Friday, August 22, 2014

The Vodou Garden

I have been swamped with writing and Kanzo these past four months. My apologies to everyone who follows me on this blog. But there's just so many hours in the day, and a mambo's work is never really done.

I am hosting a one day class on Vodou herbs this September 14th. (go here for details) We will walk the property here at the houmfort, look at weeds and things, then get down to business. Due to the way a distiller operates, I can only make a small amount of hydrosol in an afternoon, so we will vote on either make a mugwort or a spearmint hydrosol (it's also the most prolific on the property, as well!)

I am also working (frantically) on my herbal compendium. It won't be ready the 14th, but I thought I could wet everyone's whistle by posting the occasional tidbit now and then here on my blog. And since my favorite plant produced an abundant crop of flowers this year, I will begin with the Aristilichia Trilobata or Dutchman's Pipe, also known as Tréf  Carayib in creole.

The Dutchman's Pipe is a reference to the shape of the flowers as they bud - like a Sherlock Homes pipe, with a large bowl bottom and curved top. They open into these stellar looking purple faced creatures, with a gaping throat in green and yellow. I know the bees find them irresistible, but they can be rather off putting. They have a simple scent that the honeybees adore, and the blooms last about two days before quickly fading and dropping off. I have found the vine growing in other places in my gardens, so I think it's capable of reproducing itself easily in a sunny location. This plant needs full-on sunshine. It spends the summer here in Philly outdoors in the front yard, where the sun comes up like the star on Crematorium in the Riddick movies, and burns just about anything I put out front save geraniums, roses and now the Dutchman's Pipe.

The Dutchman is a vine, with heart shaped, lemon scented leaves that display pale green markings. A vigor vine, I don't think its hardy here in Zone 6. Friends in the south tell me that it's a nuisance vine there, growing wildly and freely over anything it encounters. My Dutchman is babied in the winter, lounging window-side in the dining room, where it climbs all over the blinds, hunting for full sunlight. The US plant data base says its a perennial, so I guess if you don't have harsh winters, you could have quite the plant in a few years outdoors.

Houngan Ray Malbrough associated this plant with the Ghede and he is right to do so. The lore surrounding this plant is that it grows spectacularly in cemeteries in Haiti. That location, combined with its lemon scented leaves and ugly purple face blooms, make it the perfect "breaking" plant for taking off attachments -- spirit or otherwise.

The plant that actually grows in Haiti is Aristolochia cordiflora mutis. A true tropical, it is not available here in the USA. This plant is known as Fey Kadav Gaté or Poison Breaker.  Also a vine, it's blooms are smaller, and far less ugly than the Trilobata. It's uses are much the same - added to bathes to remove negativity. This plant is also said to remove bad luck, reverse witchcraft and is used in certain guards.

If you can find a Trilobata, I promise you won't be disappointed by it. As a green plant, it's pretty much a weed that can't be killed. And if it does bloom, you'll have quite the conversation piece.  Easy to grow, lovely to look at and handy when needed, the Dutchman's Pipe should be the center piece of any Vodouisant garden.

1 comment:

Sam said...

I am so very lucky that here on the Gold Coast of Australia it grows HOG WILD. I have it everywhere, including growing up Legba's tree at my front door. :) He doesn't seem to mind. I have not seen it bloom however but I will keep my eyes out now I know what to look for. :)