Plant Birthdays

Autumn Croci growing in the dirt

Autumn Croci growing in the dirt

Tell me of what plant birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

For Leopold it’s the cutleaf Silphium, blooming in the corner of an old cemetery. For me, it’s the autumn crocus, blooming on my birthday (September 4). It always catches my by surprise, even though I watch for it as my birthday approaches. I didn’t see a trace of it in its usual habitat but coming home from a BBQ on Sunday night, I spotted these autumn croci springing up from the dirt.

017Then on my way to work yesterday, I found them in the place I’ve grown accustomed to seeing them. With the sunlight shining on them, they truly resembled “the lamps of the ghoul,” the name the Arabs give this plant (according to Wilfrid Blunt) because they are so poisonous. Other names for them: naked nannies and bare bottoms.

So what does that say of me, that this is the plant birthday I oberve?

First published Sept 9, 2009

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