Wolfsbane – Keeping the Wolves at Bay

Aconitum napellus (Aconite), better known as Monkshood for the helmet-like sepal that covers the rest of the flower, has a long history as both a deadly weapon and an herbal remedy. It is a member of the buttercup family and is a hearty perrenial. The flowers come in a range of colors including blues, yellow, white and pinks. It’s other common name, Wolfsbane, is said to have come from the plant’s use in keeping wolves at bay. Villagers used the toxic sap to coat arrows that would kill the unwanted animal.

Wolfsbane or Monkshood? What’s in a name?

The ancient Roman naturalist Plinius, better known as Pliny the Elder, referred to it as “plant arsenic.” In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the evil sorceress Medea conspires to kill the hero Theseus by offering him a cup infused with the deadly poison. Fortunately for him, her plan was foiled. Had he drank from the cup, his death would have been painful, but relatively fast. Even a small amount of exposure to the roots can produce tingling and numbness, and large-scale exposure can induce nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat and death.

The European variety, although poisonous enough to be deadly, is not as toxic as the Asian variety, and yet even the Asian variety has been used in healing medicine for centuries as well as in the preparation of poisons. Aconite can trigger hallucinations. I has been used to slow the pulse and as a sedative for heart palpitations. The use of aconite in medicine is probably at the basis of its connection with werewolves, as is the legend that it was given its poisonous qualities from the slobber of Cerberus during Hercules’ fight with that ferocious dog of Hades.

By the way, the seed, wrapped in a lizard’s skin and carried allows you to become invisible at will. I gotta go catch me a lizard…. Anyway, if you are looking to do in a werewolf this Halloween, go for the silver bullet, as wolfsbane merely slows ‘em down. Ditto for vampires.

The Wolfman

Even a man who is pure in heart

and says his prayers by night

may become a wolf

when the wolfbane blooms

and the autumn moon is bright.


A little ditty from the 1941 movie, The Wolfman.

from Max


Seeds, Seeds, Seeds

seed packets - Google Search-1

Hope you all enjoyed the seed swap. It will be fun to see if you have any luck with them next spring. The webmaster is ashamed to admit that she hates seeds. You see, she’s never been able to induce seeds to grow for her. Oh well, thank goodness there are those among you that are able to grow them. You know who you are….

Here are some snaps of the event that Terry took.

What's in the bag?

What to take?!

Seed 4


And, God Created Weeds

The Good Green Earth

The Good Green Earth

Barbra K. sent me this little story. She thought we may have seen it before and so we did in 2013! In her version, only the names have changed. (St. Bruce is St. Francis). It is so good, though we decided to run it again.

GOD said: “Bruce, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.”

It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them withgrass.

Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

Yes, Sir.

These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life.

You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

And where do they get this mulch?

They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

‘Dumb and Dumber’, Lord. It’s a story about….

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Bruce.

This little story was submitted by Nance!

Seed for the Exchange on September 18th

Terri reports about seed hunting in her garden:

Seed 1

I have made my rounds of the garden and collected  ripe seeds from  the following plants. I am listing them here along with pictures in flower and seed. I am learning new things every day. This has been quite the experience.  So here are some examples from my garden:

Seed 3

Wild  mustard – no, not Phlox—“Dame’s Rocket” has four petals. Phlox, five. Note the difference in the seed pods pictured below.

This wildflower looks like Phlox but it’s easy to tell them apart. Start pulling Dame’s Rocket flower petals with ‘She Loves Me’ and you’ll find ‘She Loves Me Not’ when you get to the last one. Your garden phlox will always love you because it’s odd. Dame’s Rocket has 4 flower petals compared to the 5 of Phlox. It is a member of the Brassicaceae family.  

Hesperis matronalis

Hesperis matronalis

Dame’s Rocket is an invasive alien wildflower that has escaped from garden settings it is native to Europe and was brought over to the new world to be used as an ornamental plant. Their aggressive nature is actually a family trait. When it goes to seed Dane’s Rocket gives away it’s family identity. The long seed pods mark it as a member of the mustard family.


Stachys densiflora

Stachys densiflora



Seed 7

Seed 9-1

Foxglove—Digitalis pupurea

Japanese Primrose Primula japonica

Japanese Primrose – Primula japonica


Seed 11

Globe Thistle (Echinops) Seed head

Globe Thistle (Echinops) Seed head

Seed 13   

Can’t wait to see what treasures YOU will discover. Have fun. See you on the 18th.


Water Crisis In California

California Killing Fields - photo from the Huffington Post

California Killing Fields – photo from the Huffington Post

You may have heard that there is a severe drought in California. As you probably know that doesn’t mean we are immune to it. Much of the country’s produce comes from that state and the effects of the drought can and will be felt here in the grocery stores. Mother Jones has an interesting article that talks about how much water it takes to grow produce. Check it out here. Lets all pray for rain and do a little dance too.

Thanks to Linda V. on the Environment & Conservation Committee for passing along this article.