Search This Blog

Saturday, May 05, 2007


"There's fennel for you, and columbines:
there's rue for you; and here's some for me:

we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays:
O you must wear your rue with a difference..."
Folklore attributes all sorts of medicinal and spiritual qualities to rue. In literature, it is a metaphor for regret, but also redemption. The smell of this plant is pungently bitter, but I have no regrets having cultivated rue in my garden. In the entomological liturgy, this herb is said to be a larval food plant of giant swallowtail butterflies. While I'm sure this is true (why would an entomologist make it up?), still I've never seen it to be true any more than I've witnessed the demobilization of sperm, the extermination of insects or the expelling of evil spirits when exposed to rue. But I want to believe the plant will attract breeding papilio cresphontes and this is reason enough to grow it.

But it's also kind of pretty. This rue is Ruta chalepensis, so-called fringed rue for the frilly appurtenances on the flowers. Resting on the fleshy leaf there is a boatman fly, pogonortalis doclea, not doing anything special or interesting, just enduring (or enjoying?) the smell of rue.

No comments: