This Week’s Plant Rant


After a tough winter that left a battlefield of limbs strewn across the Green Farmacy Garden, Mother Nature woke up and gave us a tease of spring.  She was delighted, but realized that there was a lot of work to do.

So, she hit the snooze, rolled over, and went back to sleep.

Things are starting to stir in the garden.  Snowdrops are up.  Butterbur flowers are blooming.  The red-shouldered hawks are flirting vociferously.  Molly got the beets in the ground.  Jim’s fixin’ up Duke’s Soup in the kitchen for volunteers.  And Helen’s discovering long lost tools as she rakes away the signs of last year.

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) can be found in the Alzheimer’s plot due to the pharmacologically active alkaloid galantamine, which inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase and helps to prevent acetylcholine breakdown.  Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is necessary for healthy brain function and memory.

It is speculated that the snowdrop was the holy moly herb that Hermes gave to Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey to protect him from being turned into a pig by the goddess and enchantress Circe. Circe had transformed Odysseus’ men into pigs after they feasted on her food and drink laced with potions. Some believe the men were not actually turned into pigs but became delusional with amnesia from the intoxication of an anticholinergic herb. Holy moly, or snowdrop, with its alkaloids, was considered the antidote to the potion and thus securing Odysseus against receiving the same fate as his crew.

Galanthus nivalis is in the family Amaryllidaceæ and derives its Latin name from gala, milk; anthos, flower (white flower); and nivalis, of or belonging to the snow.

CAUTION!! One should not consume snowdrops.  This tidbit is for informational purposes only about the chemical components of our plant friends.

Holy Moly!…there were snowdrops, snow and a blustery chilly northwestern wind this morning (3/7/11). Please, hit the snooze just one more time.

I come to the garden alone
While the new is still on the roses (Biblical narcissuses)
But I’ve never seen, the galanthamine
Helps us old timers with Alzheimer’s
Seems to lay to waste, cholinesterase
And preserve choline in the brain
and perhaps hold back, the cerebral plaque
Delaying dementia’s brain drain

~Jim Duke
excerpt from “Come to the Garden Alone” 2004

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