Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fire in the Rain

Fire pinks glisten with early morning rain. These plants prefer dry sandy soil, but the recent rains don't seem to have hurt them.


Along Joe's Run there are places where I know to look for certain wildflowers. Near the end of the road I know to look for wild phlox, wild geraniums and larkspur in early spring. Bloodroot is only in one place that I know of, and the trilliums and wild ginger grow rampant on a hillside on the right fork of the road. Canada lilies are on both forks, but there are only two or three plants and I have to watch carefully for them and pray the roadsides are mowed late in July so the lilies get a chance to bloom first.

A gardener could do no better than these plants do naturally--fieldstone, pinks and vetch.

Fire pinks are scattered on both the right and left forks and prefer high dry roadbanks. Their scarlet flowers can't be missed, particularly in this place, where they light even a rainy day with their brilliance.


Fire pinks and crown vetch make a pretty tangle on the roadbank.


Fire pinks are also called Catch Fly because of their sticky stems. According to Laura C. Martin in Wildflower Folklore, people in England in the Elizabethan era sometimes made a mixture of fire pink plants, sugar and wine to "soothe the heart." Probably the wine alone would have done that, but if you add an herb it's medicine, right? I wonder if it was the red color that made people connect this plant to the heart? Martin also notes that the roots were used as a wormer...now that's two extremes of use.


Fire pinks transplant well; I have never done that because they are abundant along the road and I prefer to see them in the wild, but if you don't have some in your area, you might want to try moving a few to your garden. They would certainly be a bright and beautiful addition to spring flowerbeds.


3 comments:

Rowan said...

I don't know the name fire pinks so we must call them something else over here - if they were around in Elizabethan times in England then presumably we still have them. Do you happen to know their Latin name?
I love wild flowers and, like you, know where to look for certain plants each year.

Granny Sue said...

According to Martin, "members of this genus were called gillofloures". They are of the family Caryophyllaceae (Pink); Latin name is Silene virginica. So it may not have been Fire Pinks precisely, but a near relative?

Rowan said...

I think it must be another of the pinks that the Elizabethans were using, your fire pink seems to be definitely an American native though I suppose it could have been brought back here by Sir Walter Raleigh or one of his contemporaries. Pinks were called sops in wine over here and definitely used in various herbal remedies. Might do a bit more investigating later if I have time.

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