heirloom plants, plant names, plant selection, Uncategorized

Biblical plant names (and life) can be confusing, depending on your perspective

Scary to see someone you love labeled as sick, isn’t it?  The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming.  However, after 5 days in the hospital with a family member who I almost lost, I’m back out in my garden, thankful for the abundance of life around me and recognizing its incredible fragility.  What I labeled as “healthy” was not at all; it was illness incognito.  I’ll not take wellness in myself or those I love for granted again.  At least I pray I do not.

rain lily (Cooperia pedunculata, also labeled Zephyranthes drummondii)

On a walk last night, this little rain lily was peaking out from between the stacked moss rock and curb at a neighbor’s house.  It’s one of the bulbs Chris Wiesinger and I featured in our book HEIRLOOM BULBS FOR TODAY.  A stalwart Texas native, this lab-coat white bloom is at home in any garden.  While I was oblivious to changes in weather outside the hospital windows, a place of sameness no matter what the clock says, the tiny bulb sensed moisture from a rainstorm passing through town, responding with a hearty yawning bloom, slightly fragrant and completely beautiful.

Hibiscus syriacus Rose Of Sharon
althea or rose-of-sharon (Hibiscus syriaca)

Another favorite I discovered as I wandered the streets at dusk is a shrub called althea,  known to me growing up as “rose-of-sharon.”  As with many plants, that common name is not only inaccurate, it is misleading.  First of all, althea is not a rose; it’s in the same family as cotton and marshmallow.  The Latin name is Hibiscus syriacus and it’s a native of Asia.  Don’t think it has much to do with sharon either, which refers to the Plain of Sharon spoken of in Old Testament literature, an area that runs along the Mediterranean between present-day Haifa to the north and Tel Aviv to the south.

Fig. 48.   Convallaria majalis.
Convallaria majalis, known by Europeans and Americans as “lily of the valley” or “Soloman’s seal”

While I’m on this tangent, the true “lily of the valley” plant spoken of in the Bible – according to Jewish scholars – is the yellow, fall-blooming Sternbergia lutea – native to Israel, not the white nodding perennial found in the Appalachians and in cool areas of Europe and Asia.  Apparently King James’ translators took liberties with the Hebrew word for flower bulb, turning it into “lily” in the Anglicized translation of the Bible from the early 1600’s, which many believe was done in an effort to appease the Puritan faction within the Church of England.  Sternbergia might not have been known in England at the time, or maybe the many Christian legends associated with Convallaria majalis – the plant Europeans and Americans call “lily of the valley – prompted its association with this common name instead. (The tiny white blooms are said to be the tears of Jesus’ mother when she saw her son on the cross of Calvary. It’s also the symbol of humility in the language of flowers.)

My week has given me perspective on many things, recognizing that while labels might help distinguish or describe, they are not stagnant.  My idea of “sick” was disguised in a seemingly healthy body, a deadly infection masked in a way only my loved one heard in the pain shooting through his body. Names vary and change, depending on who you are, where you are, and when you are there.  Plants and people receive titles according to the labelers perspective.   Confusing to one may explain it all to another, or could lead everyone down the wrong path entirely.   c:

2 thoughts on “Biblical plant names (and life) can be confusing, depending on your perspective”

  1. Enjoyed your blog very much! I am sorry that your family has been through such a hard time. I somehow have missed the details, but assume that it was Greg and that he had an acute gall bladder infection, but also am so glad that he is recouperating and that you have been able to return to your “normal” routines. I can never go by a hospital now without saying a prayer for the patients, their loved ones and the medical teams who are taking care of them since I know that there are eyes looking out just wishing that they could get in their car and go about their normal routines. I count this as a blessing in that without such stressful times, I know that I would take the “normal” days for granted. So glad that you are back in your garden and someday I would love to see it! Thanks for the neat info about the Biblical names. I will have to check out your blog more often. Deb

    1. Hi Deb. Yep. Greg’s gall bladder was dead in the water for some time…..no fever, no fowl, he thought. Now we know different! Almost lost him. I know with all you’ve been through with your precious boys you’ve been looking out those hospital windows way too often, dear friend. Prayers for your sweet family. c:

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