Friday, June 8, 2012

The Mysterious Thorned Deer-Tonic

They have the look of scepters, they guard their rich green leaves well with spikes and thorns, as if keeping something very special safe. Maybe there is a tonic in those robust stems. Maybe an elixir in the head, furred with elegant spear-tips. It will turn a soft purple in the late summer, gentler than the color of thistles. I remember this from walking the Wildcat Canyon trail last July. They hold that seed-head, that pollen-orb, with spindles of green, a star. The top looks like the crown on the head of a chaparral queen, her wings the orange-black-silver of a varied thrush singing into the dusk, her body painted in creek-silt, her face a gray-fox’s, eyes tapered and dark.

I’m enchanted by these robust, spiked plants. My friend Cynthia and I, wandering the Wildcat Canyon trail in search of animal tracks yesterday evening, came across a thick crop of them in a field of hemlock that glowed as the late sun began to head down toward the ocean. We found them off the side of a deer trail through dry grass. We noticed the deer had munched the big leaves. They left nearby thistles and other greenery alone. They went for these leaves, despite the small white thorns.  Cynthia said: plants with thorns often guard something powerful in them. Nettles, milk thistle, hawthorn, they are healing.

Are the mother deer eating them to regain strength after giving birth in these last few months? Are they nudging their speckled fawns toward the thick leaves to make them grow healthy and big?

What is this green star-crown of a plant? Is it related to a thistle? Is it in fact being harvested at night by shape-shifting beings with thrush wings, fox faces, human hands, who weave the stalk-fibers into nets for climbing the stars and boil the leaves for stomach aches? This plant has a magic about it, and I’m spiraling into myth to give it a name.

If anyone knows, do comment below. 


  1. I'm fairly certain they are teasels.... I have a huge teasel crush myself. They are quite enchanting, no?! I love you dear cousin.

  2. Oh my goodness, how wonderful! It seemed inevitable that they were healing, but I didn't know how much. Thanks so much for telling me, I'm even more into them than before. Much love to you my beautiful cousin. Will I see you in a couple weeks at the reunion?

  3. Unfortunately no... I assume you know I've recently moved to Austin, Texas, and need to wait until funds & other things have settled a but more before I can make a trip back to California again. It makes me so sad, I think it may be the first reunion I've missed ever! You will all be in my thoughts, of course.

  4. Hi Sylvia, great site. I found it through my site's stats which informed me that someone had been referred from here, through the link you have. Thanks. Anyways, I'll tune in regularly for updates. I hope all is well in California. Maybe see you guys soon(ish).


  5. Hey, thanks Spencer! Glad you enjoyed. I've got some photos of the red brugmansia to send you, will do so when I get home from work. All is quite well in Berkeley. Hope to see you both soon here! My love to you and Katerina.