Notes from Diane's Garden

Or The Curious Lore and Magical Property of Plants
By Diane Fenster

February 1988: Daisy/Borage

The Dharma Dumplings spent Christmas and New Years' in Jacksonville, Florida. The highlights of the trip were getting to see a specimen of Marechal Niel, a beautiful old Noisette rose from the 1800's that is not frequently grown and a chance to chow down at Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House in Savannah, Georgia. Southern cooking at its best!

February is a time for celebration down at the Mount Bubba Institute because on Candlemas, the sun returns from the shadow of Mount Bubba once again. On the evening of the 2nd, I lit candles in the four directions and welcomed the return of the light.

As I watch the plants come out after our brief California winter, I'm still reminded of the resiliency of life on this planet. Gaia has given us much to be thankful for.

Bellis perenis . The name is a contraction of days eye, for the habit the flower has of opening by day and closing at night. The plant also folds its petals over the yellow center when it rains, thus protecting the reproductive parts.

This is the more diminutive of the daisies; the ones we commonly think of as daisies are the ox-eye daisies or marguerites. There are three legends concerning the origin of the flower. The first, from approximately the fourteenth century, says that Alcestis was turned into a daisy. Another says it (bellis) was named after Belides, granddaughter of a Dryad, who attracted the attentions of Vertumnus, a local deity. Just as he was about to seize her, she was turned into the daisy. The third legend tells how the daisy became the symbol of innocence. An old Celtic legend says that each baby that dies becomes a spirit which scatters down on earth a new flower to cheer the bereaved parents. Malvina, who lost her infant son was consoled by the Virgins of Morven (I suspect this is Morgan le Fay, the Celtic death goddess.) They told her that her son had sent a new flower to earth and this flower was the daisy There is a saying that Summer has not arrived until you can put your foot on seven of the flowers.

Of course we all know the divination that is possible to perform using the daisy. Loves me, loves me not...

Gerard the Herbalist says:
"Those of our time do use the flowers in sallads to exhilerate and make the mind glad The leaves and flowers of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry and drive away all sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy. Syrup made of floures of Borage comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy quieteth the phrenticke and lunaticke person."

Several sources for the name of this herb are indicated. One is that the Latin Borago is a corruption of corago, for cor, the heart and ago, I bring because of the effect of gladdening the heart that the plant produces. There is also the possibility that the word comes from the Celtic barrach, meaning a man of courage. Hence the old verse,

I, Borage
Bring alwaies courage.

According to Dioscorides and Pliny, Borage was the drink Nepenthe mentioned by Homer. When the plant was steeped in wine and drunk, it brought absolute forgetfulness.


The Prime Mover of the Universe