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Check out this story about my mother

14 years ago

Here's some interesting history I just added to my blog. The small army of boys is actually a small army of little girls :D My brother found this while searching for our family name, I don't believe any of us knew about this book...I'm sure if I had, I'd remember it,lol!


Mrs.----'s Shoebox

Some years ago I saw an advertisement in the Mississippi Market Bulletin for a shoebox full of dried plant material for winter bouquets. I sent for one, and when I opened it I couldn't name a single thing in it. This fall I ordered another, from a different person, Mrs.---- of Saucier, Mississippi, but this time I asked her to label everything. Many of Mrs.plants are familiarsome grow in my own gardenÂbut I would not have known what they were if she had not put their names on them, and I had never realized how beautiful they are when they are really looked at.

The first thing I took out of the box was a spray of crape myrtle berries. They are small, round, oxford gray, and satiny, and set in little pale brown, star-pointed saucers. I know, of course, the prickly balls of the sweet gum, but I am not at all sure that without the label I could have named the granular sand-colored balls of the sycamore, and I know I wouldn't have recognized the sticky brown burrs of the Chinquapin, with spines as sharp as needles.

I might have guessed the slender, papery, cinnamon-colored cones of the tulip tree, and could surely have named the tiny, delicate cones of alder, but I wouldn't have been able to distinguish the cone of the spruce pine from that of our old field pine, though they are very different when laid side by side. There were cones of three species of magnolia: the large ones of Magnolia grandiflora, the smaller ones of M. virginiana, and the very slender ones of M. pyramidata with their tapered and curiously twisted seed vessels.

Some of these things fall to the ground, and are there for the gathering, but others must be picked from the limbs of tall trees. As I unpacked the shoebox I wondered how Mrs.---- had collected them. She must have an army of small boys at her command. I wish I had one small climber to swarm up the empress tree, and cut for me some bare branches tipped with tawny velvet, winter buds.

Along with the cones there were pods of two kinds of garden okra, one long and thin and curved like a scimitar, the other large and straight, and striped in pearl grey and silver. There were enormous toast-colored pods of some kind of Louisiana iris, and some olive-sheen hibiscus bolls, covered with silky hairs as fine as gossamer. I wanted to make a wreath of these things, but I knew I never would, so I arranged them in a circle in a round wicker tray, and added some mimosa pods (also from the box) the color of amber, and almost as translucent.

Some little white balls on very long thin stems were marked buttonwort. I couldn't find this name in any botany or horticultural dictionary, but after a while I thought of hat pins, and looking in The Natural Gardens of North Carolina I found a picture of them, growing in a grassy marsh with tall pines in the background. Dr. Wells also calls them pipeworts, and gives a choice of three Latin names, none of which, I am sure, are ever heard outside of a classroom.

Some other buttons, larger and on shorter, stouter stems, were honey colored, and looked like small empty honey combs. I put these in a brown bottle. They were labeled "wild sun flower of some kind." There were several tall spikes of small thickly clustered, seed vessels of a rich chocolate color. These were marked dockweed. Dock is a name attached to many different plants, but I take this to be garden patience, Rumex patientia, an old-world weed that is naturalized in this country, and grows in waste places. There were also some great cottony plumes in tones of rosy fawn, on tall reedy stems. These were marked papyrus grass.

I shall write more about Mrs.---- later on, as she has listed seeds of rare native trees and shrubs and wild flowers, that she collects on her plantation near the Gulf Coast.

January 27, 1963 "

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