"Traditional Herbs for Winter Interest"


Mountain Mint
Pycnanthumum pilosum

Pycnanthumum pilosum
Jan. 3, 1999: The entire 4-foot-tall clump has turned a sculptural purplish-bronze, an inert monument to the plant's summer vigor. Dry terminal flower clusters crown the overall shape with repeating complexly-textured disks. Individual stalks can add dark highlights to dried arrangements. Crushed dried aerial parts have a strong minty fragrance. According to Buchanan, Native Americans used the dried leaves in a tea taken for fevers, colds, and stomach ailments. (Section B)

Lithospermum officinale Gromwell
Lithospermum officinale
The genus name refers to its stone-like seeds, and indeed, the tiny white seeds are all that remain atop Gromwell's slender twigs. A miniature forest of confetti-like specks ("Honey, I shrunk the pussy willows"), Gromwell in winter is another candidate for dried arrangements. L. officinale is an old-world species that naturalized in the eastern U.S. after introduction. North American Indians used a related species as an oral contraceptive. (Section A)

Also of note (1/3/99): Solidago odora (Sweet Goldenrod) - Another tall plant (4-5 feet); when left in place in winter its dried seed heads turn a golden brown, especially striking when backlighted. (Section B)


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