Monday, July 07, 2008

Autograph-hunting

The title of the post does not refer to some sort of fan-atic quest for celebrity signatures (although we have had our share of celebs on island recently). Instead as you may have predicted it's another of those bad puns, one that refers to the doctrine of signatures.

The doctrine of signatures is/was an attempt to make sense of nature's provision for herbalists and practitioners of ancient magics. Basically it holds that plants look a little bit like the thing they cure/help with. Pulmonaria has oval spotty leaves that are supposed to look like lungs; therefore it helps with respiratory issues and has the old name lungwort. "wort" as a suffix is a good indicator of a plants having been selected using the doctrine; hedge woundwort, spleenwort, lousewort, and this.................

Aristolochia

Supposedly it looks like a womb, hence the Aristolochia is also known as birthwort. This monster is Aristolochia gigantea, a rather attractive tropical species which supposedly can handle very light frost if you're interested in temperate climes. Nothing in the picture for scale but these flowers are massive. Its also known as dutchman's pipe for the shape of the back of the flower and giant pelican flower because, well, actually I have no idea why.

3 comments:

Nancy J. Bond said...

I have heard this referred to as the Dutchman's Pipe, but I don't think I've ever actually seen such a good photo of one before. It's huge - must be one large Dutch man. :)

Julia said...

I did not know that. I'll never look at my maidenhair spleenwort in the same way again!

Joe said...

I have been wanting to plant one of these vines in my butterfly garden.

You have a great blog and have added you to my blogroll.

http://joec66.blogspot.com/