Shawnee News-Star Sunday April 8 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg Here's something to take your mind off of the dyed eggs, fingers and white porcelain sink that took on every color in the rainbow, the chocolate bunnies and peeps you secretly consumed, the Easter ham, asparagus, potato salad and the Easter bunny cake cloaked in coconut, […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday April 8 2018

Flowering Rue

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Here's something to take your mind off of the dyed eggs, fingers and white porcelain sink that took on every color in the rainbow, the chocolate bunnies and peeps you secretly consumed, the Easter ham, asparagus, potato salad and the Easter bunny cake cloaked in coconut, jelly beans and red lace whiskers.   Okay, I just described an Easter from my past, but I never tire of celebrating with family and the fresh spring flowers each Easter brings.

Global Weather Oscillations (GWO) have reiterated their hurricane prediction for 2018.   The storms will be destructive.   Hurricane season runs June 1st through November 30th for the Atlantic Ocean, and May 15th through November 30th for the Eastern North Pacific Ocean. For those of us who are beach freaks or are lucky enough to reside on a beach, the hurricane is always a sword of Damocles hanging over everyone's head by a hair.   My favorite place, the Outer Banks off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina (200 mile strip of barrier islands and spits with one road that periodically vanishes under sand or washes away) seem to be in the direct line of fire.  During the last Nor'easter in early March, seventy cargo containers collapsed or fell off a ship17 miles offshore in rough seas.

Why does the GWO think this year will be bad?   Ocean temperatures are much warmer, especially in the Caribbean and Atlantic near the US.   The Bermuda-Azores High Pressure Center will swing back in place, helping storms maintain strength if they move toward the US.   Third player is the El Nino.   If the tropical South Pacific Ocean temperatures really warm up and a weak El Nino develops, hurricanes can be strong; if the El Nino becomes strong, hurricanes intensity drops.

The GWO thinks 4 major hurricanes will hit the US this year, along with several that are strong enough to earn names.   The 2018 list:   Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helen, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, LeslieI sure hope they don't have to use William.

Resplendent Tom Turkey

I knew some of my relatives were not into coloring eggs for Easter, so cups were partially filled with vinegar and dye tablets.   When the tabs finally dissolved, the solution was mixed with water and each cup received a warm hard-boiled egg. A picture was taken of each step until the second set of eggs began their dye bath.

I heard gobbling. Grabbing the camera I quietly opened the front door and walked out onto the porch. To the side of the house strutted a male tom turkey in front of his harem of four females.   They seemed to be oblivious to his amazing display, but he proudly puffed out his chest, spread his tail and dropped his wings so the tips touched the ground while defiantly staring at me and my camera.   I took a few long-distance shots and left them to it.

From there I walked to the greenhouse.   The daily temperatures the week after Easter were having a merry up and down ride on a roller coaster.   I plugged in the two radiators that had been disconnected and hauled inside the glasshouse the pepper plant and rue that had been enjoying the outdoors for days.   Winter was doing an encore presentation.   Two nights were predicted to drop below freezing and the rue was blooming, albeit well out of season. I did not want to risk the vulnerable flowers being damaged by a late freeze.

The ornamental herb Rue (Ruta graveolens) can tolerate our Oklahoma climate but it is not a native plant.   Rue's home is the Balkan region that stretches from Slovenia and Croatia westward into Turkey.   Besides using the cleansing mint of Hyssop, the 'herb-of-grace' (another name for Rue) was also employed by early Roman Catholics to sprinkle holy water.   This custom actually comes from an earlier Roman ceremony when a Laurel branch was used to purify swords, spears, daggers, armor and other equipment after a battle.  Laurel wreaths were symbols of victory.

The Romans brought herb-of-grace with them to England but called it Ruta.   Ruta in Greek means to set free; in Hebrew, the baby name Ruta means friend.   The English shortened Ruta to rue which sounded too close to their word for sorrow.   Nothing further from the truth unless you are sensitive to its sap. You will then rue the day you touched the plant.  The 'graveolens' part of the scientific name is Latin for strong or offensive odor.   Rue leaves are pungent; it is in the same family as citrus plants. Small bees and wasps are rue pollinators. I purchased my Rue because it is a host plant for Black Swallowtail and Giant Swallowtail butterflies.   They lay eggs on the plant and their offspring, the caterpillars, eat the leaves.

In the past, Rue has been used in perfumes, foods and medicines.   The plant does have disinfectant properties, tastes very bitter, and is rather toxic to humans.   Handling Rue is best done wearing gloves to prevent skin irritation.

Rue is supposed to bloom mid-summer.   My plant is in flower because it has been incarcerated in the warm greenhouse for months. The perennial may reach 3 feet in both height and width, prefers much sun and, once established in gardens, can tolerate drought and heat.   The blue-green leaves resemble fat little fingers that set off the weird little flowers each composed of 4 or 5 notched yellow petals.   The stamens splay out between the petals to the side like skinny arms ending in tiny fists. The very middle looks like a green pea divided into sections.   A short yellow stalk sprouts directly from the center and supports the sticky pollen receptor.   This is where the R-rated action is.  Avert your eyes. The pollen lands on the tacky tip and a pollen tube grows down inside the stalk into the ovary where the eggs cells are waiting.   Fertilization happens.  The plant becomes pregnant with countless little embryos all housed and growing within protective seed coats. Plant sex involves pollen and eggs. Eggs.   Oh no.   The eggs were still in the dye cups.

Basket of Easter Eggs

I dashed back into the house.   Those forgotten eggs had deep, rich hues except the pink egg.   What is there about pink?   Even if the egg had stayed in the pink solution for days, it would still be the color of pale, well-chewed bubble gum.

Easter eggs can make brilliant eye-catching egg and potato salads.   Go for it.