May Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum
(Part II)

May 18th, 2014 by UWBG Horticulturist

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (May 12 – May 25, 2014)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (May 12 – May 25, 2014)

“That’s Ancient History”

1)   Cedrus libani      (Cedar of Lebanon)

  • The Cedar of Lebanon has been prized for its high quality timber, oils and resins for thousands of years.
  • It was used by the Phoenicians and Egyptians and was mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
  • Because of its significance, the word “cedar” is mentioned 75 times in the Bible, and played a pivotal role in the cementing of the Phoenician-Hebrew relationship.

2)   Helleborus niger      (Black Hellebore, Christmas Rose)

  • Helleborus niger is commonly called the Christmas rose due to an old legend that it sprouted in the snow from the tears of a young girl who had no gift to give the Christ child in Bethlehem.
  • During the Siege of Kirrha in 585 B.C., Hellebore was reportedly used by the Greek besiegers to poison the city’s water supply. The defenders were subsequently so weakened by diarrhea that they were unable to defend the city from assault.

3)   Laurus nobilis      (Bay Laurel, Sweet Bay)

  • Bay Laurel was used to fashion the laurel wreath of ancient Greece, a symbol of highest status. A wreath of bay laurels was given as the prize at the Pythian Games because the games were in honor of Apollo, and the Laurel was one of his symbols.
  • In the Bible, the Laurel is often an emblem of prosperity and fame. In Christian tradition, it symbolizes the resurrection of Christ.

4)   Rhododendron ponticum

  • Xenophon described the odd behavior of Greek soldiers after having consumed honey in a village surrounded by Rhododendron ponticum during the March of the Ten Thousand in 401 B.C.
  • Pompey’s soldiers reportedly suffered lethal casualties following the consumption of honey made from rhododendron deliberately left behind by Pontic forces in 67 B.C. during the Third Mithridatic War. Later, it was recognized that honey resulting from these plants has a slightly hallucinogenic and laxative effect.

5)   Taxus baccata      (English or European Yew)

  • One of the world’s oldest surviving wooden artifacts is a Clactonian yew spear head, found in 1911 in Essex, U.K. It is estimated to be about 450,000 years old.
  • A passage by Caesar narrates that Catuvolcus, chief of the Eburones poisoned himself with yew rather than submit to Rome (Gallic Wars 6:31).
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