Friday, May 29, 2009

European elder

This small native tree creates quite a show in Spring with flat-topped clusters of tiny white flowers against a dense background of bright green leaves. The flowers are still occasionally used in simple rustic fritter and bread recipes. When fully ripe, the small, juicy, purple-black berries are made into jam and in times past they were considered effective prepared as a tradional medicine.

Scientific name: Sambucus nigra
Italian common name: Sambuco comune
English common name: European elder

Thursday, May 28, 2009


In spring the solitary orange-red flowers of Flanders Field poppies open on erect stems 8 to 24 in.(20 to 60 cm) tall. Some flowers of this species show a conspicuous black spot at the base of each of the four petals. The fiery splendor of great drifts of poppies in bloom is a favorite subject of landscape painters and photographers. They grow in sunny cultivated and uncultivated fields, pastures, stony slopes, roadsides and embankments.

Scientific name: Papaver rhoeas
Italian common name: Papavero comune
English common name: Flanders Field poppy

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Giant fennel

If we were to select a single native plant as a symbol of Sicily's spectacular spring flora it would surely be Giant fennel or Ferla. From a rosette of dark green, finely divided foliage Giant fennel sends up a thick, succulent bloom stalk to 6 ft. (2 m) tall in mid-spring. The rounded 3 in. (7.5 cm) clusters of bright yellow flowers that develop along the upper of this stem make a striking display of color and texture. Despite its similar appearance and common name, Giant fennel is not the true fennel of culinary fame. A simple identity test is to crush a small sample of the foliage. Giant fennel lacks the unmistakable sweet aromatic fragrance of edible fennel.

Scientific name: Ferula communis
Italian common name: Ferla, Ferula
English common name: Giant fennel

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Few plants of the Sicilian countryside match the colorful display of bright red flowers that clothe this low spreading herb in spring. Whether you see it as a roadside volunteer or cultivated in a pure stand covering scores of hectares the glowing crimson color of its blooms is an unforgettable sight. Since they offer a rich source of nectar the flower clusters are attractive to bees. In Sicily Sulla is cultivated as forage, silage or a hay crop for feeding sheep and cattle.

Scientific name: Hedysarum coronarium
Italian common name: Sulla
English common name: Italian sainfoin, French honeysuckle