Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Faux (Pas) Solomon's Seal

I was at a plant sale, and came to the table of a native plant organization. The fellow seated behind the table was a member of the organization whom I knew slightly. I’ll call him Paul.

Some native plant people are really adamant about native plant gardening and will garden using native plants alone. No exceptions. Purists. I am not one of those. I’m an eclectic gardener. Besides, where I live the native plants are Sphagnum moss, Labrador tea and Shore Pine. These are plants of the bog. When you drain a bog, bury it in sand, then build houses on it, it is no longer a bog. It is a blank slate, a blank slate where it rains a lot. Plant anything you want as long as it isn’t invasive, with aggressively spreading rhizomes or widely-broadcasting seeds.

Paul on the other hand was one of those (purists). Only three types of plants are allowed: native, native, and native. Whatever native means. From the historical native ecosystem? From the province? From the country?

So I walked up to Paul at the table, intending to chat about how things were going. Our conversation came to a grinding halt almost immediately when I saw that Paul was selling false Solomon’s seal, Maianthemum racemosum, which is, of course, a native plant. I expected at least a chuckle when I made a little non-native plant joke. I said, "Hey, I’m not gonna buy FALSE Solomon’s seal when I’ve already got REAL Solomon’s seal in my garden." This was true. It came with the garden, which came with the house. Real Solomon’s seal, i.e., not false Solomon’s seal, i.e. Polygonatum multiflorum, is not a native plant.

Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum multiflorum, non-native (=bad).

What did Paul do? Chuckle? Smirk? Roll his eyes in a genial way? No, he narrowed them and tried to burn a hole through me. He said nothing, just stared. I was the enemy, a non-native plant gardener, and he hated me.

"Well then," I said. Then I ran away. I met another person from the native plant organization and asked, pointing over my shoulder, “Paul over there - does he not have a sense of humour?”

The person shook his head. “Not at all. Not when it comes to native plant gardening. Native plant gardening is deadly serious stuff.”

Solomon’s seal, somewhat artistic shot (still =bad).

False Solomon’s seal, actually Star-flowered false Solomon’s seal, Maianthemum stellatum, native (=good).

Apparently. And the silly thing is that I did have a form of false Solomon’s seal in my garden, had had it all along.


BerryBird said...

Oy. Poor Paul, bearing the weight of the world like that. Your joke was funny! My sister has some of those "evil" non-native Polygonatum multiflorums growing in her yard, that have been passed down through the family from my great-grandmother. The patch in the garden is no bigger than it ever was. As you well know, not every non-native plant is invasive.

We grew up calling the P. multiflorum giant Solomon's seal, by the way, to distinguish it from Polygonatum pubescens, which is native here. I've never seen anyone garden with it though.

Chrisss said...

I like the artistic shot. Very funny post :)