I noticed that the angelica plant, standing about 6 feet tall in my back border — either Angelica archangelica (European angelica) or A. atropurpurea (a native North American variety) — is a hotbed of insect action.
This morning (and afternoon, when I checked again), there were at least two different spiders and two different looking ladybugs on it. In the afternoon, one spider was eating a small fly, and I saw two more of the same size fly on other umbels. The pictures are rather poor, since the creatures are small and moving, but you get the idea.
I bought an Angelica gigas (Korean angelica) last week so I’ll have one in bloom again next year; the blooms on that variety should be deep burgundy!
Angelica is a very cool plant. It’s a biennial: the first year it grows a bit, the second year it grows a lot and usually flowers, but sometimes it doesn’t flower until the third year. After it flowers and seeds, it dies. Mine have never self-seeded in my garden, but recently I saw a whole field of them, nearby in Vermont, so it can happen.
It’s quite a sight, a field of these sometimes-seven-foot-tall plants topped with round spheres.
I think it smells amazingly good — sort of medicinal, sort of alcoholic, sort of floral — but not everyone does. It’s been used for centuries as a medicinal herbal, for varied and interesting conditions and purposes, and it was part of the official English plague remedy because it supposedly could “cure any illness, from toothache to the bites of ‘all venomous beasts’.” You can candy the stems, which have a “unique flavor … difficult to describe except by listing its components: musky, bitter, celerylike, aniselike, slightly sweet, fresh.” I tried to grow it several times when we lived in inland Maine and each time an animal dug it up and ate the roots. (Don’t eat it or use it medicinally if pregnant.)
<< Banner image is an angelica bud from May 2011. >>