Words on Wellness • Lavender
All the talk about citizenship, reminds me of the naturalized citizens we have among plant communities in California. Many came from the Mediterranean and South Africa and upon finding environmental conditions here much like home – they put down roots. Most of this flora is medicinal and provides important habitat for wildlife. While some like eucalyptus and ice-plant are snubbed as pests, others like lavender and rosemary are added to every landscape design. Usually what we don’t know about nature has us making quick judgments. If a plant is inconvenient or troublesome, it’s bad, if it’s easy to live with (or especially beautiful), it’s good and that says something about the way we classify each other as well.
The love of lavender is universal, its flower spikes attract a frenzy of bees, smells lovely as a sachet in your closet, makes delicious tea, jam and cookies and the essential oil can be used on skin for diaper rash, puncture wounds, sunburns or headaches. Rosemary flowers are another favorite snack for bees and the needle-like leaves are a cook’s best friend for spaghetti sauces, pizza, salads and grilling fish. A tea of oil-rich rosemary leaves tea treats a common cold and makes a nice steam for lungs dealing with smoke. It’s warming and stimulating nature also makes a handy topical application for easing sore muscles and joints.
In an effort to restore native vegetation, ice plant is often eradicated, even though the California Highway Corps originally spread the plant along roadsides to hold soil. Before this, sailors brought ice-plant on ships because of its rich vitamin C content. While native vegetation does a better job at holding soil on California cliffs, ice-plant is edible. The fruits resemble figs (sometimes called Hottentot fig) and can be eaten raw, dried, cooked, pickled, or made into chutneys and preserves. The succulent leaves can be used in salads or as a substitute for the pickled cucumber, just saying . . . .
Finally the regularly cursed eucalyptus is one of the most important bee foods in Northern California because it blooms in winter. In Southern California, eucalyptus groves provide important habitat for monarch butterflies and large raptors, maybe because larger native trees have been destroyed. Plus its essential oil clears stuffed sinuses, is anti-fungal and strengthens veins, just saying . . . .
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