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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Henbit, Henbane and other Poultry Plants

Our yard is covered with lavender/purple flowers, a combination of purple dead nettle and henbit. They look nice in a field, and sport lovely little flowers, as you can see from the henbit(Lamium amplexicaule) pictured here, but they are murder once they invade your garden beds and are next to impossible to eradicate. The henbit got me to wondering where the name came from- why “henbit”? I read somewhere that chickens like the seeds, and I have seen Sam and the girls pecking at it in the yard, but they peck at most anything, so I don’t know…

How many other plants, I wondered, have names referring to poultry? I could think of Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) a very toxic plant whose foliage and seeds contain hyoscyamine, scopolamine and other tropane alkaloids. The name henbane comes from the Anglo Saxon henbanna- “killer of hens.” Needless to say, you won't find any of that in our garden! Then there’s the hen and chicks plant, Echevaria elegans, and the spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, is sometimes called a hen and chickens plant, too. Lamb’s quarters, Chenopodium album, often referred to as pigweed, is also known as Fat-hen (I have no idea why!). Half the barnyard in one plant! I guess we could throw chickweed in- one of its alternate names is clucken wort- that sounds kind of poultyish to me. I also saw an ad for an Easter Egg plant in a seed catalog- that should probably count, too.

I had a feeling that if I told Sam and the girls about all the poultry plants, Sam was going to crow about gender discrimination and get all upset at not having any rooster plants on the list. So I googled and came up with a vining Rooster flower- Aristolochia labiata, you can see it here.

If you know of any other plants to add to the “Poultry Plant” list, let me know, because I’m still looking.


Rurality said...

What about good old eggplant? :)

roosterhen said...

Mr G would tell you there's nothing good about egglant! LOL

But you're right- it should definitely be on the list- how did I miss it?