Flower of the dead (Spanish)
The Harvard botanist, Richard E. Schultes, who collected the plants in Oaxaca in 1939, became one of the most important botanists of the 20th century. He was searching for medicinal plants described in ancient Aztec herbals. In his search he found several hallucinogenic mushrooms and herbs. It was near the hillside village of Santo Domingo Latani that he found the Flor de Muerto.
The Flor de Muerto has black drooping, tubular bell-shaped flowers hanging from long stems. Most parts of the flower are black--stems, leaves, etc.
There are, indeed, many black or extremely dark purple flowers that have been created by the creative hand of mankind. These include the black hollyhock, black diamond tulip and the Jordanian black iris. The Flor de Muerto is the only natural black flower.
THE MYSTERY OF THE FLOR DE MUERTO
The flower is black for it absorbs both ultra violet and the visible light spsecturm completely. No one can explain how the flower can attract pollinators since it has no color to attract them. Yet it does. This remains a conundrum.
Many Goths have been reported to grow flowerbeds with only black flowers.
The writer prefers colorful flowers and has no black ones, but does have some extremely dark purple ones.
WHILE ON THE SUBJECT OF DEATH LET US CONSIDER:
ASPHODEL. The writer's wife was reading a book set in Georgia and found this flower mentioned and ask about it. We researched it further and this is what we found.
The asphodel is a hardy tall perennial with large spikes of while or yellow flowers. No flower has been associated with death and the abode of the dead as asphodel, as we shall see.
Homer said: "…But I said no more, for he had gone off striding the field of asphodel, the ghost of our great runner, Akhilleus Aiakides, glorying in what I told him of his son" (homer's Odyssey, book 11). He described it as covering the great meadow; the haunt of the dead.
The ancient Greeks associated this lovely spiked flower with the death and the underworld. They believed there was a meadow of asphodel in the Elysian Fields, and they considered it to be sacred to Persephone who was the goddess of the spring and the queen of the underworld. She often appeared with a garland of asphodels crowning her head. The Elysian Fields, or Elysium, in Greek mythology, is the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. It was ruled by Hades.
It's connection with death is surely due to the grayish color of its leaves and its yellow flowers. To the Greeks this suggests the gloom of the underworld and the palor of death. Asphodel was once believed to be a favorite food of the dead. For this reason it was often planted near graves.
The tall flower with long and slender leaves is a member of the lily family. Since it was once believed to be magical the powered root of the asphodel was used in the creation of various potions. Two such potions were the "Draught of Living Death" and the "Wiggenweld Potion." It was used against sorcery and as a remedy for poisonous snake-bites.
Besides it use as potions its leaves are used to wrap the Italian cheese called burrata. Yum!
Many people prefer clover honey. The writer's father-in-law was one of these, especially if it came from the hills of NC. In Sardinia honey, flavored with the pollen of the asphodel, is highly favored for its delicate taste.
In Puglia, condiments are made by picking the unopened buds and blanching them in boiling water and preserved in olive oil.
The long, strong stems, or stalks, have been used in basket making, and in bread making. Libyan nomads made their huts from asphodel stalks.
In Elizabethan times, young women up in Lancashire used it as a yellow dye for their hair. In Greece the roots were eaten by the poor.
The Bog Asphodel contains a chemical called aglycone. This is being investigated at present for a possible cancer treatment. The plant has been used for treating ulcers, cough, and for hernias.
"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" is a long poem by William Carlos Williams.
The following poets mentioned this flower with the mythology of the death and associated with the afterlife: Milton, Pope, Tennyson, and Longfellow.