Tuesday 14 September 2010

Misalliance ... to veer to the left, or to veer to the right?!

Fragrant Honeysuckle and the convolvulating Bindweed - an unlikely pair as you’ll ever meet have been immortalised in the Flanders and Swann song “Misalliance” – a fascinating societal tale of life .. so true, so sad. Did you know the honeysuckle spirals clockwise towards the sun, while the twisty bindweed climbs counter clockwise – no, nor did I.

Honeysuckle - photo c/o Peter Wuebker - gallery here (of Betsy and Peter - Passing Thru fame)

On reading the words who could not be touched by them?

Said the right-handed honeysuckle to the left-handed bindweed
“Oh, let us get married, if our parents don’t mind, we’d
Be loving and inseparable, inextricably entwined, we’d
Live happily ever after” said the honeysuckle to the bindweed.

It goes on:

To the honeysuckle’s parents it came as a shock.
“The bindweed,” they cried, “are inferior stock!
They’re uncultivated, of breeding bereft,
We twine to the right and they twine to the left”

You can imagine the misalliance in the tale .. but what powerful words describing the story .. I loved it when I heard it last weekend.

Field or Lesser bindweed

The word misalliance seemed a good word to describe some other plants and their unlikely destinations in life .. a seed planted by a three year old that can shoot to over 23 feet in a year and turn into a beautiful sunflower .. would the best way to view this - be with a spiral staircase – the tot would be overawed otherwise?

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) was the first to record in his botanical studies that heliotropic flowers track the sun’s motion across the sky – this picture shows the incredible detail of the sunflower’s inflorescence, with the florets in spirals of 34 and 55 around the outside - there’s a Fibonacci link here – but another day.

The sunflower's inflorescence
We know that the sunflower is an ancient plant from central America, probably spreading into the rest of the continent 4,500 years ago, but now is a global and valuable food resource .. but did you know that they can be used to extract toxic ingredients from the soil, such as lead, arsenic and uranium – after Chernobyl they were used to remove cesium-137 and strontium-90 from a nearby pond.

Another Mexican plant, imported for its ornamental value – the Agave .. also surprises us .. a Cornish couple went away for a few weeks and returned to find a towering flower spike .. the sad thing is .. the plant after many years puts all its energy into the flowering – then poof .. that’s it – it dies. No wonder it’s also known as the Century plant flowering only once after decades of dormancy.

Agave too has many uses .. it is an alternative to sugar, with the sap being known by the name ‘aguamiel’ (honey water) .. while didgeridoos can be made from the dried out stalks. In pre-Columbian Mexico, agave was used to make rope, matting, pens, nails and needles, as well as thread to sew or weave with.

Agave at Cape Sounion, Attica, Greece

Didgeridoos, that incredible wind instrument developed by the northern Indigenous Australians, apparently have another use – which I think is worth mentioning, while obviously needing to be investigated, is that by learning to play one - using the circular breathing technique, this may help people reduce their snoring and sleep apnea through the strengthening of their muscles in the upper airway.

Top: Traditionally crafted & decorated

Middle: Bamboo souvenir didgeridoo

Bottom: Traditionally crafted & undecorated

Now the Karvy .. which only takes a decade or so for the bloom cycle to happen – is to be found along the western coast of India – but when it blossoms .. oh! it blossoms .. covering many a forest area with a colourful veil. A veritable feast for the eyes as well as the ears ... just sitting quietly surrounded in a haze of purple .. with numerous species of butterflies, bees, and other insects buzzing around – what joy: to look at and listen to.

Even after the month of flowering .. the forest is still alive with the pop, pop, pop of the seed heads bursting forth and spreading their bounty over the forest floor. Here again the Karvy has its uses for us humans .. the juice from the flower is used for medicinal purposes while the stems can be used for thatched buildings.

The Monsoon brings the plant to life, turning it green, once the rainy season is over, all that is left is the dry and dead-looking stems – the pattern repeats for seven or so years, and then in the eighth, or when ready, it bursts into a mass flowering. Bees flock to the honey-soaked flowers, that’s when the honey hunters appear to track the bees down for their thick, dark bounty.

Honeysuckle, bindweed, sunflowers, agave and karvy – what an odd collection of plants all with extraordinary characteristics .. who would have thought that humans would have spread across the world making use of every possible part of each plant or learning from the visiting fauna ...

... and now we keep finding new uses for these inspiring plants, which feed our pollinators of life – bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, bats, birds, beetles and even midges, let alone thrips and ants .. all thrive ...

or as in “Misalliance” a political allegory concerning a love affair between a honeysuckle and a bindweed .. to amuse us, to teach us .. or as here gently to entertain us

Together, they found them, the very next day
They had pulled up their roots and just shrivelled away.
Deprived of that freedom for which we must fight,
To veer to the left or to veer to the right!

Flanders & Swann singing the song “Misalliance” via You Tube (4 mins)
The Flanders and Swann lyrics can be found here at "Just Some Lyrics"

Another post you might enjoy: Plants as Metal Gatherers

See Wiki for paragraph about circular breathing, sleep disorders and apnea, within the Didgeridoo page

Dear Mr Postman – the weather has turned autumnal ... and I’ve been busy – apart from my own move, my mother has had to move back upstairs .. so yet another upheaval – but surprise, surprise .. she can hear again! Wonderful news .. as I said to her – “well at least I can talk to you again and we can have a conversation .. that’s a good thing” – to which my Mama replied “Is it?” .. but with a big smile! It’s the luck of the drawer whether she’s awake or not – but the staff seem to be enjoying her chatty times!
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


The Exception said...

Oh this is delightful. The flowers are lovely and each have a purpose. A friend of mine doesn’t allow her daughter to eat anything with sugar, using the sap or syrup of the agave instead for everything. I think about the beauty of plants and all that the provide for us and those who live around us and yet, we know so little of the treasures that many plants and trees have to offer.
(Glad your mom can hear again!! )

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi TE .. thank you so much .. exactly as you say. Interesting about your friend's daughter - I'd heard that and they're trying to get chocolate out there using the agave too.

I hope that you'll be able to get your daughter to listen to the song .. the lyrics are gorgeous as is the rhythmic sing-song along with them.

I'm always amazed at how many things I find out about plants .. quite extraordinary .. and we humble humans know so little?!

So yo're absolutely right about the treasures the earth offers ..

& yes - I'm so pleased she can hear again .. long may it last!

Great to see you and thanks so much for being here .. Hilary

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Flowers are so beautiful and useful. They make us smile.

Glad your mother can hear the sweet voice of her daughter again. I'm sure you are pleased.

Very nice post. I love learning new things and today I did.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Teresa .. it's good to see you after the recent times - & long may they continue to improve.

Glad you love the flowers .. and yes being able to talk again with my Ma does make life happier and easier.

It's great to know that you enjoyed the pictures and little bit of learning .. lovely to see you here again .. thinking of you all .. Hilary

Karen Lange said...

Your posts are always full of such wonderful information! Thank you for sharing the photos as well.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. thanks for coming by .. just glad you enjoy the posts and the information I highlighted .. the photos just give it an extra boost .. and if someone perhaps doesn’t know what they look like it’s good to be able to identify them.

All the best to you .. Hilary

Dot said...

I mentioned the sunflower/Fibonacci connection briefly in a post once. Amazing, isn't it?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dot .. good to see ... yes - the Fibonacci connection is extraordinary .. but to find that you've posted similarly too - how interesting ..

Good to see you - great minds think alike?! Hope all's well .. Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

That is a wonderful poem about the Honeysuckle and Bindweed. Many parents should read it. Did you give us the whole poem or just excerpts?

Did you ever hear about how American Indians/Native Americans planted corn? It was a whole system. The plants relied on one another in order to all prosper.

Lovely photos, as usual. Sunflower always make me happy.

Jannie Funster said...

WONDERFUL news about Mama's hearing!! Her sense of humor always intact.

But Hilary, you Fibonacci tease, you! :)

Left. Right. We are much more alike than we like to admit sometimes.

I think I should very much like to hear the Karvy orchestra! And get my hubby to play the digeradoo to cut his snoring down.

And a Pete Wuebker honeysuckle photo -- what a treat!

Cheers and love from

Anonymous said...

I so look forward to a new post by you, Hilary, and this did not disappoint. Being an Aussie, I was particularly struck by your little known factoid about circular breathing in relation to didgeridoos. It seems logical now that I read it, but I have to admit that it's something that never occurred to me.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. great to see you and I’m so pleased to know your parents would like the poem .. the song via You Tube and the lyrics I linked to .. are both at the bottom of the post – so your parents and children! could hear the song and read them .. they are wonderful lilting words – I do hope you’ll come back and let us know their thoughts? Children at school – too ...?!

I didn’t know that bit about each plant of corn being dependent on another – but I have a post up my sleeve about one particular variety .. so now I’ll have an extra titbit to add in!

The photos seem to give the post an extra dimension & bring the words to life – I enjoy putting them in .. as I learn too .. I’d have never have seen the sunflower inflorescence, if I hadn’t been looking for pictures and information – eg their toxic use

Hope all is going well this week .. keep cheerful .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. it is .. isn’t it – so pleased Mum can hear properly – when she’s properly awake it will make the world of difference! She has wonderful repartee!

Well Fibonacci floored me .. and to write it in a sentence or two .. was too much! So another day – I have a few ideas on it.

Sadly the honeysuckle and the bindweed weren’t too alike – the lyrics are wonderful – hope you get a chance to read them and listen to the song .. it’ll get your musical and rhythmical senses going.

Ah! a visit to India ... after your trip to see Liara and hubby learning to play the didgeridoo .. where you can be in peace amongst the popping Karvy ..

And you picked up the other aspect re Pete and his honeysuckle photo .. it’s a beautiful picture – so great I could use it ..

Lovely to see you after your busy weekend .. such fun .. now the 10th year! Cheers to you and love from Mum, Hardwick and I to you, Blue Bunny and all .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tony .. you’re a star – thank you and glad it didn’t disappoint.

Actually if I hadn’t have gone off looking at the Didgeridoo article “just to see” .. I wouldn’t have read about the snoring and sleep apnea aspects ... and the potential help that may be obtained by learning the circular breathing techniques – then I couldn’t leave it out, as it may open a healing door for someone .. as it happens Jannie picked it up! So we never know where our posts will take us ..

Good to see you .. and your recent post about Cassy is lovely .. – thanks for being here .. Hilary

Davina said...

Yay, your mother can hear again. That's wonderful, Hilary.

Gorgeous pics in this post. I enjoy reading about Mother Nature and all her wisdom. I did not know that sunflowers can be used to extract toxic ingredients from the soil. I find that most interesting.

And... da Vinci's studies that those flowers track the sun moving across the sky -- It would have been interesting to have been living during da Vinci's time.

Joanne said...

Alas, fate kept the honeysuckle and bindweed apart. Oh can't nature parallel life in so many ways? I'm always intrigued how some flowers actually turn to follow the sun throughout the day, silently, beautifully. Unfortunately my recent sunflowers perished as seedlings at the hands of the neighborhood squirrels!

Talli Roland said...

I love honeysuckles and I always have. They're such a beautiful flower!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Davina .. thanks .. & yes .. she was chatting away to the staff earlier .. asking about life in Glasgow – one of the carers comes from Glasgow & Mum calls her ‘Mrs Glasgow’!

Thanks .. Pete Wuebker took the honeysuckle one. Nor did I about the sunflower being a toxic metal gatherer – really surprising to me.

A hard life Davina, I suspect, living in Medieval Italy – or any of those times .. we sure have it good now – but so wonderful that a great deal of da Vinci’s work is around for us to know about.

Did you pick up the “strong” .. I used? Bye – have a good Wednesday .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joanne .. thanks for coming by .. I know poor honeysuckle and bindweed – but the song says it all – just simply unsuited.

Sorry to hear about your sunflowers – wretched squirrels – perhaps next year you can get one to grow and watch it follow the sun .. if those neighbourhood fiends don’t want to eat in 2011 – unlikely I suspect!

Good to see you – Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talli – thanks for coming by .. as you must be so busy preparing for your trip – enjoy the holiday .. but as you say the honeysuckle is beautiful has a wonderful fragrance – I bring it in for my mother to smell sometimes – she loves it.

Have a fun visit back home .. Hilary

Mason Canyon said...

So wonderful that your Mom can hear again. Enjoy your post very much. Always fun to learn about flowers and plants, just wish I could keep it all straight in my memory. Have a wonderful week.


Thoughts in Progress

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mason .. thank you - just glad you enjoy the posts .. you can always do a search .. or email me if I can hunt it down?!

Thanks re my mother .. it will make such a difference .. Our massage therapist yesterday left me note saying they'd had a wonderful chat .. and Mum enjoyed her visit, then the vicar came .. so she was quite busy.

I hope she'll be awake now when I go up .. good to see you and thank you for stopping to comment .. Hilary

Sara said...

Hilary -- I really enjoyed this post. I loved learning about misalliance, inflorescence, and how the didgeridoos may help people reduce their snoring and sleep apnea. Maybe I can get my boyfriend to learn the circular breathing technique:~)

I liked the story about the flowers -- one goes towards the sun and the other climbs counter clockwise. You always teach me something new:~)

I'm also glad that your mom can hear again...that's so cool:~)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. thank you! The mix eventually came together .. & I’m pleased I put the bit in about the snoring and sleep apnea .. it seems to be ringing bells – for those ladies’ with snoring partners!

Well if I hadn’t been to the concert/performance this would have passed me by and I do so love Flanders and Swann’s songs .. they‘re just lovely: and they teach us so much.

& yes – she can hear again .. and is setting the pace from her bed .. it’s fun trying to keep up with her – she has some wonderful ideas! Thanks – great to see you here .. good luck with the snoring?! - Hilary

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Beautiful post, Hilary! This might seem like an odd question, but do you have Hummingbirds in England? Our humming birds really like flowers that are trumpet shapes.

I'm so glad to hear about your Mum! :-)

Arlee Bird said...

Plants amaze me. To think you can just put a seed in the dirt and it can eventually turn into an intricate plant is as baffling as it is amazing.
Honeysuckle has been a favorite frangrance since I first notice them in Tennessee.

Muatn't forget one major use of the blue agave plant--- Tequila!
They must have to grow an awful lot of agaves to make as much Tequila as they do.

Tossing It Out

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi RS .. great to see you .. and you’re right I hadn’t realised until last year that plants can absorb metals .. and are being used in clean up operations .. mine dumps etc .. and now at Chernobyl – the beautiful sunflower.

Again – if we could just help Mother Earth a little, we’d all be living in a healthier cleaner world .. and in due time living in a paradise state – but that is very forward thinking!

Really good to see you .. have a lovely day .. Hilary

PS I’m answering your comment – it’s got lost in the web workings somewhere since I hit the publish button – it will appear sometime .. I hope & think!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sharon .. thank you – glad you enjoyed it. No – not an odd question .. but we don’t – hummingbirds are only found in the Americas .. Tierra del Fuego north to southern Alaska and the Caribbean in the middle!

They are incredible birds and to be able to see them hover to drink the nectar as seen on tv – is extraordinary .. wonderful little creatures. They’re nectarivores .. and have other amazing attributes .. – thanks for asking: it’s taught me a thing or two .. perhaps to share one day?!

Thank you .. yes .. as Mum said "I'm back!" It’s good to be able to talk to her .. thanks Sharon – it does make such a huge difference .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Arlee .. they do stagger one don’t they .. just to put a little apparently dried bit into the soil & hey presto it bursts forth to the sky, or twists and turns its way through the undergrowth. Honeysuckle in the warm evening air, as you’d get in Tennessee, fragrances its surroundings .. I expect it grows all over the States .. – is Tennessee where you’re originally from?

& no I didn’t – but there was so much else to mention – the booze got left out! .. Weber blue agave plant gives the 100% blue tequila its specific name. There are other beneficial aspects of tequila .. one word of warning is it needs to be handled with care .. the sap can cause a major irritation. I didn’t look into the quantity of agave grown! .. but it’s mainly in Mexico.

Thanks for adding in Tequila .. good to have the information in the comment section – enjoy today .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

You have so much interesting stuff in your blogs. Love the honeysuckle poem. Did not know that about heliotropic flowers tracking the sun's journey across the sky. And thanks for the tip to help sleep apnea, which I have. Time to take up an instruemnt anyway.

Stephen Tremp

Betsy Wuebker said...

Hi Hilary - The bindweed resembles what we call the morning glory here, which is a lovely twine-r as well. The little rhyme is just delightful. Such a wonderfully bright post. Thank you so much for including Pete's photo. It's of a honeysuckle I lifted from my former house before we were married and I moved in here. The hummingbirds love it.

And so happy to hear about your mother's hearing. How nice it must be for you and her both!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Stephen .. good to see you .. and to know that the didgeridoo might be the answer for your sleeping problems .. or the mechanics of circular breathing, rather than the didgeridoo itself! I’m so pleased I put that bit in the post.

I love the Flanders and Swann songs – so beautiful and well crafted, yet so glorious to listen to or sing along too .. I’m delighted you enjoyed it.

I did know that some flowers are heliotropic .. but one forgets ‘the fact’ in the scheme of things .. and I hadn’t realised Leonardo was the first to actually note them in his journals.

Thanks for being here – Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betsy .. you’re right .. in South Africa it’s called a morning glory and isn’t so much a weed, as it definitely is here in the UK.

So pleased that Pete’s photo of the honeysuckle came out so well – such a deep coloured variety – and here it is recorded for posterity! Plants are amazing – that we can uproot and replant them & they live on. Interesting that hummingbirds love the nectar .. the bees here in England flock to it.

Yes – I’m so happy my mother can hear again .. thanks so much for the thought – enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

Chris Edgar said...

Hi Hilary -- a horticultural Romeo and Juliet -- I guess someone had to write it. Beautiful digeridoo pictures as well -- I imagine learning how to play it is helpful for cultivating a singing voice too.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chris .. a great comment – a horticultural Romeo and Juliet .. Flanders and Swann songs are so clever!

Amazing how the didgeridoo keeps coming up in the comments – I so nearly left it out! With your musical skills it’d be possible .. mine – oh oh! Interesting to hear you support the fact it would help the singing voice too – if it was learnt.

Thanks for the great additional points .. fun to read and think about .. have a good weekend .. Hilary

Vered said...

"the weather has turned autumnal" - not here in California! Looking forward to the fall. :)

Patricia said...

What a blooming grand post and that your mum can hear - it is good! Wow thank you for sharing so much information and I have enjoyed reading this before I tuck in for the night - flowers are delightful. My cousin in law works with the aboriginal people in Aussie and I sent her your link to the snoring part...I am sure that working the throat muscles are always helpful - any way we can keep in shape.
Nice Pete W. picture....oh all these good connections indeed.
Learned a great deal about sunflowers and the rotation - did know about their cleanup qualities and the bind root looks so much like our pesky morning glory that threatens our yard, hedge and is as overwhelming as the blackberry bushes - right in the garden as prolific as the deer.

Thank you for your great sharing words...and nice to see your back and keeping us posted.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vered .. lovely to hear that you’re still waiting for autumn – does your Pacific fog disappear then? It’s still warm enough, but the chill is in the air .. and the leaves are starting to turn – today it’s gloriously sunny in a true blue sky .. later on who knows – this land of ours changes so often weather-wise in the course of a day! Enjoy the weekend – Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. wonderful words “blooming grand” .. thanks - & yes she can hear .. but she sleeps a lot – perhaps today she’ll be awake more!

Thanks for sending the link over to your cousin .. it’ll be interesting to hear her reaction and give us some more knowledge – the snoring reference came from the British Medical Journal 2005- link in Wiki under Didgeridoo!

Pete and Betsy were great in letting me use their pictures – any I feel like .. some other thoughts – just getting the posts out too! Did you really know about sunflowers being used for clean up .. interesting ... and the bindweed ..is similar to your morning glory – in South Africa it didn’t appear to be rampant .. but the plants had to be hardier as the climate is harsher.

The blackberries are good this year .. and I gather you have deer guzzling your garden produce .. we do have some wild deer still around, also wild pigs ..

Lovely seeing you and thanks for your comment – enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

... Paige said...

Opposites sometimes wind together more tightly

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paige .. you're right they can do - here I suspect the roots weren't deep enough .. poor plants!

Thanks for coming by .. Hilary

Liara Covert said...

The energy vibration and colorful auras of flowers remind one love expresses itself in infinite ways. I am also reminded of commemorative birth certificates available in Australia covered in native birds, fauna, flowers and other native creatures. Stillness speaks and so do sheets of quiet paper.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. flowers and flowering plants do bring us back to happiness and thus love – we cannot but be amazed at all their glory.

Ahh a recent event .. and quiet stillness in the registration .. I don’t think we do that over here yet – they do cheques .. but as far as I know commemorative birth certificates haven’t crept in – but perhaps under my radar!

What a lovely way to celebrate the birth of a new born with something beautiful and native rather than official. I love the way you express the comment .. ‘stillness speaks and so do sheets of quiet paper’.

Wonderful seeing you .. sounds as though all is well and you’re enjoying a busy new life .. happy times .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Everyone! ..Just to get my 'system right' ... I replied to RS Malari .. because I thought he'd commented here .. but no - it's on the plants as metal gatherers .. so off I go to correct that one & reply to him .. he must have thought I'd forgotten him.

See you all .. by & have wonderful days .. Hilary

Liara Covert said...

Next time you encounter a flower, listen closely to the energy vibration. Each flower communicates with you in subtle ways. One need not be an avid gardener to connect and appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. yes I will .. I buy flowers each week unfortunately - as I don’t have a garden .. for my mother – but she loves them .. today we have a heather, some yellow gerbera and lilies ... her gardening skills were exceptionally good ... and I’m sure once I get a garden I’ll learn lots .. for now we talk flowers quite often .. and she loves their scents.

Certainly we have always had bounty from the earth grown by my mother .. and the plants, shrubs and trees to admire and enjoy. We were lucky .. thanks – I shall communicate properly in due time .. Hilary

Tina said...

Oh wow. Do you have a gift for teaching through your writing. I thought it was history - because I read a history post - but you can take any subject it seems and teach us about it in a spell-binding way.
Gotta say, my favorite part was, as I was reading about my beloved sunflower, I was thinking, "Oh, I wonder if she knows what the Fibonacci sequence is." Of course you did.
That sleep apnea thing...I think I need to teach The Engineer how to play one of those...of course after 20 years I'm used to it...but still. Quiet would be nice...
Another home run, my new-found friend!
Tina @ Life is Good

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina - what a wonderful comment - you're a star. I enjoy what I write - the posts may be longish, but I've been educated in my 'research' and feel certain others will enjoy and be entertained too ... luckily everyone seems to be.

Glad you picked up on the sleep apnea - that circular breathing technique is a musical skill ... something worth considering for Mr Engineer?!

Delighted you found this entertaining ... thanks - I did post about Fibonacci too - earlier this year:


Great to see you here .. cheers Hilary