Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category


April 7, 2015

Posting about Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music recently brought me to “Edelweiss” (the song) and Edelweiss (the plant).


Morning names: Confrey, comfrey

March 23, 2015

From my subconscious this morning: Zez Confrey (definitely a memorable name), and then comfrey.



March 20, 2015

On the NPR blog on the 11th, “From Ancient Sumeria To Chipotle Tacos, Cumin Has Spiced Up The World” by Adam Maskevich, with this striking claim:

In English, … cumin has a singular distinction – it is the only word that can be traced directly back to Sumerian, the first written language. So when we talk about cumin, we are harkening back to the Sumerian word gamun, first written in the cuneiform script more than 4,000 years ago. [hearken back is a variant of hark back, recognized by NOAD2]

This is extravagantly phrased. There’s a connection to Sumerian, but it’s far from direct.


Two more mornings

March 14, 2015

Two more morning names: yesterday, Robin Wright; today, the plant photinia.


Morning name: salsify (with Swiss chard as a bonus)

March 9, 2015

This morning’s name: salsify (the plant and its edible taproot), with Swiss chard (the leafy green) as a bonus.

To start: from Wikipedia:

Tragopogon, also known as salsify or goatsbeard, is a genus of flowering plants in the sunflower [Asteraceae or Compositae] family. It includes the vegetable known as salsify, as well as a number of common wild flowers, some of which are usually regarded as weeds.

The vegetable called salsify is usually the root of the purple salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius; the root is described as having the taste of oysters (hence the alternative common name “oyster plant” for some species in this genus), but more insipid with a touch of sweetness. [Many describe the taste as “nutty” rather than like oysters.] The young shoots of purple salsify can also be eaten, as well as young leaves. Other species are also used in the same way, including the black or Spanish salsify, Scorzonera hispanica, which is closely related though not a member of the genus Tragopogon.



St. David’s Day

March 2, 2015

Yesterday (March 1st) was the first of this year’s Saint’s Days of the Lands of the British Isles: Saint David, patron saint of Wales. Land of the leek and the daffodil and the Red Dragon national flag (see my 3/1/12 posting “Take a leek” for some discussion of these symbols).


Morning name: calabash

February 15, 2015

My “morning name” a few days ago: calabash. Probably primed by this soup entry on the menu at the Palo Alto restaurant Reposado:

SOPA DE CALABAZA DE TEMPORADA: Roasted butternut squash, chipotle, hoja santa crema, toasted pumpkin seeds

Following Spanish calabaza will lead us to two quite different sets of calabash plants and their products. Yes, I will eventually get to Calabasas CA and to “Good night, Mrs. Calabash”.


Signs of spring

February 5, 2015

While more snow is afflicting the northeastern U.S., out here on the left coast there are signs of spring. In my neighborhood, the spears of tulip shoots have now broken ground: spring flowers on the way! And the songbirds are now vocalizing like crazy.

In ten days or so (mid-February) the first trees will start to leaf out: the California buckeyes.



January 19, 2015

A notice on “magnificent magnolias” from the San Francisco Botanical Garden in 2013, but equally relevant this week:

In a cool and misty corner of San Francisco, the New Year begins with one of the city’s most breathtaking annual natural marvels. San Francisco Botanical Garden is home to the most significant magnolia collection for conservation purposes outside China, where the majority of species grow. Long considered the signature flower of the Garden, nearly 100 magnolias, many rare and historic, erupt in a fragrant riot of pink and white from mid-January through March. Paleobotanists consider the magnolia family to be among the earliest flowering plants, with magnolia fossils dating back nearly 100 million years. Ice age survivors, they bloom for us now.

People in the East and South of the U.S. think of magnolias as intense summer flowers, but here they’re one of the signature winter flowers.


Perilla and company

January 12, 2015

Came across the herb perilla in my reading this morning, and began playing associatively with the name, thinking of composing a comic story or verse on phonologically similar names. Here, some raw materials; anyone is welcome to play with them.



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