Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The World’s Weirdest Planting Instructions

“Darwin and Mendel laid on man the chains
That bind him to the past. Ancestral gains,
So pleasant for a spell, of late bizarre,
Suggest that where he was is where we are.”
David McCord, Progress

Medusa gourd is wearing her Xmas present scarf and hat while her rasta cactus head is getting some much-needed water and sunshine so it will bloom.

So, it’s winter and I’m inside looking out, and I’m reading obscure herbals and wondering if we weren’t better off back in the days when we grew our own medicine - before they started advertising prescription meds on television. Between diet pill ads and fat fast food ads, you get to learn about the latest miracles of modern chemistry. That’s progress. The common thistle (Carlina vulgaris) , it turns out, has the following medicinal properties: Carminative; Diaphoretic; Digestive; Diuretic; Emetic; Febrifuge; Purgative. Who needs diet pills with something like this?

I found the entry below about the carlina, a sort of artichoke shaped plant with spiky leaves and spikier flowers. These are the kinds of things that, in smaller sizes, cling to passing animals and people to snag and distribute their seeds. And if you think it’s weird that you have “scarify” morning glory seeds, or wash protea seeds in a dirty ash tray to fool them into thinking their parents were burned, imagine trying to cultivate the carlina thistle as an aphrodisiac. The instructions below are meant either to discourage or to impress you with the effectiveness.

My cotoneaster matches the ceramic red mushroom, but neither holds a candle to the carlina.

This is from Mattioli’s COMMENTARIES, Lyons, 1579: “The carlina thistle (Carlina vulgaris) native to the Mediterranean region was an important magic love plant in medieval Europe. It was believed that its root gave man the strength and sexual potency of a stallion. To get an effective carlina, you took topsoil from a rose garden in bloom, mixed it with sperma from a black stallion, planted a carlina in it at the stroke of midnight under a new moon, watered it with the urine from a while mare and let it grow. It was then uprooted under the following new moon, cooked and eaten. Today the dried, highly hygroscopic carlina is used in rural parts of Europe as a weatherglass.”

Or, you could just get yourself a barometer from Sharper Image and some Viagra from your doctor. Because I don’t think I can get my hands (figuratively, that is) on horse piss.


kate said...

I don't know how we'd ever be able to grow Carlina for medicinal purposes if we had to follow these instructions (unless we lived on a horse farm).

In my Ottawa garden, I grew Carlina. I love thistles and didn't realise that some of them had medicinal properties.

Martha in Michigan said...

I attended a gardening lecture in the Philippines decades ago that recommended watering prized plants with diluted urine from children or pregnant women, because of the growth hormones contained. Never tried it....