I took a floriculture class in high school. It was taught by the most amazing and knowledgeable man I'd met on the subject (at the time), Mr. Ron Furtado. In his class, we learned about different flowers, when they bloomed, how to assemble them in various arrangements, and even what some meant. He taught me to appreciate flowers for not only their beauty but also for their meanings and uses.
In Leigh Archer's latest book, Magic Moonflower and Other Potions, her female lead Sophie meets a man like my former teacher. His name is Mr. Solomon, and Ms. Archer is here today to share a little about the plants and flowers he's used to encourage love to grow.
I didn’t set out to have a colourful bouquet of aphrodisiacs and herbal remedies running through the second story in the Untamed Safari Series. But, quite suddenly, a wizened old gardener stepped into the path of Sophie, my heroine, and presented her with a bloom and a bit of wisdom to go along with it. Turns out he’s name was Mr Solomon, gardener at Labour’s End as far back as anyone can remember and here are some of the plants and blooms he used to help love on its way.
Moonflowers are not indigenous to Africa but they are used by local traditional healers and diviners. Both varieties – Brugmansia and Datura – are believed to be sacred visionary plants. In South Africa, dried and powdered roots and leaves are used by diviners as a conscience-altering snuff. Dried leaves are smoked to induce euphoria and to treat headaches and asthma. Weak infusions of the leaves are taken for insomnia or used as an aphrodisiac by lovers. Its pips, in Afrikaans, are called malpitte or crazy pips. And here is the warning: taken in wrong doses, the plant can be toxic!
Scientists who’ve studied the plant have discovered that it has Gamma Aminobutyric Acid, or GABA, because you’re not going to remember that mouthful. GABA is a chemical found in the brain that’s like a natural tranquilizer – regulating the goings-on in the nervous system and inhibiting neurons from over-firing which can lead to relaxation and sleep. Too little GABA in the brain can cause anxiety disorders, depression, and various other nasties.
If you’d like to know more about moonflowers, African Aromatics write evocatively about them – http://africanaromatics.com/moon-flowers-fragrant-femme-fatale/
Apart from rooibos tea, buchu is the most loved and trusted herbal remedy for South Africans. The ancient folklore behind Agothosma Betulina, has been part of the country’s indigenous culture and heritage for centuries.
The plant has a distinctive sweet, lemony fragrance – an intoxicating scent. Dogs with their superpower sense of smell particularly enjoy this one so it’is widely used for canine skin ailments and stiff joints.
Unique to South Africa, it grows in fertile soils on the mountainous slopes of the diverse fynbos floral kingdom in the Western and Southern Cape.
The word, buchu, comes from the Khoikhoi word for plant and is an integral part of the cultural heritage of the Khoi and San. High in vitamins A,B, C and E, as well as minerals, antioxidants and flavonoids, it is used as a tea and perfume, as well as an antiseptic, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive tonic, diuretic, kidney tonic, stimulant, urinary antiseptic, and for bruises, leukorrhea and yeast infections.
South Africa has several versions of the sacred flower of Kama, Hindu god of love.
The climber – starry wild jasmine or bush jasmine (J. multipartitum) – is highly scented and a popular garden plant. If Starry jasmine is supported it will climb, but if not it will form a dense bush. South African jasmine (J. angulare) is an evergreen that bears clusters of fragrant white starry tubular flowers. Bushveld jasmine (J. breviflorum) is a scrambling shrub and bears sweetly scented small white flowers, while climbing jasmine (J. fluminense) is a large and vigorous evergreen climber with small fragrant white blooms.
On the African continent, roses were considered the most sacred of flowers by the ancient Egyptians and used as offerings to the Goddess Isis. Cleopatra was a fan – she apparently had the floors of her palace carpeted with rose petals.
The ancient Greeks believed that the rose was created by Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. White roses were said to have sprung from the sea foam which surrounded her as she rose up out of the sea. Another story tells of her lover Adonis, wounded by a wild boar. When her tears mixed with his blood, an exquisitely fragranced blood red rose grew.
As an author and reader of love stories, I wonder if flowers and their beautiful scents can ever be separated from love. I’d like to hear what flower best symbolises love for you.
Thank you, Ms. Archer, for taking the time to share that these wonderful plants and flowers are more than meets the eye.
Readers, don't forget to leave a comment, letting Ms. Archer know what flower best symbolizes love for you. And keep reading to find out more about her latest book, including an excerpt!
Series: Untamed Safari, Book 2
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Release Date: August 5, 2015
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Conservationist, Sophie Kyle, takes up a position on a private game farm outside Cape Town in the hopes of paying off her student loans, adding a glowing reference to her resume and indulging her passion for wildlife conservation.
Reuben Manning is a British businessman who has bought a game farm in Africa which he intends to use as a venue to entertain friends and business associates.
With the suddenness and intensity of a bushfire, a powerful attraction ignites between the conservationist and the tycoon, but Sophie has only ever wanted to spend her days in the African bush while Reuben’s life is corporate London.
As the sensuous bond between the two grows, they must find common ground or they are doomed to spend the rest of their lives a continent apart.
Other books in this series
Sophie was stunned to stillness for a moment, and then pulled back and shook her head. ‘You said: “I can’t let sex threaten everything I’ve worked so damned hard for.” That’s what you said to me the last time we spoke. Do you think I want to be a sexual distraction that threatens your life’s work? Some sort of addiction? Of course, not, Reuben, and that is why I must go.’
She stepped away from him; held up a hand when he made as if to go to her. ‘Did Mr Solomon ever tell you about the moonflowers he’s been putting in our bedrooms?’
‘I thought there was something special about those flowers,’ Sophie told him. ‘Didn’t you feel intoxicated whenever you breathed in their scent? He told me that those magnificent pure white flowers give off their intoxicating scent only at night. They are the embodiment of the romance of night’s darkness. A siren song of narcotic sweetness used by traditional healers and diviners to draw you deep into sacred dreams. He told me that weak infusions of their leaves are used as an aphrodisiac, but if the dosage is wrong, they’re deadly poisonous. You’re my moonflower, Reuben.’
Leigh writes romance novels set in her native South Africa. She has always had a love affair with Africa’s wild open spaces, the intensity of its people and sunsets. Her love of storytelling began as a child when she spent every spare moment playing barefoot in golden grass, watching wild creatures, learning to track spoor and dreaming up heroes and heroines dynamic enough to stand out in all the beauty and drama of the African landscape.
Always in search of adventure, Leigh’s journey as a writer has taken her from journalism through communications, to working as a novelist.