"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Friday, May 13, 2011

Setaceous Hebrew Character

You find the strangest things while doing research.

Stopped at one of the local plant nurseries this past week just to look, but both myself and the KOALA  (Keeper Of All Lovely Attributes), a.k.a. Twyla, have a soft spot for really nice plants when we find them and they are really cheap.

Chocolate Mint left, Lemon Mint right
We got a lemon mint plant and a chocolate mint plant.  If you are thinking that mint is mint, sorry, but you'd be wrong.  I have a regular or probably a spearmint  plant that is growing in the yard already, but this lady near the lake had these in some pots out front, and I recognized the lighter, yellower color of the one species and knelt down to pinch off a bottom leaf.  I crushed and rolled it between my thumb and forefinger and it smelled almost like someone had zested a lemon.  It's wonderful.

Regular mint in one of my veggie beds
She lifted up a small pot of a purplish, brownish stemmed plant with the distinctive mint shaped leaves and announced that it was the chocolate kind.  I pinched off a leaf and repeated the process and was rewarded with that strange but wonderful scent of a cross between chocolate and mint.  I don't know how someone figured out how to breed these awesome varieties, but I am grateful.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  What in the wide world of sports does this have to do with a Setaceous Hebrew Character?  I'm getting there.

Along with a few other good buys, she had these little six-packs of tiny deep blue flowers.  Almost a blue-violet.  The petals look like tiny, fragile snips of velvet fabric and the color seems to glow in direct sunlight.  The pictures I found at Wikipedia just do absolutely no justice to the real flower.  She called them lobelia.  At the time, I didn't care and didn't even think of the name.  Twyla and I both just think they are beautiful.  This variety is suited to a somewhat shady spot and so we got them to go in the big manhole ring near the back steps.  They can go in after we finish harvesting all the radishes that are there now.
Lobelia erinus on my back porch, a.k.a. Edging Lobelia or Trailing Lobelia

Lobelia erinus photo courtesy of Wikipedia
On the way home, I remembered from my herbal medicine research days that Lobelia is the genus of plant that has several medicinal uses, and if this plant were truly in that genus, if not the species, I needed to know about it.  Well it is.  It is not the most well known species, which also goes by the name Indian Tobacco and has very pale flowers and grows taller.  But it is still in the family.  This blue version comes from the southern African continent, and is called Lobelia erinus.   It stays low and makes a beautiful covering bed.  Medicinally it has several uses, but you need to be very careful.  If I were a lawyer, I'd tell you not to even consider using this stuff.  To give you an idea, the American, taller, pale blue flower version of this is known by several other names: Asthma Weed, Indian Tobacco, Pukeweed, and Vomitwort.  Does that give you any ideas?

However, in small, controlled doses, it can be used as an expectorant and a relaxant for muscle tension.  It has sedative qualities.  It is also both a diuretic (makes you pee) and it's a diaphoretic (makes you sweat).  There are many reasons why sweating is good for you.  Failing to sweat is not healthy.  Your skin is the largest organ in/on your body and is a big part of eliminating impurities.  (When is this guy going to get to the Hebrew Character thing?)
Setaceous Hebrew Character Moth

In reading about Lobelia, I discover that there is a specific little moth who's caterpillar feeds on the plant; the Setaceous Hebrew Character, (Xestia c-nigrum).  It was named this, because to whoever got the naming rights, the prominent black marking on the wing, at least on the left side, looks like a 15th century version of the Hebrew letter Nun (pronounced "noon").  And in case you were wondering, Setaceous means bristle-like or having bristles.

Aren't you glad you didn't stop reading until you got to this part?

Continuing with the entertainment, we have the next photo which shows how creative Twyla can be with different things.  We were at a garage sale months ago when she spotted one of those industrial mop wringers that ride on the side of a mop bucket and said she wanted it.

"What for?"  (Silly me.  What does it matter?)

"I've got an idea."

Only the daisies and the fuchsia colored Sweet Williams are real plants.  The ivy is silk.  Twyla refers to such an arrangement as "artifisus," a term she coined years ago for mixing fake flowers or other elements with the real thing to create the look she wants.  

In other news . . . 

Remember when I talked about praying mantids in an earlier post?  Well, I discovered that I was a little too soon on the estimate.  Turns out that during my gardening work just yesterday, I was near the boxwood shrubs at one end of the house and a couple of tiny ones caught my eye.  I mean really tiny.  Barely a half an inch long.  You would almost mistake them for ants if you weren't looking carefully.

Those are the fingertips of my left hand in the shot to give you the perspective of how small this critter is.  And as I looked around, I discovered there were about a hundred of them within about a cubic yard.  I didn't see an egg case anywhere, so I don't know where they came from.  They were there to feed because the boxwood was blooming and attracting ants, tiny black flies, bees, etc. and it was a banquet.

When I get back to another post on gardening or plants, I have something very special to share.  Stay tuned to this blog.

Shalom Y'all

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