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hawthorn button Hawthorn
Crateagus spp.
Family: Rosaceae
Common Names: ~ English Hawthorn~ ~Haw~ ~May~ ~May Blossom~ ~May Bush~ ~May Tree~ ~May Flower~ ~Quick-Set~ ~White Thorn~ ~Thorn~ ~Thorn Apple~ Glastonbury Thorn~
Chinese Name: Shan-cha

It gets it's name from the Greek word ~Kratos~ meaning ~strong~ and ~powerful.~ The fruit of the hawthorn resembles a small apple and is called a ~Haw~ or ~Hawberry~ and is often eaten by birds. Manitoulin, locals use them for jams or jellies, giving them the name ~Haweaters.~

According to legend, the Glastonbury thorn is connected with Christ's death as well as his birth. It is said that soon after the death of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain to spread the message of Christianity. He travelled with is his staff. Being tired, he lay down to rest and he pushed his staff into the ground beside him. When he awoke, he found that the staff had taken root and begun to grow and blossom. He left it there and it has flowered every Christmas and every spring. It is also said that a puritan trying to cut down the tree was blinded by a splinter of the wood before he could do so. The original thorn eventually died but not before many cuttings had been taken. It is one of these cuttings is in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey today. Ever since at Glastonbury Abbey, England - the name by which that Avalon is known - on Christmas Eve the white thorn buds and blooms.

The tree, is said to always bloom on Christmas night, even after its twin stems were uprooted during the Civil War.The castaway fragments are said to have taken root, wherever they fell.
There is a tradition in England that a branch of the Glastonbury Thorn is taken and displayed each year in Buckingham Palace.
In England, Hawthorns are cultivated for hedges ~haw means hedge.~ The flowers are associated with May Day, and the hawthorn has long been used as a symbol of spring in English poetry.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the hawthorn had happy associations, linked with hope, marriage and babies. Dedicated to Hymen, the god of marriage, it was used as a symbol of hope at weddings in Greece; bridal attendants wore its blossoms while the bride carried an entire bough. Also, in both Greece and Rome, torches carried in wedding processions were made of hawthorn. The Romans put hawthorn leaves in the cradles of newborn babies to ward off evil spirits.

In medieval Europe, hawthorn was regarded as a symbol of death and illness. It was thought that bringing its branches inside would portend the death of one of the household's members. Hawthorn was also one of the witch's favorite plants and was especially to be avoided on Walpugis Night, when witches turned themselves into hawthorns.

In the Middle Ages, folk healers recommend it for various ills. It became a popular herbal remedy in Europe and North America towards the end of the 19th century, when its heart-healing properties were discovered. Hawthorn is also used as a sedative for insomnia.

The North American Indians used it as medicine for many ailments. In China, the fruits of Crataegus pinnatifida were eaten to cure scurvy, taken as a mild laxative, and for stomach ailments. The leaf and twigs have been used as an antidote to poisoning with varnish. Hawthorn was first mentioned as a drug in the Tang-Ben-Cao, a Chinese herbal attributed to Su-Jing, dating to 659 AD. The Chinese make a jam of hawthorn called Shan-cha-kao or Shan-cha-ping. Hawthorn wood is very hard and is used for such small items as tool handles.
The ship Mayflower was named for the Hawthorn. Hawthorn is the state flower of Missouri.

heather button Heather
Calluna vulgaris
Family: Ericaceae
Common Names: ~Scotch Heather~

The name Calluna is derived from the Greek word ~kallunein~ which means to ~cleanse.~ The name was used maybe because heather twigs are used as brooms, or its medicinal properties for treatment of a number of internal disorders. The word heather is also thought to derive from a Scottish word ~haeddre~ but many variations are found dating from the 14th century. Another word from that time is the Norse word ~lyng~ meaning ~light~ (as in weight).

Thought to bring good luck, white heather is effective and is often worn as a charm. At one time heather was burnt to induce rainfall and the broomsticks on which witches rode were traditionally made of heather or broom.

hellebore button Hellebore
Common Names: ~Christmas Rose~ ~Hellebore~ ~Snow Rose~ ~Winter Rose~ ~Black Hellebore~ ~Black Nisewort~

The Latin word ~niger~ refers to the color of the roots. The flower is normally white. The Christmas rose, is a true Christmas flower. It blooms in the middle of winter in the mountains of Central Europe. According to legend, it is related to the birth of Christ and a little shepherdess named Madelon. As Madelon tended her sheep one cold wintry night, wise men and shepherds passed by the snow covered field where she was, with their gifts for the Christ Child. The wise men carried the rich gifts and the shepherds, fruits, honey and doves. Madelon began to weep at the thought of having nothing, not even a simple flower for the Newborn King. An angel, seeing her tears, brushed away the snow revealing a most beautiful white flower tipped with pink - the Christmas rose.

In central and northern Europe it is the custom to break off a branch of a cherry tree at the beginning of the Advent and keep it in water in a warm room; the flowers burst into bloom at Christmas time.
Hellebore is one of the four classic poisons. The other three are nightshade, hemlock, and aconite. King Attalus III was one of the greatest poison fanciers in all of history, and he had a particular fondness for hellebore.

Pliny described a ritual to harvest the roots of the plant. First, a sword was used to draw a circle around the plant. The collector would then pray to the east for permission to dig up the plant. Finally, the collector would look to see if an eagle was flying nearby, if it was, then it presaged the death of the collector within the year.

In Greek mythology, Melampus, the great seer used this plant as a herb to cure the madness of King Proetus' daughters and other Greek women, who lost their hair and roamed wildly through mountains and desert of Tiryns, thinking themselves to be cows. Melampus and his brother Bias gained a fortune ~two thirds of King Proetus' kingdom~ as a result, becoming the husbands of the princesses.

The ancient Greeks associated it with demons or possession. All species of this flower are toxic. They were used to create poison tip arrows. Strangely, it is said to provide protection and a vase of hellebore brought into a room will drive away an unpleasant atmosphere and replace it with tranquility.

heliotrope1.jpg button Heliotrope
heliotropium arborescens
Family: Boraginaceae
Common Names: ~Marine Heliotrope~

Heliotrope means ~shunned by the sun.~ The Greek word ~heliotrope~ means to ~turn towards the sun.~ It came from Peru, and in France, was called the ~Herb of Love. ~ The original heliotrope was supposed to be a plant known in Germany as ~God's herb~ and had many healing qualities.

In the Greek myth the sun god Apollo is loved by Clytia, for whom he cared so little that he went a-wooing the princess Leukothea. Clytia revealed the liason to the king, who, furious at the misconduct of his daughter, burried her alive. Apollo returned to the heavens without so much as a look for the unhappy Clytia, who, conscious of the mischief she had done, fell to the ground and lay there for nine days. She watched Apollo passing in his chariot, and prayed for a look of pity. Seeing her wasted with sorrow, the gods took mercy and changed her into the heliotrope. She still lies at length upon the earth and looks toward heaven with half averted eye, waiting for complete forgiveness and acceptance.

According to another myth, all of the flowers were once maidens and all of them embarrassed the sun god Helios. The water nymph Clytie fell so deeply in love with him that for nine days, and nine nights she sat ton the river bank admiring his chariot. The gods took pity on poor Clytie and changed her into the fragrant heliotrope. That's how the heliotrope became the symbol for eternal love. This flower is also used to heal scorpion wounds.

flowers button Hibiscus
H. rosa-sinensis
Common Names: ~Shoe Flower~ ~Queen of Tropical Flowers~

The Hibiscus is native to Asia and Pacific islands. Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia and of the Conch Republic. It is the State flower of Hawaii. It is called the ~Queen of Tropical Flowers~ as it signifies peace and happiness. It is also known as the ~Shoe Flower~ because its petals are used to shine shoes.

In islands of the Pacific Ocean, the red hibiscus, is worn by women behind the ear. If worn behind the left ear, she is desirous of a lover, if behind the right ear she is already spoken for. But if she wears two flowers, one behind each ear she has a lover but would like another.

holly3 button Holly
Family Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)
The word ~holly~ comes from the word ~holy.~ Holly is associated with Christmas. There are over 150 species of holly. The flowers are inconspicuous, but the berries are not. Most hollies are native to North America, southern Europe and Asia. English holly Ilex aquifolium and American holly Ilex opaca are the species most commonly grown as Christmas decorations. The American holly has duller leaves and more spines than the English holly. Holly berries are potentially dangerous if eaten. Twenty berries can kill a person.

According to a Christian legend the pointed leaves of the Holly represent the thorns of Christ's Crown. The green leaves represent eternal life. The red berries represent the blood of Christ. It is said that holly was used to make the crown of thorns. At that time the berries were yellow. In honor to the blood shed by Christ the berries turned red.
Holly was the sacred plant of Saturn and was used at the Roman Saturnalia festival to honor him. Romans gave one another holly wreaths and carried them about decorating images of Saturn with it. Centuries later, in December, while Romans continued pagan worship, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus. To avoid persecution, they decked their homes with Saturnalia holly. As Christians increased, holly lost its pagan association and became a symbol of Christmas.

According to another legend, when the Holy Family was fleeing into the desert from Herod, they hid the baby Jesus in a holly bust. At that time, the leaves had fallen as the holly was not an evergreen. Mary prayed for protection, and the leaves grew - green to hide and protect the baby Jesus.

The Druids believed that holly, with its shiny leaves and red berries stayed green to keep the earth beautiful when the sacred oak lost it leaves. They wore sprigs of holly in their hair when they went into the forest to watch their priests cut the sacred mistletoe.

In Medieval Europe it was associated with good fortune.Trees planted near homes were said to offer protection from thunder and lightning. The berries and leaves were used to ward off witchcraft and the evil eye - said to be more effective for men than women.

In West England it is said sprigs of holly around a young girl's bed on Christmas Eve are supposed to keep away mischievous little goblins. They also put a sprig of holly on the bedpost to bring sweet dreams. In Germany, a piece that was used in church decorations is regarded as a charm against lightning. In England, British farmers put sprigs of holly on their beehives. On the first Christmas, they believed, the bees hummed in honor of the Christ Child. The English also mention the ~he holly and the she holly~ as being the determining factor in who will rule the household in the following year, the ~she holly~ having smooth leaves and the ~he holly~ having prickly ones. In Wales, family quarrels are thought to occur if holly is brought into the house prior to Christmas. If decorations are left up beyond New Year's or Twelfth Night it is said that a misfortune will occur for each leaf and branch remaining. According to legend taking holly into the home of a friend or picking holly in blossom will cause death. In Germany, it is unlucky to step on the berries. A piece of holly kept from the Church decorations is said to bring good fortune throughout the year. Similarly, if holly is hung in the barn, animals will fatten and thrive. If picked on Christmas Day, it will serve as protection against witches and evil spirits. In some areas little lighted candles are placed on holly leaves and floated on water. If they float it is a sign that the project that the person has in mind at the time will prosper, but if they sink it is as well to abandon it.

If there was an abundance of red berries on a bush, it was believed that the winter would be severe as the bush was providing extra food for the birds to get through a harsh winter.

In the 19th century it was believed to remedy fever. In folk medicine it was believed that if you beat someone with holly until they bled it would cure chilblains.

Holly is the symbol of man.

Hydrangea button Hydrangea
Hydrangea hortensia
family: Hydrangeaceae

The Hydrangeas are marsh or aquatic plants, and hence the name is derived from a Greek compound signifying water-vessel. Philibert Commerson, a French plant hunter in the mid-1700's, and his botanical assistant, a young fellow named Jean Baret, stayed by his master's side through incredible travails of intense cold, jungle sores, and near-drownings. But in Tahiti, Jean Baret was ~unveiled~ when he tried to fend off the advances of a Tahitian chieftain. Jean was really Jeanne, a women.

According to one version, when the expedition was over Jeanne Baret became Commerson's housekeeper and stayed by his side until his death. Then, she remarried, and for reasons unknown, changed her name to Hortense. Some say that Hydrangea hortensia, was named for the legendary Hortense.

Anthocyanin, a red pigment, is the source of color in hydrangea flowers. It can form a complex with aluminum and change to blue.

hycianth button Hyacinth
Muscari racemosum
Family: Liliaceae
Common Names: ~ Starch Hyacinth~ ~Dutch Hyacinth~ ~Common Hyacinth~ ~Garden Hyacinth ~

The Grape Hyacinth, is cultivated in England as a garden plant. It is also known as the ~Starch Hyacinth~ because the flowers smell of wet starch. The name of the genus, Muscari, comes from the Greek word for ~musk,~ a smell yielded by some species.

It is said that Hyacinthus was Apollo's favorite companion. He was also loved by Zephyr, the West Wind. One day Apollo and Hyacinthus were playing a game to see who could throw a discus farther. Zephyr saw this competition and grew jealous of Hyacinthus' youth and beauty. When Apollo took up the discus and threw it, Zephyr blew the discus over and it hit Hyacinthus in the head. Apollo was horiffied and tried to stop the blood that came from his friend's wound. It was a to late to save Hyacinthus and when he died, the blood that had spilled onto the ground turned into a flower. That flower carries his name to this day and Apollo put Hyacinthus' body into the heavens as a constellation. The legend is probably not a true hyacinth, for the flower is not native to Greece.

One legend says the hyacinth arose from the blood of Ajax, whose defeat by Ulysses in a dispute for the arms of Achilles, threw him into a fit of madness. He slaughtered the sheep belonging to the Greek army, thinking they were his enemies. When he discovered his mistake, he killed himself and from his blood there rose a purple flower, bearing the inscription ~ai,~ his initials, also expressing a sigh.

hyssop button Hyssop
Hyssopus officinalis
Family: Labiatae
Hyssop is native to the Mediterranean region and Asia. The word Hyssop stems from the Greek or Hebrew ~Azob~ or ~Bzob~ which means ~Holy Herb.~ It has been used throughout history for many purposes

According to the Bible, ~Leviticus 14:49-56~ it was used to treat Leprosy. Because of its strong camphor-like odor, it was used as a cleansing herb. Moses used this herb as his secret weapon to free and protect his people from all harm. Solomon in his songs and proverbs praised the Hyssop that ~springeth out of the wall.~ Christ, on the cross was given Hyssop and vinegar. ~St. John 19:29~

It was known as the holy herb by the Greeks and used for purifying temples and cleansing lepers. Today researchers discovered that the mold that produces penicillin grows on its leaf. Benedictine monks in the 1st century AD used it to flavor their liqueurs.

Tibetan priests offered Hyssop to their deities during sacred services, and Persians used a concoction of Hyssop as a lotion to help give a fine color to the skin. Pliny remarked on its effect on one's mind and taste, and the Indians used it to benefit cavities and the tissues of the body while alleviating bruises and soothing cuts and wounds.

Butterflies, hummingbirds and bees love Hyssop, and the edible leaves can be used for teas, salads and to flavor drinks.

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Copyright Pinkie D'Cruz 1998
Friday, January 16, 1998


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