Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Common or Garden

A few very familiar flowers today, especially for anyone who grows their own vegetables. Firstly another member of the Nightshade family spoken of recently, the Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). In this case, a variety known as Gardeners' delight.
When you take a good look at the flower, you can easily see the link with the Black Nightshade posted a few days ago. A native of South America, the first cultivated forms were small yellow fruited plants grown by the Aztecs. Their name for it meant something along the lines of "plump thing with a navel." Sounds quite appropriate.
Secondly, a member of the Pea family cultivated for it's fruit pods. The Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus)
These legumes originate from Central America where the natives still cultivate them for their roots as well as their beans. The beans are actually slightly poisonous, containing a toxin called Phytohaemagglutinin - a poison which acts on the red blood cells 'sticking' them together. For this reason, it is necessary to cook the beans to destroy the poison.
Thirdly, another one of the Pea family, but this time not cultivated. White Clover (Trifolium repens) is more normally found in the lawn, often accompanied by foul language from the person trying to maintain a 'bowling green'!
A very useful plant for 'fixing' nitrogen into the soil, it often overpowers other lawn weeds, as well as the grass itself.
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