One of my favorite ways to use hibiscus (oh, count the ways!) is in fire cider. Fire cider is basically a spicy herbal vinegar, often sweetened with a little honey. It’s taken by the dropperful or spoonful, depending on the cider’s strength and imbiber’s palette. Fire cider helps to clear out the sinuses and wake up the immune and circulatory systems. It can be taken to ward off a cold or other respiratory infection.
Lady’s slipper orchids have a commanding presence—their inflated blooms are captivating to the point of heady swooning and inspiring colorful prose. The etymological root of the word orchid comes from the Greek orchis, meaning testicle. Certain species of orchid bear roots, which resemble paired testes. In pink lady’s slipper, it is the flower, and not the root, that is reminiscent of male naughty bits. Orchids typically have three petals, with one of the flower’s petals forming a pouch-like structure, aptly named the labellum. The Latin root of labellum, is little lip, or labia. In pink lady’s slipper the labellum is inflated and heavily veined. The other two petals are pink and narrow, twisting, and extending out to the side of the flower, like a dancer’s arms in mid-twirl.
The following is a piece I wrote last year during the inception of the occupy movement. It may seem it has little to do with flowers, but in reality, everything has to do with flowers; from the food in our bellies, the heat and structure of our homes, the oxygen in our lungs.
I had seen pictures of the cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis, Lecythidaceae) in my tropical plant books for years, always with its large distinctive cannonball-esque fruits. But I had never seen a picture of the flowers, and so the first time I laid eyes on its gargantuan blooms at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Florida, I was completely and utterly awed and enchanted.
I try not to foster any regrets in life, but I must confess that I waited too many years to plant hibiscus, thinking the temperate climate unsuitable for its success—and for that, I am sorry. It is, in fact, easy to grow and harvest if you have the right variety and get a head start on the season. The hibiscus we use medicinally—also called roselle—is made from the calyces (aka sepals) of Hibiscus sabdariffa in the Mallow family (Malvaceae). These deep red calyces are often mistaken for flowers, and may be sold as such. Other notable members of the mallow family include cotton (Gossypium spp.), okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), and marshmallow (Althaea officinalis).
Calendula officinalis is one of the easiest-to-grow medicinal herbs and so versatile in its healing properties that it invariably finds its way into the hearts and gardens of all herb lovers. It is typically grown as an annual, but can be cultivated as a short-lived perennial in warmer climes (Zone 8-10).
The showiness of this flower does not come from its petals, but instead from its male flower parts. The filaments are the stalks of the stamens (pollen bearing structures). In this flower they are doing double duty by also attracting pollinators. This genus has diminutive petals but many of the powder puff-type legume flowers in the tropics have lost their petals and only have showy stamens.