What’s cooking?

My kitchen has become a small scale operation – thinking fruit pies, jams and jellies?

Caulophyllum thalictroides

Caulophyllum thalictroides seeds

Caulophyllum thalictroides (Blue cohosh) blue seeds will easily pass for blueberries but unfortunately are poisonous if ingested in large quantities. That’s very improbable to happen though because what seems like a big berry is actually a single huge seed surrounded by a thin fleshy and blue seed coat.

More likely to lose a tooth or two than being poisoned!

Caulophyllum thalictroides cleaned seeds

Caulophyllum thalictroides cleaned seeds

On the other hand, Podophyllum peltatum (Mayapple) fruit it is/has been used to prepare jams and jellies. The big size fruit (hog apple, wild lemon, Indian apple), when fully ripen has a light yellow colour and a persimmon fragrance (in my opinion). It is actually the only part of the plant that’s not toxic.

Podophyllum peltatum fruits

Podophyllum peltatum fruits

To ensure good germination seeds of both species have to be placed in moist storage right away. They belong to a large category of species with hydrophylic seeds (intolerant of dry storage).

Also, both species are important North American medicinal woodland plants.

Podophyllum peltatum seeds

Mayapple seeds – enclosed in a gooey substance

PS. In case you have available large quantities of mayapple fruits to make jam, be kind and promote a sustainable harvest (always) by discarding the seeds in a nearby wooden area.


For Seed trade – Helleborus purpurascens

I am not young enough to know everything” – Oscar Wilde

A quick post because I just ‘discovered’ that Helleborus purpurascens seeds are best sown fresh in the summer. They need to go through a warm-moist period followed by cold-moist in order to germinate best. Older seeds will still germinate but in a lower percentage. Helleborus is one thing I have never done from seed (members of Ranunculaceae are notoriously difficult germinators). This is a rare Helleborus species distributed only along the Carpathian Mountains range, up to central and northern Hungary. Interestingly, it can be found growing in full sun, in open alpine meadows and also under dappled shade in beech woods.

Helleborus purpurascens in native habitat

Helleborus purpurascens growing in full sun in native habitat – Carpathian Mts.

Graham Rice, the authority in all Helleborus matters, has an extensive article on H. purpurascens on his website, you can read it HERE. In a bit of a hurry, I will quote him so no one can say I am biased because of its origins:

It is “one of the most captivating species for its engaging habit of flowering so enthusiastically, for its subtle metallic tints… The foliage too is unlike that of other hellebores, in that it radiates from the tip of the petiole in a neat circle.”

As for the flowers, a few forms that are known from Botanical Gardens: are purple in colour with dark veins, slightly pinkish towards the base and netted towards the edge; some flowers have an overall green haze…In a second form which reaches 15 in in height the flowers are smoky blue-purple in colour, darker outside than in, with slightly reddish veins inside and green nectaries. Other forms may be slate purple or deep purple outside, shining pinkish shades….”

Helleborus purpurascens

Helleborus purpurascens – from what’s left it seems matching the description!

A truly collector’s plant, so this is a call for a seeds trade – if someone wishes a few fresh Helleborus purpurascens seeds to sow them right away, please get in touch with me here, on my email or at infoATbotanicallyinclined.org (of course replace AT with @

It would be a pity not to have them all germinating well – still enough summertime left!

Helleborus purpurascens seeds

Helleborus purpurascens seeds

A risky business – Polygala paucifolia

I think some are imagining that trying to open a business of selling wild collected seeds is a breeze – happily wandering in fields and mountains and grabbing here and there whatever comes under your eyes. Well, very far away from the truth. For example, who would think about stumbling into a massasauga rattlesnake (the only venomous snake in Ontario), while collecting Polygala paucifolia seeds!

Massasauga snake

Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)

The timing to collect Polygala is almost impossible; the fruiting/seed setting is usually low and then the seeds are equipped with elaiosomes that ants will carry away very fast. So, there is no wonder that seeds are almost never offered and, although desirable, neither are the plants! Looking at the flowers, you understand why all this is worthwhile!

Polygala paucifolia

Polygala paucifolia

My germination trials with Polygala seeds showed that dry stored seeds in the fridge, sown in the spring germinate very well, and also the seedlings are developing very well. Seeds stored moist-cold, germinate later and in a lower percentage.

Polygala seedlings

Polygala paucifolia seedlings – germination 95%; they may look small size but remember that this is a little plant

PS. Keep your eyes wide open when hiking in the rattlesnake habitat! When moving, it makes a low rattle noise to make you aware, but when standing still it is very well camouflaged and it doesn’t rattle. They give birth to live baby-snakes, finger-size but already venomous! It is designated a species at risk in Ontario – more about it on Reptiles and Amphibians of Ontario website.

Along the mountain road

Along the mountain road
Somehow it tugs at my heart –
A wild violet.

A few highlights are warranted from our holiday. Were we could have been if not up the mountains, again? At high altitude, early July equals with a late May-June elsewhere and this made it for lots of flowers to be found. It was a good scouting expedition and lots to talk about during wintertime.

 Various violets were sprinkled everywhere from meadows to high altitude rock ledges.

Viola alpina

Viola alpina between Silene acaulis flowers

Alpine meadows were brimming with flowers; rainbows of colours marked by the towering yellow giant gentian: Gentiana lutea.

Gentiana lutea

Gentiana lutea

Groups of deep blue Gentiana verna acting like an eye-magnet from far away.

Gentiana verna

Gentiana verna

Geum reptans huge flowers scattered over the boulders.

Geum reptans

Geum reptans

A joyous riot of grasses that were intermingling with colourful perennials.


Veronica spicata between various grasses

Fiery red, fragrant mountain slopes covered with Rhododendron kotschyi (commonly called mountain peony) were a delight to all senses.

Rhododendron kotchyi

Rhododendron kotschyi

And last but not least, tiny, delicate, fringed bells of Soldanella pusilla. This says it all.

Soldanella pusilla

Soldanella pusilla

Now back to work, fruits are ripening and seeds are bursting out!