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Articles - Issues Of Home Economics:

In April, the Judas tree is a cloud of pink blossom. You can't help noticing it, because the
Hazel catkins are worth close inspection, although, if you suffer from pollen allergies, you might
Hamamelis blossom appears in winter, the flowers are delicate bunches of gold or red strands. They
Winter jasmine, as its name implies, flowers in mid-winter – not because of climate change or
Many members of the Cucurbitaceae family – which includes courgette, pumpkin and cucumber –

Delicate flowers and amazing colours

Young pulmonaria flowers are bright pink. After a few days they turn violet and then vivid blue. Children especially find this transformation fascinating. Often a single stalk will carry pink, blue and violet flowers at the same time. Pulmonaria has a number of colloquial names, such as "Joseph and Mary", mostly referring to its two-colour flowers.

The colour change begins when a flower is pollinated. Pollination causes the acidic cell juices to become alkaline and the pink colour changes to blue. The colour change sends a message to pollinating insects: "This flower has already been pollinated, don't waste your time!". Pulmonaria blooms very early in spring and the main pollinators are hairy-footed bees and bumble bees. Their furry coats protect these bees, so that they can fly and collect nectar early in the year when temperatures are still low. So if you plant pulmonaria you'll have life and action in your garden when other gardens are still locked in winter sleep.

Plants and insects working together

By May or June, your pulmonaria will have produced small fruit with seeds. Once again the plant cooperates with insects. Hanging from the seeds are small fatty pods very popular with ants. They carry them into their nests to feed their young. This ensures that Pulmonaria seeds are widely distributed as many are dropped on the way to the nest.

The best place to plant pulmonarias is in damp shade or semi-shade under bushes or trees. This is closest to the way the plant would naturally grow in a wood or forest.

Kitchen and medicinal uses

Pulmonaria leaves are attractively spotted. Young leaves can be added to salads, older leaves can be steamed like spinach or added to pancakes and vegetable patties. The flowers are also edible – use them to add colour to cream cheese or quark.

In the past, people drank tea made from pulmonaria leaves in the hope that it would cure all sorts of lung-related illnesses, from coughs to tuberculosis. The white flecks on the green leaves were thought to resemble lung cells and thus to indicate the illnesses that could be cured. Scientific research has shown that pulmonaria extract has a limited therapeutic effect on coughs and inflammation, but the idea that a plant's appearance indicates its medicinal use is pure fairy tale.

Source: Anne Staeves, www.aid.de