Chestnut Herbal School

Botany/Ecology

Herbs for the Immune System

Before we dive into herbs for the immune system, we’re going to start with lifestyles for the immune system. Because herbs are really and truly the icing on the cake, whereas the day-to-day choices we make for how we want to live are the cake, so to say. The same things in life that make us feel vital, happy, connected, and energetic also make our immune cells feel perky and capable.

Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

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.

Cannon ball tree flower

Cannonball tree – sea slug-esque flowers, Shiva’s tree and pre-columbian transoceanic voyages

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.

Red Powder Puff

Even Red Powder Puff Has Bad Hair Days

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.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis viriginiana) photo

Witch Hazel’s Medicinal Uses

Witch Hazel’s Medicinal UsesWritten by Juliet Blankespoor with Meghan Gemma Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor - When witch hazel flowers in late fall, its leaves are either golden with the season’s splendor or have already fallen to join the rich tapestry of the eastern deciduous forest floor. Its yellow petals resemble crimped streamers, lending a wild [...]

Anemone: Medicine, Poison, Pollen, and Melodrama

Anemone: Medicine, Poison, Pollen, and MelodramaWritten by Juliet Blankespoor with Meghan Gemma Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor Courageous of bloom, anemone often endures the wind and freezing temperatures of early spring or fall (depending on the species). I first fell in love with anemone while visiting the high boreal and alpine expanses of the Rocky Mountains [...]

Large Milkweed Seed Bugs

Large Milkweed Seed BugsWritten and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor Large milkweed seed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) - I recently photographed some colorful milkweed bugs in my garden and decided to repost a small piece I had previously posted about these gorgeous gregarious insects with the new photos, figuring most of you didn't read the original essay, [...]

Even Violets Need a Plan B

Even Violets Need a Plan BWritten and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor Common blue violet (Viola sororia, Violaceae) - The little blue edible flowers of common blue violet are a welcome sight in our garden in early spring, as my fleuravorous daughter loves to feed the sweet little flowers to our family, passersby, and her miniature [...]