On every spring and summer morning that I make the drive to work, I take time to notice some of the interesting plant life hanging out on the side of the road. Along with the grasses, "ditch lilies," butterfly weeds, teasel, skunk cabbage and the occasional verbascum, there are usually some good stands of the architecturally interesting angelica. Like this one:
Much of my drive is highway and housing developments, but when I near work I get to drive through part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I wonder if the wild, primitiveness of the angelica after all of that "progress" isn't part of its appeal. It kind of punctuates the messy natural beauty around it. Here you see it contrasting against a fallen tree that's so weatherbeaten it looks as though it were driftwood:
Unfortunately, these photos were taken this morning and the angelica (which I believe is a. archangelica, a.k.a. angelica officinalis) is almost done blooming. In bloom, their flowerheads are a pale lime green color. They fade to whitish yellow, then a pale gold, and finally turn a tawny brown color. Here you can see a couple of blooms in various stages:
The seeds have reportedly been used in some recipes for absinthe, and to flavor some wines from the Rhine Valley as well. The stems can be candied, and the whole plant was used as an edible vegetable until modern times... but you have to be pretty sure of your plant ID before you start cooking with it. Several plants with look-alike leaves and/or stems are pretty toxic, including the potentially fatal poison hemlock.
The roots are used in herbal medicine, and the plant reportedly got its name because it was thought that the archangel St. Michael introduced it to the people as a cure for the plague. Another explanation for its name is that it normally blooms around St. Michael's day, which was traditionally May 8th, and thus was named for him.
All of the pictures above were taken in the early morning light, when the angelicas have their faces in the sun--at least from my angle of view as I drive to work. Later in the evening, the giant globes of seedheads glow, backlit by the sunshine:
Yes, I literally stopped my car on the road to take this shot, so you would get to see my usual afternoon view here. It may sound kind of funny but I think of these as "my" angelicas, even though they're here for all of the world to see. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who notices them on the roadsides, but unless I move to the country I simply don't have room to devote to angelicas in my garden. Since these are as close as I'm going to get to having my own angelicas for the time being, I have no qualms claiming them as "mine!" :)
I hope you enjoyed my angelicas... and with that, I should head to bed. I picked a whole big box of tart cherries from a friend's yard this evening, and tomorrow will be devoted to pitting cherries and making jam.
And this weekend I'm heading down to visit a good friend in Cincinnati... and swinging up through Dayton on my way home to check out what The Overachievers have been up to in that huge garden of theirs. Full reports will follow--have a great weekend, all!