lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[personal profile] lblanchard
[This is one in what has now become an almost-weekly series of postings inspired by Abigail Rorer, Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants. Rorer's book includes prints of fourteen plants Farrer considered worthless-- an interesting hybrid of botanically accurate and...different. You can see her work, including all fourteen mimpish squinnies, here: http://www.theloneoakpress.com/prints/newer.html ]

A brief entry for a Halloween Mimpish Monday today, and one that is seasonally appropriate in a couple of respects, Physalis alkekengi. Reginald Farrer does not like this plant. Abigail Rorer's illustration hints at the reasons for Farrer's ire, as well as the cultural significance of the plant among some Buddhist communities.


Physalis alkekengi, by Abigail Rorer, from
Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants


Physalis. —After Phlox and Phyllodoke [the two previous entries, on which Farrer lavished fulsome praise], who will not be made sick by the mere name of these rank and leafy weeds, with their ostentatious "Japanese Lanterns " of orange and red ? These are, of course, the dismal sere decorations of winter ; and any flower that allows its corpses out for so grim a purpose can only be reckoned as a blackleg in the floral Union, going out to illegitimate employment when all decent plants are enjoying the night when no man can work ; and earning by this treachery a place in the garden to which their rank ugliness of summer would certainly not entitle them.
(The English Rock-Garden, Volume 2, page 69)



Physalis alkekengi, balloon
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=115836


Farrer is certainly unfair here, although his remarks about the plant's rankness are echoed in the Wikipedia entry ("tends to be invasive"). The flowers are white and inconspicuous, and signal the plant's kinship with the rest of the Solanaceae (potatoes, tomatoes, nightshade, peppers, etc.). After the plant has dried, the small orange fruit is caged in a skeletal housing.


By Subin.a.mathew - United Kingdom
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19393969


What's more surprising is that Farrer, a professed Buddhist and Japanophile as well as a plant-hunter, was not aware of the plant's use in the centuries-old Japanese Buddhist Bon Festival honoring one's ancestors -- putting it right up there with the Dia de Muertos, although it is celebrated in the summer and not the autumn. Shame on Farrer for not knowing that the fruits are used as an offering to the dead. Of course, he didn't have the internets to make him immediately erudite -- as we can be.


Physalis alkekengi at Hozuki Market in Japan
By Ocdp - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20220216


(I learned new things writing this entry. I didn't know anything about the Bon Festival until Wikipedia made me an Instant Expert.)

Date: 2016-10-31 03:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pondhopper.livejournal.com
A rather macabre drawing by Rorer!

When Farrer didn't like a plant, he was very very expressive about it. (understatement)

and any flower that allows its corpses out for so grim a purpose can only be reckoned as a blackleg in the floral Union, going out to illegitimate employment when all decent plants are enjoying the night when no man can work ; and earning by this treachery a place in the garden to which their rank ugliness of summer would certainly not entitle them.

Goodness!

Poor Japanese Lanterns! They grew in my grandmother's garden along with silver dollar plants and we used to love to gather them into bunches. The Lanterns make such a nice Fall display!

Date: 2016-10-31 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lblanchard.livejournal.com
He's very much Not In Favor of invasive thugs.

Date: 2016-11-01 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com
WOW. I guess the concept of "winter interest" has no place in Reginald Farrer's universe, and all plants should really just die back decently and bury themselves, leaving only bare earth behind, lest they be accused of being scabs. Golly!

(LJ is not showing me everything, or I'd have commented on this sooner. I would like to bonk it on its silly head.)

P.

Date: 2016-11-08 02:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lblanchard.livejournal.com
I never said Farrer was perfect. Merely entertaining.

Profile

lblanchard: (Default)
lblanchard

April 2017

S M T W T F S
      1
2345 678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 20th, 2017 02:41 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios