Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Ahah! Mystery Solved!!
During my oh too brief stay at the enchanting Eden Hall in Penrith, I would take an exploratory stroll down a different lonely country road, daily. On one particular morning, I spied a little garden filled with the strange and curious flowers that I had seen at Hampton Court. Then to my delight, I saw a car pulling out of the driveway, not wanting to throw away my good fortune, I quickly waved the driver down...and to my surprise she stopped her car. I swiftly assaulted the aged woman (Barbara was her name) with my compliments on the flora in her garden. All the time in the back of my head, I was hoping that she wouldn’t think I was some sort of raving American lunatic. She then spritely jumped out of her car and proudly took me on a tour of her cheery, color bursting garden... I shyly pointed to the mysterious flora in question, and Barbara wryly smiled back at me and said, “ Why that’s a Red Hot Poker!” Ahah! Of course, I should have guest... Barbara went on to say, the Red Hot Poker is also known as -- Kniphofia uvaria, Tritoma, and Torch Lily, due to the shape and color of its inflorescence. The leaves are reminiscent of a lily, and the flowerhead can reach up to 5 feet in height. There are many varieties of torch lily, and they bloom at different times during the growing season. The flowers are red, orange, and yellow. And then to my utter delight, Barbara then told me this old wives-tale... House wives, sometimes found difficulty in butter-making, they believed that a "spell" was casted by a local, jealous witch. To break the “spell,” the remedy that they used was to plunge a red-hot poker into the contents of the churn, when the spell was broken, the butter immediately began to form.
Intrigued, I thanked Barbara for all her help and then hurried home to do my research but alas, this is all that was found... Although there seems to be no direct reference to the use of the RED HOT POKERS in traditional medicine or folklore, there are a few other members of the group, which are indeed listed as being used as snake deterrents as well as use of the roots for relieving chest complaints. Other torch lillies are also listed as being used by the Xhosa women for bringing good luck to their children.