When absinthe — also known as the Green Fairy — was banned in France, Switzerland, the United States and many other countries in the early 1900s, it had become associated with illicit behavior.
In fact, it was accused of turning children into criminals, encouraging loose morals and inspiring murders. That regular old alcohol received similar treatment during the Prohibition period in the United States turns out to be pretty apropos:
We now know that properly manufactured absinthe — an anise-flavored, alcoholic drink — is no more dangerous than any other properly prepared liquor.
What about the tales of hallucinations, Oscar Wilde and his tulips, family massacres and instant death?
Not absinthe’s fault, technically speaking. Absinthe does have a very high alcohol content — anywhere between 55 and 75 percent, which equates to about 110 to 144 proof.
It makes whiskey’s standard 40 percent (80 proof) seem like child’s play, which is why absinthe is supposed to be diluted.
Absinthe is not a hallucinogen; its alcohol content and herbal flavor sets it apart from other liquors.
Traditional absinthe is made of anise, fennel and wormwood, a plant (see Image above), and various recipes add other herbs and flowers to the mix.
The anise, fennel and wormwood are soaked in alcohol, and the mixture is then distilled. The distillation process causes the herbal oils and the alcohol to evaporate, separating from the water and bitter essences released by the herbs.
The fennel, anise and wormwood oils then recondense with the alcohol in a cooling area, and the distiller dilutes the resulting liquid down to whatever proof the absinthe is supposed to be (based on brand variations or regional laws).
At this point, the absinthe is clear; many manufacturers add herbs to the mixture after distillation to get the classic green color from their chlorophyll.
The chemical that’s taken all the blame for absinthe’s hallucinogenic reputation is called thujone, which is a component of wormwood. In very high doses, thujone can be toxic.
It is a GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) inhibitor, meaning it blocks GABA receptors in the brain, which can cause convulsions if you ingest enough of it. It occurs naturally in many foods, but never in doses high enough to hurt you.
And there’s not enough thujone in absinthe to hurt you, either.
Origins: Purchased in Northern New South Wales in 2001. As a small Bonsai.
History: Grown in a large black pot for its first three years and it was slowly styled for branch structure. The tree responded well to rain water and has been exclusively watered with it.
I then put it into its first Bonsai pot and entered into the club critique as a novice tree. It then went on to win Novice tree of the year that same year.
With the intention to thicken the trunk it was placed back into a large black pot for another two years to grow. It was then placed into a deep Bonsai pot with a glazed red and black motley effect.
The pot was never quite right for the tree and I was not 100% happy with my selection.
However the tree was placed into a tray of rain water to live trying to replicate its natural conditions.
Despite missing branch six and its awkward nebari it went on to win more awards both at the club and at the Royal Adelaide Show. I took action to try to correct the two main problems.
I have put a small slit in the nob under the trunk of the tree and packed it with sphagnum moss hoping to create a root, and growing a sacrifice branch which I hope to use as a thread graft for branch six.
Photo by Thangmar on Wikipedia | Copyright: Public Domain
Contributor: Josh (Admin)
More of an out-of-control tree than the lilting flower the name might suggest, the Rose of Hildesheim, otherwise known as the Thousand-Year Rose, is thought to be the oldest living rose on the planet, and it looks to continue to be for the foreseeable future since not even bombs can stop it.
Growing up the side of a columnar portion of Germany’s Hildesheim Cathedral, the now-bushy flower is thought to have been planted in the early 800s when the church itself was founded.
Miraculously, the hearty plant slowly crept up the side of the apse for hundreds of years, and still continues bud and bloom each year, producing pale pink flowers once a year (usually around May).
While the rose bush looks as though it’s big enough to have been growing for a thousand years, the plant has been nearly destroyed a number of times throughout its history.
Most notably the bush was nearly completely razed during the Second World War when Allied bombs annihilated the cathedral.
Every bit of the plant above ground was destroyed, but from the rubble, new branches grew from the root that survived.
Today the the base of the Thousand-Year Rose is protected by a squat iron fence and each of the central roots is named and catalogued to protect one of the oldest pieces of natural beauty one is lucky to find.
Four remarkable images from the 19th-century Austrian botanist Anton Kerner von Marilaun’s Pflanzenleben, one of his most important works.
Some 20 years after its initial publication in German in 1887 the work was brought to the English speaking world in a translation by F. W. Oliver under the title The Natural History of Plants their Forms, Growth, Reproduction, and Distribution.
The images here come, via Wikimedia Commons, from Kurt Stüber’s wonderful collection of historical botanical illustrations housed at his BioLib site, definitely worth an explore.
The Mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is a plant called by the Arabs luffâh, or beid el-jinn (“djinn’s eggs”).
Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae).
Mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, and hyoscyamine.
The roots sometimes bifurcate, causing them to resemble human figures. Their roots have long been used in magic rituals, and today are valued by members of neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism.
The roots of Mandrake were supposed to bear a resemblance to the human form, on account of their habit of forking into two shoots which form a rough figure of a human.
In the old Herbals we find them frequently figured as a male with a long beard, and a female with a very bushy head of hair. Many weird superstitions collected round the Mandrake root.
It was common belief in some countries that mandrake would only grow where the semen of a hanged murderer had dripped on to the ground.
And it was believed to cause death to whoever dug it up, as the plant would let out a shriek upon being dug up, which none might hear and live.
Therefore if you would dig up a Mandrake you should either do it from a distance using string, or tie the string to your dog and let him pull it up. Of course, then the dog would die from the terrible scream from the plant.
In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the author makes use of the legend of the mandrake’s scream, and anyone tending mandrakes wears earmuffs to dull the sound.
As an amulet, it was once placed on mantel to bring luck and happiness. Bryony roots were often cut into fancy shapes and passed off as Mandrake.
Small images made from Bryony roots, cut to look like the figure of a man, with millet seed inserted into the face for eyes, were sold to the foolish and uneducated.
They were known as puppettes and were credited with magical powers.
Italian ladies were known to pay as much as thirty golden ducats for these artificial Mandrake amulets.