Showing posts with label bee plant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bee plant. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

1887 - Motherwort: #7 of Root's Bee Plants

Motherwort would take over my garden if I let it. 

It self seeds with abandon.  I don't mind as it is easy to pull, and, if you let it be, it looks good!  The current CT data reports it attracts bumblebees like mad...34 contacts per minute...but did not mention  honeybees. 

My bees do like it, but not with noticeably greater than average enthusiasm.  But then again, they did not show much enthusiasm for borage!  (They do flock to anise hyssop, and, for one day only, covered my giant Cow Parsnip.)  

A. I. Root sold motherwort seeds in his honey plant section in his 1887 seed catalog.

Back to motherwort,  Root talks about it in the ABC of Bee Culture, 1882.
Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca)  - Quite a number of the bee folks insist that
motherwort is superior, as a honey plant, to either catnip, hoarhound, balm, wild bergamot, or any of the large family of Labiate, and I presume such may be the case under some circumstances, or in favorable localities.   
In comparing plants, it should be remembered, that those usually bear much honey may, at times, furnish none at all; and also those which usually furnish none may, under very favorable circumstances, yield largely."  
This plant often flourishes about fence corners, and around the ruins of old dwellings, sheds, or even hog pens. The large leaf, taken by itself, much resembles the currant; the stalk is much like catnip; and the little flowers are in tufts, close to the stalk. It remains in blossom a long time, and may be as worthy of cultivation, as any of the plants of its class.
In 1853 Moses Quinby's Mysteries of Bee-keeping Explained: Being a Complete Analysis of the Whole Subject is the first book I could find in a simple online search which mentions motherwort as a bee plant.      
Catnip (Nepeta Cataria), Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca), and Hoarhound (Marrubium Vulgare) about the middle of June, put forth their flowers, rich in sweetness, and like the raspberry, the bees visit them at all hours and in nearly all kinds of weather. They last from four to six weeks; the catnip I have known to last twelve in a few instances, yielding honey during the whole time.
After 1860 it is mentioned often.  Keep in mind people tended to copy each others published opinions, so a great deal of this MIGHT be copycat behavior, not a sudden noticing that motherwort is attracting tons of bees.  On the other hand the public's awareness of the economic possibilities of beekeeping was blossoming then, so folks were keeping an eye out for

Here is an 1865 report that sounds good from The Bee-keeper's Guide: Or Manual of the Apiary by Albert John Cook.


(Leonurus cardiaca L.)

Perhaps none of our common herbs promises better, as a honey plant, than the one-in question. It is a very hardy 
Fig. 114.
perennial, and once introduced in waste places, it is sure to hold its own, until it becomes desirable to extirpate it, when, at man's bidding, it quickly lets go its hold, so that it is not a dangerous plant to introduce. The blossoms appear at this place about June 25th, and persist for a full month, and during the entire time are crowded with bees, whatever may be the character of the weather, whether wet or dry, warm or cool, whether the plant is in the midst of honey plants or isolated. We are thus assured that the plant is constantly secreting nectar, and is also a favorite with bees. Rape, mustards and borage seem indifferent to the weather, but are not favorites with the bees. Motherwort, then, has three admirable qualities: It is long in bloom, the flowers afford fine honey at all times, and it is a favorite with the bees.

Fig. 115.

If it could be made to bloom about three weeks later, coming in just after basswood, it would have nearly all the desired qualities. I think that we might bring this about by mowing the plants in May. I am led to this opinion from the fact that some plants which we set back by transplanting in May, are still in bloom this August 10th, and are now alive with bees, dividing their attention with the beautiful cleome, which is now in full bloom, and fairly noisy with bees

Fig. 116.
The stalk is square (Fig. 114),'branching, and when cultivated, attains a height of some four feet; though, as it grows in waste places, it is seldom more than three feet. 

The branches, and also the leaves, are opposite (Figs. 114 and 115), and in the axils of the latter are whorls of blossoms (Figs. 115 and 116), which succeed each other from below to the top of the branching stems. 

The corolla is like that of all the mints, while the calyx has five teeth, which are sharp ands pine-like in the nutlets as they appear at the base of the leaves (Fig. 115). As they near the top, the whorls of blossoms and succeeding seeds are successively nearer together, and finally become very crowded at the apex (Fig. 116). 

The leaves are long and palmately lobed (Fig. 115). 
The small blossom is purple.

(My observation on the plant is that the seeds, (nutlets) are sharp!!!  Use gloves when pulling a plant with dry seed heads.)

Monday, March 20, 2017

1887 - Borage, #5 of Root's Honey Plants

Zorn, J., 1796

Finally, a plant A. I. Root promoted that I have  
grown a patch of (10'x10') to treat my bees!   

You know how things usually go when you do something to please an animal - they ignore it. (Maybe that is just cats?) Well, the bee didn't actually turn up their noses but they did not work it heavily.

Somewhere I read in my time-warp readings that borage is good for wet weather nectar when other plants are washed out or something.  I might have that backwards.  When I find it I'll update this post :-) 

Here is the blurb from  A.I. Root's 1887 and 1888 catalogs' Bee Plant section, with Root as the writer.  
Borage. (1887 and 1888)

A strong, hardy, rapidly growing plant, bearing a profusion of blue flowers. It may be sown any time, but will, perhaps, succeed best, at about corn planting time. As it grows tall, and branches out considerably, it should have plenty of room. I know that bees are very busy on it, all the day long, from July until Nov., but I do not know how much honey an acre of it would furnish. 
It is easily tried, because it grows so readily, and if sowed on the ground after early potatoes are dug, you will get a nice crop of fall bloom. Sow broad cast, or in hills like corn.

In 1888 only: Borage is also used as a salad or cooked like a spinach. 
Price 10c. per oz., or 75c per pound.
If wanted by mail, add 18c. per lb. for bag and postage.

Now I'll throw in my experience with growing borage.  
  • First, it is floppy.  
  • Second, it falls over.  
  • Third, rain beats it down.  
So grow it next to something strong, or fill the area with pea sticks.   
It is pretty up close when not covered with mud.
 (Connecticut had a drought in 2017 punctuated with borage flattening rains.)  

Chaumeton, F.P., Flore médicale, 1829

Among the prettiest of those wandering plants which find their most congenial haunts upon rubbish heaps on the outskirts of towns or villages, the borage certainly occupies a prominent place. Plants of such regions are wont to be dull in foliage and flower; but the borage, although its leaves are rough and inelegant, amply compensates for this by the brilliant blue of its five pointed star-like flowers. 

This beautiful blue is, especially among our British plants, very characteristic of the BoraginaceŇď, an order of which our borage is the type; we find it in the viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare), the small bugloss (Lycopsis arvensis), the various species of forget-me not (Myosotis), and in the alkanets (Anchusa), which, however, are doubtful natives of our soil; but none of the varying shades presented by these plants are more beautiful than the blue of the borage blossoms.

The uses of borage are, perhaps, open to the charge of being more imaginary than real—that is, if we take into consideration the exaggerated eulogisms bestowed upon it by the older writers.
 "Those of our time," says Gerard, "do use the flowers in sallads, to exhilarate and make the minde glad. There be also many things made of them used everywhere for the comfort of the hart, for the driving away of sorrowe, and increasing the joie of the minde." 

And then he goes on to tell as how " the leaves and flowers of borage put into wine maketh men and women glad and merrie, and driveth away all sadnesse, dulneese, and melancholic"; how "sirrupe made of the flowers of borage comforteth the hart, purgeth melanoholie, quieteth the phrenticke or lanatioke person"; and how "the flowers of borage, made up with sugar, doth all the aforesaid with greater force and effect." 

The use of borage in claret cup and similar beverages at the present day is a relic of the belief in the above "vertues," as well as an agreeable and cooling addition thereto, while its blue flowers floating in the liquid have a pretty appearance.

But the use of borage against melancholy goes mach farther back than the days of Queen Elizabeth. According to Burton, who may be considered an authority on the subject, 
"Helena's commended bowl to exhilarate the heart had no other ingredient, as most of our criticks conjecture, than this of borage;" 
this "commended bowl" being the nepenthes of Homer, which was "of such rare vertue that if taken steept in wine, if wife and children, father and mother, brother and sister, and all thy dearest friends should dye before thy face, thou couldst not grieve nor shed a tear for them".
Incredulous persons might be inclined to regard this cheering property to be rather due to the medium in which the borage was taken, whioh a yet more ancient writer has characterized as that which "maketh glad the heart of man".

As a favourite plant of bees, borage is worthy of somewhat more attention than it generally receives. We know a good beekeeper who has a large bed of it near his hives, and heartily do the winged inhabitants appreciate the attention thus paid them. There are, indeed, few more cheerful combinations of sight and sound than that which is presented by such a borage bed on a bright July afternoon, when tho beautiful blue flowers are in full perfection, and the "murmuring of bees" pervades everything with its soothing hum.                  J. B. Q.