Today two beautiful climbers, one deadly the other delicious.
Here is a photo of Hops (Humulus lupulus) scrambling over an information plate in the woodland section of Frankendael. Several Hops plants are becoming obvious at the moment. They begin the season by growing tall thin stems which arch high above other plants, reaching out for a suitable structure to climb. Then their leaves broaden and identification becomes easier.
Hops has been a popular plant for centuries, since it was discovered that it added a delicious flavor to beer. Medicinally, hops is useful as a relaxant and sleep inducer. It is found in many herbal sleep blends. If you have access to enough, it is very simple to stuff a pillow with dried hops, which is then slept on to bring about restful sleep.
Now to the poisonous climber: White Bryony (Bryonia dioica) has some ancient medicinal and several magical uses but all parts of this plant are highly toxic. Even small ingested quantities can be lethal. It’s a member of the Cucumber family. I’ve been watching the plant in this photo grow for a few weeks, admiring it’s resemblance to squash plants but until today, not knowing it’s true nature. It really blends into its surroundings today but up close it has rather an out of place appearance. As if someone had planted melon seeds in the woodland. However this is a native plant, often found in woodlands and hedgerows.
Bryony has several colloquial names which suggest historical uses and appearance; English Mandrake, Wood Vine & Mad Root being my favourites. It was traditionally used in image, money and protection magic. The roots of this perennial were particularly significant. Here is a clearer photograph of Bryony, taken today in Oosterpark. An enchanting and deadly specimen.