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jacobs ladder button Jacob's Ladder
Polemonium caeruleum
Family: ~Polemoniaceae~
Common Names: ~Greek Valerian~ ~Bluebell~ ~Skunk Weed~

Native to the northeastern United States, Jacob's ladder grows in bogs and wetlands. It is also known as Greek Valerian although it doesn't have any of their medicinal qualities. It is a member of the phlox family. Polemonium comes from the from the Greek ~polemonion,~ a name used originally for a medicinal plant associated with the philosopher Polemos of Cappadocia. In Latin, the species name pulcherrimum means ~most handsome~ The genus name of Jacob's ladder is attributed to several namesakes, including King Polemon of Pontus and an early Anthenian philosopher of the same name. The Greek word ~polemos~ also means ~war.~ Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar, wrote that the name came from the war created by two kings who both claimed to be the first to discover the plant's medicinal virtues. The Native American name for Jacob's ladder translates to ~smells like a pine~ which describes the scent of the root. It's common name refers to the ladder like shape of the leaves.

Jacob's ladder blooms in June and July. Native tribes used it to make a head and hair wash. They also used the root to induce vomiting and treat skin diseases and other ailments. European Jacob's ladders were grown in gardens for centuries because they were considered to have a wide range of medicinal values.
Jacob's ladder makes a good container flower and the dried flowers are used potpourris

Jacobean button Jacobean Lily
Sprekelia formosissima
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Common Names: ~St James Lily~ ~Aztec Lily~ ~Amaryllis formosissima~

This plant is native of Mexico and Guatemala. Thomas Jefferson grew this weird, plant from bulbs sent to him by the great Philadelphia nursery-man Bernard McMahon.

It has medicinal values, makes a valuable ornamental plant and is used to make one of the best biodegradable, natural pesticide. It is known as a fumitory and masticatory in South America. All parts contain nicotine and are considered poisonous.

jack.jpg button Jack in the pulpuit
Arisaema triphyllum
Family: Araceae (Arum family)
Common Names: ~Indian Turnip.~

Jack-in-the-Pulpit is found in shaded woody areas around May. ~Jack in the Pulpuit~ is actually a small inflorescence of minute flowers which turns into a club-shaped mass of red berries, often called an ~Indian Turnip.~

jobstears button Job's Tears
Coix lacryma-jobi

Family: Poaceae (Grass family)
Common Names: ~David's Tears~ ~Saint Mary's Tears~ ~Christ's Tears~ (~Lacryma Christi~) ~Tear Drops~ ~Adlay~

Job's Tears is a tall, roadside, wild grass that produces nature's most perfect beads. It's seed is naturally polished and has a hole through it, exactly like a bead. The name Job's Tears refers to the droplet-shaped, ~beads~ and to the biblical man ~Job~ of the Old Testament who endured great suffering. It is agreed that the beads resemble tears, but there is some disagreement as to exactly whose tears the beads resemble. Depending on where you are in the world, this plant goes by various names including ~David's tears,~ ~Saint Mary's tears,~ ~Christ's tears~ and just ~Plain tears~ drops. The dried, gray beads are strung into necklaces throughout tropical regions of the world.

Native to tropical Asia, Job's tears are used for food, by peasants of the Far East. The 17th century naturalist George Eberhard Rumphius stated that in his day Job's tears were planted in Java and Celebes on the margins of rice fields. According to Agnes Arber (The Gramineae, 1965), Job's tears were introduced into China in the first century A.D. by a Chinese general who conquered Tongking, where the grains were widely used as a cereal. The general became so fond of Job's tears that he carried back several cartloads of the seeds to his own country.

In India, the Nagas use the grain for brewing a beer called ~zhu~ or ~dzu.~ Japanese brew a tea and an alcoholic beverage, and roasted seeds are made into a coffee-like drink. The leaves are used as fodder in parts of India, and are especially relished by elephants.

The most important use of this plant is bead jewelry. Their natural color is white, but they can be dyed shades of red, blue, green and yellow. In addition to bead necklaces, belts, bracelets and earrings, they are also made into rosaries. In Central America, strings of Job's tears are used for the arms and legs of little seed dolls. Strings of Job's tears were reportedly given to teething babies.

Job's tears is also used for musical instruments. Shaker gourds are probably one of the earliest musical instruments. In Africa, hollow gourds are covered with a loose net strung with hundreds of Job's tears.

jonquil button Jonquil
Narcissus jonquilla
Family: Amaryllidaceae

Narcissus is the Latin name for all daffodils. Daffodil is the common name for all members of the genus Narcissus, the genus Narcissus is a member of the Amaryllis family. The word ~narcissus~ is derived from the Greek word ~narke~ meaning ~numbness~ or ~stupor.~ Some attribute the naming of the flower to its narcotic fragrance while others belive that it is associated with the poisonous nature of the bulbs.

Native to Spain and Algeria. It is the favorite flower of Queen Anne. She wove patterns of jonquil blossoms in her delicate needlework which included carpets, tapestry and dresses. She was inspired by her love of jonquils to establish Kensington Palace Gardens, the first public gardens in England.

A Greek myth relates the story of Proserpina. While she gathering lilies, she was kidnapped by the god Pluto who carried her to the underworld. As Pluto carried Proserpina, she dropped the lilies. As the lilies fell to earth, they became daffodils, hanging their heads for Proserpina's sorrow.

In the Language of Flowers they mean ~Have pity on my passion~ and ~I desire a return of affection~ The flowers yield a sweet-smelling yellow oil is obtained in the south of France, used in perfumes.
*See Daffodil

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