poetry and prose about place

along the country road #4

with 2 comments

My Mom was a great gardener.  She could grow vegetables on the smallest corner of land and coax flowers where I was certain none would grow.  When I was a little girl, and we lived in Alberta, she kept vibrant flower gardens.  I remember the hollyhocks towered above my head, nasturtiums made pools of fire beside our door, and alyssum spilled over the edge of the cement walkway.  One year, Mom planted sweet peas and I helped her put up a little string, unbelieving when the shoots pushed up through the soil and the papery leaves used curly tendrils to climb the string. 

Another flower I remember fondly is the snapdragon, with its inflated lower lip.  Its mouth yawned and looked like it could spurt dragon-fire if you pressed the petals between your thumb and forefinger. 

I was never able to grow snapdragons, although I’ve tried.  But one of the plants growing wild along our road has the charm of the garden snapdragon and is in the same family of plants.  This little plant is called Toadflax.  Its other common name is Butter-and-eggs.

Butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris Hill.) is a weed of roadsides and waste places, blooming in large patches, late in summer.  The flowers are spurred and bright yellow, with a lower orange lip.  The inflated lower lip acts as a landing platform for insects and is hinged, to allow the right pollinators access to the nectar and pollen.

Butter-and-eggs is not a very big dragon, but it does have a mouth that yawns if you press the petals between your thumb and forefinger.  Perhaps this is the reason Butter-and-eggs is known in French as guele de lion.  Its other French name is linaire.  This name, and the scientific name Linaria, are derived from the Latin linum meaning ‘flax’.

Butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris Hill.)

Written by jane tims

August 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm

2 Responses

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  1. The butter-and-eggs is pretty! Your mom’s garden sounds like a delightful place, full of wonder for you. I don’t have much luck with snapdragons either, but alyssum used to grow pretty well in my garden until the vinca took over the space.


    Barbara Rodgers

    August 18, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    • Hi Barbara. I have vinca too (shiny leathery leaves and blue flowers). It covers the ground like a carpet, even in the woods. Jane


      jane tims

      August 18, 2011 at 9:53 pm

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