypericum Perforatum to me.

(Don't forget "Johanniskraut!")