Feb 5, 2011

The Magick Plants of Westland

Here’s a bit about the Magickal plants in Westland – plants growing in our yard that I researched on the net because I’m a plant dork:

We have Bittersweet Nightshade or Climbing Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) growing up the fence by our driveway. The plant is not related to Belladonna, but has the name ‘climbing’ nightshade (as opposed to ‘Deadly Nightshade’). Its berries ARE poisonous to humans and most animals, except birds. The plant is considered a weed, but I’m going to keep it – it’s not harmful to the touch. It is invasive, but not dangerous, and will not damage other plants. Just do not eat!

Good for protection and fairy magick. Releases painful or bitter memories. Typically needs something to climb up, like a pole, a fence or a trellis.

Solanum dulcamara, also known as bittersweet, bittersweet nightshade, bitter nightshade, blue bindweed, Amara Dulcis, climbing nightshade, fellenwort, felonwood, poisonberry, poisonflower, scarlet berry, snakeberry, trailing bittersweet, trailing nightshade, violet bloom, or woody nightshade, is a species of vine in the potato genus Solanum, family Solanaceae. It is native to Europe and Asia, and widely naturalized elsewhere, including North America, where it is an invasive problem weed. It occurs in a very wide range of habitats, from woodlands to scrubland, hedges and marshes. It is an invasive species in the Great Lakes region and was first spotted in 1843.

Bittersweet is a semi-woody herbaceous perennial vine, which scrambles over other plants, capable of reaching a height of 4 m where suitable support is available, but more often 1–2 meters high. The leaves are 4–12 cm long, roughly arrowhead-shaped, and often lobed at the base. The flowers are in loose clusters of 3–20, 1–1.5 cm across, star-shaped, with five purple petals and yellow stamens and style pointing forward. The fruit is an ovoid red berry about 1 cm long, soft and juicy, but edible for birds, which disperse the seeds widely.

Bittersweet is used in naturopathy and herbalism. Its main usage is for conditions that have an impact on the skin, mucous membrane and the membrane (synovial membrane) around the joints. Bittersweet is considered by some to be a herbal remedy for treating herpes and allergies.

Although fatal human poisonings are rare, several cases have been documented. The poison is believed to be solanine.

The name bittersweet is also used in some areas for some species in the genus Celastrus (elsewhere referred to as the staff vines, family Celastraceae), e.g. American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) and oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus).

Another Magick plant we have growing by the driveway is called Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagraria), the variegated variety. Also known as Goutweed, Ground Elder, and Snow on the Mountain. It was thought by the Ancient Greeks to be a cure for gout: the Latin names, Aegopodium from the Greek translates as "goat little foot", referring to the fact that the plant was once thought to cure gout. And podagraria translates as "foot chain" for its leaf shape and again its supposed ability to treat gout.

Today, Snow on the Mountain is commonly used as a groundcover (although is considered rather unattractive these days), and is highly resistant to weed killers. Most people won’t plant it for fear it will get out of hand, and because of its reputation for being a weed. The variegated variety is used preferably over the green variety, which spreads faster and easier than its cousin. Prefers sunny conditions and moist soil.

See the entry for Bishop’s Weed in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants by Susan Gregg.

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