Goodding’s verbena makes an attractive mound of orchid and lavender flowers spring into summer. What’s more it can make a gentle, delectable and calming tea. Need mellowing out? Try Verbena gooddinggii! (MABurgess photo)
With the excitement of our Tucson Festival of Books and many upcoming plant sales, I was motivated to use some of our Baja Arizona herbalist authors as inspiration for desert landscaping. Tia Marta here encouraging you to check out Michael Moore’s, John Slattery’s, and Charles Kane’s books on medicinal plant uses for great ideas and good instruction. My personal challenge has been to create seasonal color in the garden with plants that I know I might use also as herbal remedies.
Find Michael Moore’s must-have handbook Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West at the Tucson Festival of Books.
Larrea tridentata–known as She:gi by the Tohono O’odham is “our desert drugstore.” Should you find it on your land, protect it, cherish it, and use it.(MABurgess photo)
Watch for announcements of plant sales at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tohono Chul Park, NativeSeeds/SEARCH, and Desert Survivors to find beautiful ornamentals which also give healing or soothing, stimulation or protection.
Desert chia–“da:pk” in Tohono O’odham–Salvia columbariae–should be planted as seed in the fall for a spring harvest of seed that helps balance blood sugar and has high omega-3 fatty acid. (MABurgess photo)
Also to be planted as seed in the fall for a spring show is Mexican gold poppy. Its effect as a calmer/mellower has been known to traditional people for centuries. (MABurgess photo)
A hedge of prickly pear, especially this Persian orange-flowered Opuntia lindheimeri, can give you tasty “remedies” from blood-sugar-balancing nopales (see the new growth in the photo), herbal tea from the flowers, and high calcium from both young pads and fruits in late summer. (MABurgess photo)
No desert garden is complete without cholla! Cylindropuntia versicolor‘s (Staghorn’s; ciolim) colors are dazzling; its prepared buds balance blood sugar and give enormous amounts of available calcium helpful in prevention of osteoporosis. (MABurgess photo)
Late spring will bring a pink and lavender show of flowers to desert willow (“ann” in O’odham). The beautiful tree in this photo is in the landscape of the new Tohono O’odham Community College campus. All parts of Ahn have been used traditionally as an effective anti-fungal. (MABurgess photo)
Flowers of Ahn (Chilopsis linearis) are a visual as well as an herbal gift. Check out herbal books for guidance how it was traditionally used. (MABurgess photo)
With monsoon rains come the bright yellow flowers of Tecoma stans (“tronadora” in Spanish) making a sensational landscape splash. It also doubles as an important remedy for certain types of diabetes. (MABurgess photo)
A perennial to be planted as a tuber in the fall is the wild rhubarb (hiwidchuls in O’odham)( For more about this one, see last month’s blog post). Its tuber has important astringent properties.(MABurgess photo)
At summer’s end your garden will be punctuated with bright Chiltepin peppers! You–and your wild birds–will prosper with picante delights full of vitamin C and A. In addition, you can use them in a topical salve to soothe the anguish of shingles or muscle-sore. (MABurgess photo)
All through the year a Baja Arizona desert garden can give dramatic color as well as special healing gifts that have been know to Desert People since time immemorial. You can see examples of these native desert plants growing at the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace’s Mission Garden (foot of A-Mountain in Tucson, at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and at Tohono Chul Park. Stay tuned for more about Mission Garden’s Michael Moore Medicinal Plant Garden to be planted this year.
Tis the season now to see a show of spring medicinals in nature as well as in town. Here’s hoping you can get out in this lovely weather to see the desert explode with its colorful herbal gifts!