Monday, 24 November 2008

Mystery plants and horticultural imports

When the strict protocols governing import and export of plants are concerned, gardeners are especially likely to snatch a plant part and smuggle it back home for propagation (are they ??). Concerning all that, I found an interesting article over at BackyardGardener - ''Gulid-free Souvenirs''. Also more on the delusiveness of plants ... LOL

Euphoric Euphorbia was the 1st plant I smuggled back to my garden from the land of Odysseus. But certainly not the 1st one that has put a spell on me. I was not bothered about all the safety regulations (I was not smuggling immigrants after all) , I had one fear only, of those passion-less passport control drones confiscating my little friends. But luckily they were always more concerned with my Carmex lipbalm. 3 years ago, back on Kefalonia island, in an old churchyard,
I spotted this beautiful, delicate plant fluttering in the wind. There was only another larger tree of the like on the island, in the protected laguna, already carrying seedpods but they were not ripe yet. I took some anyway, but never managed to germinate them. 3 years later, this August, it was the right time to harvest some more seed pods. Naturally, I still hadn't the faintest idea what the plant was, except that it belonged to the bean family, judging its seed pods. So instead of asking around, I went on a googling mission through the whole Fabaceae (bean) family. An hour later, already discouraged by hundreds of cousins and no look-a-likes, I suddenly came across this name. The foliage was identical, so were the seed pods, and seed size, shape and color. Parkinsonia. Parkinsonia acuelata ! Possibly. At least I think so, if you think I might be wrong, feel free to widen my horizons. After all, this has been a mystery plant here for years.
The Irish botanist Thomas Coulter was the first to categorize the plant. He obtained specimens near Hermosillo, Sonora in 1830. Also known as Mexican Palo verde tree, or Jerusalem thorn. I recently ran into an article about gardeners, their star signs and the plants they were attracted to. Apparently, Cancers are strongly attracted to the Bean family, esp. to the Mimosa tree look-a-likes. I can wholeheartedly confirm that, as I have had the strangest affinities towards the fan-like foliage which has led me to collect anything from Mimosa (Acacia dealbata) to Jacaranda tree, even though I can only grow some of them as greenhouse plants. Albizia julibrissin makes up for all those who can't be planted outside. I'm actually trying to push the limits and grow my Mimosa outdoors (with considerable winter protection) against the south wall along with Figs and Palm trees.

Parkinsonia in the churchyard of
Kipouria monastery, Kefalonia

Now back to Parkinsonia. Greece, or Mediterranean or even Europe are not at all what you would call a typical habitat for these. It doesn' t even fit in with the surrounding flora. Rather it is native to the semi-desert areas of Africa and the Americas. I can't possibly see how it ended up in Greece except onboard some sort of vessel full of smuggling gardeners ... Still, it has adapted very well and grows in a dry, barren part of the island. I'm sure to all of you in the southwestern parts of the US, Palo verde is just an ordinary, everyday bush. In Australia even, it is is a Weed of National Significance. It is regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spread, and economic and environmental impacts. I have already germinated 3 of the seeds and the babies are doing great LOL.

Greek Palo-verde

Now to go back at the top photo, which is another mysterious plant for the locals, found in the same churchyard. In my opinion a sort of Campanula (very drought resistant for sure), possibly Campanula rapunculus or C. pyramidalis ??? Hardly needs any soil to grow and thrives on dry stone walls, growing out of structural cracks. Unfortunately, I have not acquired one of these, but have seen them growing out of old city walls on several Croatian heritage hotspots.

And the last one, but not the least. Not as mysterious but equally breathtaking. Urginea (Scilla) maritima or Sea Squill. Has absolutely gigantic bulbs which stick out half way above the ground level and have made my luggage wear the 'heavy tag'. I have smuggled four of these, having to choose only those smaller in size to be able to cram them in. While on a goat path, trying to find way to a secret cave somewhere between nowhere and goodbye of Kefalonia, I ran into a whole area dotted with hundreds and hundreds of these bulbs, actually there were so many you couldn't help but trip over them.

These beauties are native to the Mediterranean coastal regions, and while prone to fires and high temperatures, they are known to be frost tender in the continental areas. I'm pushing the envelope there too, planted one outdoors while the other three remain potted inside, chucklin' on the windowsill at their infortunate brother. Apart from being giants among all Mediterranean geophytes, the bulbs are also very poisonous. For more detailed info, visit here and there.

Sea Squill

19 komentari:

compost in my shoe said...

I have Parkinsonia in my garden. Just got fried the other night with our 29 degre 2 hour blast. It will recover come spring.

Brenda@View From The Pines said...

I don't always know what I'm buying, but when I plant it I know I found it enchanting. And that's all the info I need! Oh, and how to grow it!

Signe said...

Your blogg, with all the beautiful photos is just lovely.

rowena said...

I wish I had the nerve to sneak a plant in my suitcase but the airport beagles have very, very keen senses of smell. (My uncle can attest to t hat). Good boy Buddy!!

mamawhatthe said...

I am always interested in the plants you find. But this post had me laughing over the bit about Cancers loving Mimosa. I'm a Cancer as well and my favorite tree from my childhood was the Mimosa in my parents yard. I remember it covered in butterflies. Here, they are considered weeds (imagine!). But if I can get my hands on one, it is going right out back!

Patsi said...

That's funny..."smuggling gardeners".
I know we've sent tomato seeds to other countries that were confiscated so I can sorta understand what you're talking about.
You have a pretty good selection of forbidden plants.
Very nice.

Roses and stuff said...

Here's another smuggling gardener! It's always tempting and hard to resist - plants are the nicest souvenirs!

Cosmo said...

Hi, Viooltje--I appreciate your confessions of a plant smuggler--I did the same with some bulbs from the Amsterdam flower market. The Palo Verde is the state tree of Arizona, where I'm from--I miss them and mimosas and jacarandas, so I'll be interested to hear how yours do in your microclimate. What's November like in your part of the world? It's wet and cold here, but no hard frosts yet.

Frances said...

Hi Violet, this was a fascinating story, something for everyone, beauty, intrigue, smuggling, mystery! I remember the Palo Verde from living in Southern California, a beautiful tree. Chuck B. from My Back 40(feet) ordered one of those sea squills, I think for his San Francisco garden, quite expensive too! It sounds like you have some terrific spots to scrounge for plants, how fun!

Ewa said...

That was fun to read! I also made some 'private import' in my life. First one, almost 12 years ago, was a succulent I brought from Tunisia - unfortunately I didn't treat it properly - so it died, but I still love it and still didn't see it here :)

GardenJoy4Me said...

Violet .. I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and a VERY Happy New Year. I hope all of the furry babies are in good health and humour too ! Joy

Gunilla said...

I have only looked at the first page of your blogg, and I love it. I´ll come back and look at some more pages.

Thank´s for the fave.


Cornelius Vekkos said...

Dear Violet,
First of all congagulations about your blog. My name is Cornelius i am a greek agriculturist and my job is garden constructions and architect. Your article about Abies cephalonica aws beautiful.My blog is and you can visit it sometime although most of the articles are in Greek.Any way it was nice meeting your blog and for sure i will be in touch. Finally merry Christmas and a very happy new year

Maria said...

My dear, I also wish you all the best for the New Year! Cheers!

R. Ramesh said...

good blog congrats...

Tyra in Vaxholm said...

What a wonderful post!
I'm a smuggler too....

LOLove Tyra


Anonymous said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.


Green Thumb Gardening said...

Very helpful and useful information, it will surely helps a lot of people who love to put up a garden in the yard and by giving all of your tips, this will make them more easier on starting to put up a great and really amazing green garden. Thanks for sharing this very informative post.

Ux Designers Delhi said...

Great article, Thanks for your great information, the content is quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.

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