Posts Tagged ‘snake’

Friday, August 6, 2010

Right Dittany, White Dittany

Origanum dictamnus Origanum dictamnus in Flower Dictamnus albus in Flower

Above: The left and center image show the true or “right dittany” of Crete (Origanum dictamnus), a tender Mediterranean species grown in pots in Bonnefont garden. This pretty relative of the culinary oreganos is endemic to the island, and is found growing wild only in the mountains there. The small, purplish-pink flowers are borne on long-lasting bracts in late summer and fall. The image on the right shows Dictamnus albus, known as white dittany or fraxinella, which is a botanically unrelated species. Medieval herbalists seem to have transferred both the name and the marvelous properties that the ancients ascribed to true dittany to this herb.

Origanum dictamnus, with its round, woolly gray leaves, rosy bracts and delicate purplish-pink flowers, is the prettiest of the tender medieval species grown in pots in Bonnefont garden, and the most difficult for us to grow. One of a number of species endemic to the mountains of Crete, the wild plant is only found growing in the crevices of limestone gorges and ravines (see image). Known as diktamnon in Greek, it is said to be named after Mount Dikti. Read more »

Friday, May 28, 2010

Those cuckoos . . .

Cuckoo spittle

Above: Froth on a tansy plant in Bonnefont garden on a May morning.  In the Middle Ages, this foamy substance was believed to be the spittle of the cuckoo. The froth is secreted by insects known as spittle bugs.

The cuckoo-spittle, gowk’s-spittle, cuckoo’s-spittens, frog-spit, toad-spit, snake’s-spit, or wood-sear, of England and Scotland; Kukuk-speichel, and hexenspiechel (witch’s spit) of the Germans; gugger-speu of the Swiss; gred-spott (frog-spit) of the Swedes; giogespit of the Danes; trold-kiaringspye of the Norwegians; and crachat de coucou of the French . . .

—James Hardy, “Popular History of the Cuckoo.” In The Folk-lore record, Vol. 2. London: Nichols & Sons, 1879.

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