Posts Tagged ‘Datura metel’

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Transplanting the Medieval Garden

Rosemary Thorn Apple

While rosemary was a familiar herb of the Mediterranean littoral in antiquity, the date of its introduction into Northern Europe is uncertain, and it was not grown in England until the fourteenth century. The thorn apple, Datura metel, did not reach Europe from India until the fifteenth century, although it is mentioned in Islamic sources at an earlier date.

Much as architectural elements from different periods and locales in medieval Europe were transported to New York and integrated into a single modern building, the herbs, fruits, and flowers growing in the gardens were transplanted, traveling across time and space to their home at The Cloisters.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

The Seed-Saving Gardener

Blue Pod Capucijner Seeds

Beautiful Blue Pod Capucijner (Pisum sativum arvense, var. ‘Blue Pod Capucjiner’) seedpods and seeds. All photographs by the author

How many of you gardeners out there take the time to save your garden seed? The allure of planting seeds in the spring is easy to understand, but do you linger over drying seedpods later in the season, waiting to harvest next year’s generation? Seed saving may seem like an onerous counterpart to seed sowing, but the task is endlessly rewarding. It’s not just about securing a free source of new plants for the following year or two; there are other benefits to reap, so to speak. By selecting seed from among the garden’s most healthy specimens you promote added vigor in subsequent generations of plants. You get to witness the often overlooked beauty of a plant engaged in seed production. And, really, is there anything more satisfying than sowing the seed you collected from your own garden? For the seed-saving gardener, it doesn’t get much better than that.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Dangerous Beauty

D. metel D. metel

Downy thorn apple (Datura metel) growing in a bed in Bonnefont garden devoted to plants used in medieval magic. The common name “thorn apple,” shared with other members of the genus, is derived from the character of the spiny seed capsule. Above: D. metel in bud (left) and bloom (right). This handsome, heat-loving plant flowers profusely from late July until October. Below: Semi-ripe capsule of the downy thorn apple, broken open to show the developing seeds.

D. metel Seed Capsules

The beautiful but sinister thorn apple (Datura metel) is a powerfully hallucinogenic plant employed in medieval magic as well as medicine.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Plants in Medieval Magic

Flower spikes of the beneficent vervain going to seed. Seed capsules of thornapple, Datura metel in the bed devoted to Plants Used in Medieval Magic

Left: The powerful but beneficent vervain (Verbena officinalis) growing in the bed devoted to Plants Used in Medieval Magic in Bonnefont Cloister Herb Garden; Right: Seed capsules of the sinister and poisonous thornapple (Datura metel) growing nearby.

Trefoil, vervain, John’s-wort, dill,
Hinders witches of their will,
Weel is them, that weel may
Fast upon Saint Andrew’s day.

—Traditional rhyme, put into the mouth of the gypsy Meg Merrilies by Sir Walter Scott in Guy Mannering.

Medieval calendar practices, and the plants associated with them, were an amalgam of Greco-Roman and Celto-Germanic observances with Christian beliefs and traditions. Many folk rites performed at the thresholds between the seasons of the year were intended to avert storms, ward off diseases of cattle, and prevent the blighting of crops.  All these misfortunes were attributed to the activities of witches. Read more »