Mexican Armpits - Astrantia major subsp. involucrata 'Shaggy'Sunday, July 01, 2007
For any reader here who has had enough of my roses today's blog is on a flower that is not part of the Family Rosaceae but the Family Apiaceae. The flower is from the Genus Astrantia.
Of late I have been thinking about my older daughter (38) Alexandra Elizabeth. She is now four hours away by the not very good highway to Lillooet. This distance has made me think of her objectively. Ale has never suffered fools. But she has always moderated it with a tolerance that I find astounding. I would also say that gullibility is not one Ale's deffects.
This story really began some 34 years ago when we were living in Arboledas, Estado de México ( a suburb north of Mexico City). We owned a Volkswagen beetle and we had it serviced at the dealer (closer to the city on the freeway that Mexicans call El Periférico ). When this happened I would have to take the bus from our house. This bus was a legendary bus of sorts as its route took it past every hospital and military barrack of the city and its environs. It had an identifying blue stripe (for those who could not read) and it was called Circuito Hospitales, Cuarteles, Tlanepantla y Anexas.
One particular summer day, with Ale in tow we rode the bus to pick up our car. The stench of unwashed bodies in a hot summer day in the stuffy bus was almost unbearable.
My wife Rosemay seldom goes into rhapsodies about her individual plants. She makes no comment when I manage to pursuade her to come and gaze on some rose that I cite for being perfect. Curiously it was only a week ago where she pointed at one of her many Astrantia major subsp. involucrata 'Shaggy' and blew me away with a most uncharacterstic statement of fact, "This is a perfect flower." She has several astrantias including Astrantia major and maxima but the cool white and green variety Shaggy is by far her favourite.
It was five or six years ago that I cut some of her astrantias and put them into a vase to decorate our dining room for dinner. I noticed this unpleasant smell that took me back all those years to the Circuito Hospitales bus with the blue stripe. When Ale arrived later that day I pointed her to one of Rosemary's astrantias in the garden and I asked her to give me her opinion.
Since Ale has the same fondness for the same plants that Rosemary likes she nodded her approval. I asked her to smell them. "It's called the Mexican Armpit Plant, " I told her. A few days later Ale called me to tell me that she had gone to a local nursery in search of the plant in question and nobody there had ever heard of the plant!
Astrantias grow in our garden in the shade, in the sun and have a long flowering time. They don't have enemies and don't need much care. I tolerate their stench and remember fondly all those Mexico City buses that had names and coloured stripes. They had personality just like Rosemary'a astrantias. The stripes and the names of those buses were eliminated years ago and replaced with impersonal numbers. But Circuito Hospitales, Cuarteles Tlanepantla y Anexas lives on in our garden.