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Valentine.gr  

February 2020

Did you know that the name of the plant Cerinthe major comes from the belief that bees extracted wax from its blossoms to make their honeycombs?

Honeywort (Cerinthe major var Purpurascens).

Honeywort- Cerinthe major

Cerinthe is a poorly studied genus of vascular plants in the family Boraginaceae, known as "honeyworts". The genus is characterised by a calyx made up of separate, rather than fused, sepals, a tubular corolla, and the schizocarpic fruit that divides into two parts at maturity, unlike most members of the family, where the fruit splits into four nutlets. The genus has a circum-Mediterranean distribution, ranging from the Irano-Turanian Region in the east to Morocco in the west.

Cerinthe has been known since ancient times, an early reference to it is in John Gerard's The Herbal, published in 1597, describing its appearance, growth habits, time of blooming and mentions that "there is a taste as if it were of new wax in the floures [sic] or leaves chewed, as the name doth seeme [sic] to import." Gerard gives a list of other names for Cerinthe applied by prior writers, including Avicenna "Auicen", Pliny the Elder, Conrad Gessner, Rembert Dodoens, Carolus Clusius, and Matthias de l'Obel.

The genus name is a compound of the Greek elements / (= keri / keros or keeros) and (=anthos) "flower" - whence "wax flower" or "(bees)wax" - from the belief that bees extracted wax from the blossoms to make their honeycombs.

Honeywort, Cerinthe major, is an herbaceous plant native to open meadows and grassy plains of the Mediterranean basin, especially in southern Italy and Greece. This species is an unusual member of the borage family (Boraginaceae), in that it does not have hairy foliage like most family members do. It is variously classified as a hardy annual, a tender evergreen perennial, or a shortlived, half-hardy perennial or biennial. As a Mediterranean plant its normal habit is to grow in winter, bloom in spring, set seed and die, and then the seed germinates in fall. But in other parts of the country it is typically grown as a summer annual.

This unusual flower has been grown in gardens since the middle ages, but was not prominent in Victorian or Edwardian gardens. Even today it is not commonly offered commercially. The plants are not particularly stunning from a distance; the enchanting flowers are best appreciated up close as the coloring is rather subtle. The variety Purpurascens is the most commonly available type and was selected for its stronger coloration than the species.

This plant has handsome foliage and colorful bracts that long outlast the small flowers. The rounded, partially perfoliate (leaves encircle the stem) leaves are somewhat fleshy, glaucous (smooth, not hairy), and pale green-gray to blue in color. They arise in whorls along branching stems. The new growth is mottled with white; this marbling fades with age. The leaves get a deeper blue as night temperatures get lower later in the season. Plants vary considerably in size and form depending on the conditions they are grown under. In full sun and rich soils they can grow tall enough (2-4 feet) to require staking to keep them upright. In drier and less fertile soil, or in light shade, the plants tend to be more compact, reaching only about 18 tall. The foliage remains in good shape until a hard freeze.

The tubular flowers are borne in clusters of two or three surrounded by large, almost heart-shaped, nodding bracts. The one inch long flowers produce honey-flavored nectar, probably leading to its common name. In the wild the species varies greatly in color, with flowers ranging from cream or pale yellow to reddish lavender or purple and the bracts anywhere from dull blue-green to vivid blue or strong purple. As the plant matures, the bracts change from green to purple to blue. In the garden, the bract color is often on the murky side, depending on the light the plant is viewed in. The variety Purpurascens has rich purple-blue flowers held inside sea blue bracts. The flowers are attractive to many types of bees and hummingbirds. Deadhead to encourage continued bloom. If you wish to use honeywort as a cut flower, the ends of the stem need to be either flamed or dipped in hot water.

Flowers eventually produce large rounded black seeds with one flat edge. The seeds on a plant do not ripen all at once, but continue to mature throughout the season as they are produced. They are dispersed a considerable distance from the mother plant by an explosive release mechanism.

Although grown in European pleasure gardens since the middle ages, Cerinthe has no known medicinal important uses. According to his famous book, 'The Herbal', its ornamental qualities earned Honeywort a place in John Gerard's garden in the late 1500's. Gerard liked to sip honey_flavored nectar from the tiny flowers, and noted that the leaves have the taste of "new wax" or fresh honeycomb as well. Since his day, however, Honeywort fell from favor. It has never been a traditional border plant, for no prominent Victorian or Edwardian gardener mentions it. Indeed, it was unavailable in the seed trade until the recent reintroduction of a well_colored European garden selection.

More than 2000 years ago, Virgil described using this plant as an offering to swarming bees in order to entice them into a new hive: "Here sprinkle the odors ordained, crushed balm and lowly tufts of Honeywort, and make a tinkling round about and clash the cymbals of the goddess Mother; they will settle on the scented seat and in their way creep into the inmost covert of their nest." 

Although it was popular in the Renaissance--enough to rate a mention in Culpeper--this native of the Mediterranean region was subsequently rarely grown the West until a couple decades ago. Apparently because it is a quick-growing plant--it can go from seed for blooms in 10-12 weeks and have two generations in one season--this is considered a Mercury herb. Because it is so favored by bees, a martial insect, it would be a good herb to use in works where you want to win over a hostile force or attract defensive hosts. This member of the borage family is also known as the blue shrimp plant and the blue wax flower. 


Source:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerinthe
https://wimastergardener.org/article/honeywort-cerinthe-major/
http://www.maltawildplants.com/BORG/Cerinthe_major.php

 

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Calabash nutmeg - Monodora myristica
Allanblackia
Kola nut - Cola nitida
Rainbow eucalyptus - Eucalyptus deglupta
Elephant apple - Dillenia indica
Australian Christmas tree - Nuytsia floribunda
Honeywort- Cerinthe major
Aconite - Monkshood - Wolfsbane - Aconitum napellus
Crown of Thorns - Euphorbia milii
Abyssinian banana - Ensete ventricosum
Goldenrain Tree - Koelreuteria paniculata
Naranjilla - Lulo - Solanum quitoense
Brazil nut tree - Bertholletia excelsa
Sea grape - Coccoloba uvifera
Bignay - Antidesma bunius
Cashew - Anacardium occidentale
Giant Himalayan Lily - Cardiocrinum giganteum
African Hemp - Sparrmannia africana
Lychee - Litchi chinensis
Prickly Heath - Gaultheria mucronata
Hoodia - Bushman's hat - Hoodia gordonii
Cannibals Tomato - Solanum viride
Ashoka - Saraca asoca
Ackee - Blighia sapida
African plum - Safou - Dacryodes edulis
Solandra - Solandra maxima
Stapelia - Stapelia gigantea
Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea
Swiss Cheese Plant - Monstera deliciosa
Chocolate flower - Berlandiera lyrata
Sandersonia - Sandersonia aurantiaca
Northern Japanese Magnolia - Magnolia kobus
Champak - Magnolia champaca
Hookers lips - Psychotria elata
Suicide Tree - Cerbera odollam
Konjac - Amorphophallus konjac
Madagascar ocotillo - Alluaudia procera
Water Banana - Typhonodorum lindleyanum
Salak - Salacca zalacca
Natal Plum - Carissa macrocarpa
Ashanti blood - Mussaenda erythrophylla
Duranta - Duranta erecta
Maqui - Aristotelia chilensis
Manuka - New Zealand Tea Tree - Leptospermum scoparium
Suriname cherry - Eugenia uniflora
Australian Finger Lime - Citrus australasica
Sacred Flower of the Incas - Cantua buxifolia
Job's tears - Coix Lacryma-jobi
Velvet Bean - Mucuna pruriens
Java Apple - Syzygium samarangense
Screwpine - Pandanus utilis
Marimo - Aegagropila linnaei
Achocha/Caigua - Inca cucumber - Cyclanthera pedata
Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis
Sugar cane - Saccharum officinarum
Sacha inchi - Plukenetia volubilis
Coffea - Coffee Tree - Coffea arabica
Liquorice - Licorice - Glycyrrhiza glabra
Mullein -Verbascum thapsus
Iceplant - Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Chayote - Sechium edule
Roselle - Hibiscus sabdariffa
Black Goji - Lycium ruthenicum Murray
Rose Cactus - Pereskia grandifolia
Durian - Durio zibethinus
Jackfruit tree - Artocarpus heterophyllus
Cassabanana - Sicana odorifera
Chilean myrtle - Arrayan - Luma apiculata
Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus
Rice-paper Plant -Tetrapanax papyrifer
Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet
Harlequin Glorybower - Clerodendrum trichotomum
Coco de Mer - Lodoicea maldivica
Silver Tree - Leucadendron argenteum
Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
Borojo - Alibertia patinoi - Borojoa patinoi
Butterfly Pea - Clitoria ternatea
Honey Flower - Melianthus major
Ombu - Phytolacca dioica
Lion's Ear - Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonurus
Moringa - Miracle Tree - Moringa oleifera
Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum
Spear Lily - Gymea - Doryanthes
Camphor tree - Cinnamomum camphora
Waterwheel - Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Flowering rush - Butomus umbellatus
Four o'clock - Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa
Dead Mans Fingers - Decaisnea
Bitter Melon - Momordica charantia
Shoapnuts Tree - Shoapberry - Sapindus
Acerola - Malpighia
Monkey Ladder - Sea Heart - Entada gigas
Cherimoya - Annona cherimola
Caper - Capparis spinosa
Lithops - Living Stones
Chaste Tree - Vitex agnus-castus
Chilean Lantern Tree - Crinodendron hookerianum
Parrot's Beak - Lotus berthelotii
Water Hyacinth - Eichhornia crassipes
Guaiac Tree - Guaiacum officinale - Lignum-vitae
Mickey Mouse bush - Ochna serrulata
Cow's Udder - Solanum mammosum
Miracle fruit - Synsepalum dulcificum
Akebia - Akebia quinata
Chilean Firebush - Embothrium coccineum
Caesalpinia - Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Welwitschia - Welwitschia mirabilis
Saguaro - Carnegiea gigantea
Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
Monarda - Bee balm - Bergamot
Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
Neomarica - Walking Iris
Red hot poker - Kniphofia - Tritoma
Sikkim rhubarb - Rheum nobile
Reseda - Mignonette
Paulownia - Paulownia tomentosa
Belamcanda chinensis - Leopard lily
Blue Poppy - Meconopsis
Cannonball Tree - Couroupita guianensis
Tamarillo - Cyphomandra betacea
Goji - Wolfberry - Lycium barbarum
Vanilla - Vanilla Planifolia
Stevia - Stevia rebaudiana
Pachypodium
Physalis
Ceropegia
Sturt pea - Swainsona formosa
Clematis
Grevillea
Jade vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys
Sansevieria - Snake Plant
Trochetia
Yareta - Azorella compacta
African tulip tree - Spathodea campanulata
Angel's Trumpets - Brugmansia
Achiote - Annato - Bixa orellana
Sausage Tree - Kigelia pinnata
Castor Oil Plant - Ricinus communis
Firewheel Tree - Stenocarpus sinuatus
Bat Flower - Tacca
Snake gourd - Trichosanthes cucumerina
Sedum
Hydnora - Hydnora africana
Pickerel Weed - Pontederia
Argan - Argania spinosa
Astilbe - False Goats Beard
Feijoa - Pineapple Guava - Acca sellowiana
Aquilegia - Columbine
Cassiope
Sweet Box - Sarcococca
Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera
Foxtail Lily - Eremurus
Rue - Ruta graveolens
Pittosporum
Ylang-Ylang - Cananga odorata
Rose of Jericho - Anastatica hierochuntica
Gunnera
Waterlily - Nymphaea
Calico Flower - Aristolochia
Daylily - Hemerocallis
Contorted hazel - Corylus avellana Contorta
Torch Ginger - Etlingera elatior
Mistletoe - Viscum album
Devil´s claw - Harpagophytum procumbens
Teasel - Dipsacus
Pampas grass - Gynerium argenteum - Cortaderia Selloanna
Purple coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
Coral Tree - Erythrina crista-galli
Portulaca
Lobelia
Field Poppy - Papaver Rhoeas
Narcissus - Daffodil
Mimosa pudica - Sensitive Plant
Boxwood - Buxus sempervirens
Firethorn - Pyracantha
Star of Bethlehem - Ornithogalum
Cosmos
Muscari - Grape Hyacinth
Papyrus - Cyperus papyrus
Zinnia
Honeysuckle - Lonicera
Passiflora - Passion Flower
Calendula - Marigold
Lupine - Lupinus
Canna - Indian Shot
Witch Hazel - Hamamelis
Oak - Quercus
Brunsvigia - Candelabra Flower
Tree peony - Paeonia suffruticosa
Olive - Olea europaea
Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus
Desert rose - Adenium obesum
Oleander - Nerium Oleander
Abutilon
Sweet Pea - Lathyrus odoratus
Chaenomeles - Flowering Quince
Forsythia
Amaryllis - Hippeastrum
Butchers broom - Ruscus aculeatus
Bay Laurel - Laurus nobilis
Gloriosa
Bamboo
Gladiolus
Artichoke - Cynara scolymus
Clivia - Clivia Miniata
Dipladenia - Dipladenia sanderii
Date palm - Phoenix dactylifera
Peach - Prunus persica
Almond - Prunus amygdalus
Willow - Salix
Pomegranate - Punica granatum
Protea cynaroides
Colchicum autumnale
Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia reginae
Cardon - Pachycereus pringlei
Wolffia arrhiza
Puya raimondii
Fuchsia
Asphodelus - Asphodel
Primula - Primerose
Dicentra spectabilis - Bleeding Heart
Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum
Helleborus Niger - Christmas Rose
Zantedeschia - Calla Lily
Fritillaria imperialis - Crown imperial
Aster
Heliconia
Common Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
Bee Orchid - Orphys apifera
Convalaria majalis - Lily of the Valley - Muguet
Syringa Vurgaris - Lilac
Viola
Impantiens
Snowdrop - Galanthus
Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima
Dionaea muscipula
Banksia
Sea anemone
Amorrhophallus titanum
Rafflesia arnoldi

 

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