- From: May Day Magazine (Jan 2007)
By Sapphire Singh
- From: May Day Magazine (Jan 2007)
By Sapphire Singh
I recently discovered that what I have been identifying as ‘Deadly Nightshade’ since childhood is actually ‘Bittersweet Nightshade’ or ‘Woody Nightshade’ (Solanum dulcamara). I can see where the mistake could be made in terms of similarities in their foliage but both the flowers and berries are completely different. Deadly Nightshade’s Latin name is Atropa belladonna.
I know this might not seem like a big deal to some, but the plant I now know to be ‘Bittersweet Nightshade’ grows fairly rampant in these parts and growing up we were consistently warned against eating the tantalizing berries. Everyone I know has referred to it as ‘Deadly Nightshade‘ for as long as I can remember!
Further proof that common names can lead to confusion. While it might seem too chi-chi or difficult, it really does help to learn the botanical name too. And if you’re extra geeky you can look into the Latin and find out what the name says about the plant. I purchased “Gardener’s Latin” by Bill Neal a few months back and it has proven to be a really terrific and easy-to-follow beginner’s guide to understanding botanical names. Unfortunately, the book disappointedly omits ‘solanum’, a popular genus, but did include ‘dulcamara’ which you can probably guess translates to ‘bittersweet.’ However, if you’ve been reading this far and are interested, according to Botanical.com:
…Solanum is derived from Solor (I ease), and testifies to the medicinal power of this group of plants.
A few posts back I mentioned phenology and how the study of dandelion bloom times can be used as a soil temperature indicator. However, at the time I could not find anything online relating to the actual study and recording of these observations on a larger scale.
Well, look what I found! Dandelion Watch, an Environment Canada initiative that is asking the public to watch, observe and record dandelion bloom times in their area. The collected data is then being used to track overall climate changes across Ontario. There are also a number of related Environment Canada watch initiatives to contribute to including: Plant Watch, and Worm Watch. Fascinating!
A friend pointed me to this interesting article about a group of indigenous farmers in South America who are taking the multinational corporation Syngenta to task against terminator potato technology that they fear will cause extensive harm to “their region’s biodiversity, culture and food sovereignty.”
“Peru and its Andean neighbours are the potato’s centre of diversity Ã¢â‚¬â€ with nearly 4,000 unique varieties that farmers have developed over generations. Before reaching its position, the coalition undertook a lengthy discussion with farmers across the region.
Farmers are concerned that terminator potatoes will enter the Andean production system and destroy their traditions of storing and exchanging potato tubers for future planting. This is central to the farmers’ culture and has contributed to the region’s immense diversity of potato varieties. They also fear that pollen from the modified potatoes could contaminate local varieties and prevent their tubers from sprouting.”
On Sunday I travelled to Hamilton, Ontario to attend a number of events. The first was a book signing at a fantastic independant art supply store called “Mixed Media.” I was really impressed with the store which offered so much more than art supplies including zines, crafty works by local artists, and a wide breadth of book titles some of which were not at all related to art making. They’ve also been growing food in the backyard — the You Grow Girl book really does fit in with everything they’ve got going on there and I was very proud and flattered to have been welcomed into their community.
I had the opportunity at the event to talk with a lot of people who are really enthusiastic about growing food and adding greenery to Hamilton. We exchanged thoughts about how class and gardening intersects, how gardening communally can transcend age and cultural barriers to form community, urban agriculture, and how cool it would be if more schools were offering gardening space to their students on campus. Everyone was really smart, enthusiastic, and motivated to make these changes happen in their community. Hamilton has really got it going on! I want to thank Mixed Media and Sapphire Singh of Green Venture for inviting me to their city and showing me such a great time.
Next up was a trip across town to The Royal Botanical Gardens were I was the keynote speaker at their annual Health and Wellness Show. I gave two short presentations on growing food organically. Twenty minutes is not a lot of time to get into the real meat and potatoes kind of information but I hope attendees left feeling inspired to get out there and give it a go.
It’s funny that I have never visited the Royal Botanical Gardens given that I grew up in the Niagara Region and live so close. I’ve meant to go several times but something always comes up. Winter isn’t the best time to attend but I did get a chance to spend a few minutes soaking up the fresh jasmine scented air in the greenhouse. Oh how I long to live closer to a greenhouse. I always forget how great they are until I’m standing inside surrounded by huge plants and tropical trees breathing in that oxygen-loaded air.
See here for more photos from the RBG greenhouse and the trip.