|Harold & Frances Holt Physic Garden at UBC Botanical Garden
Of all the great gardens in Toronto, one thing that seems to be missing is a physic garden – a garden devoted to medicinal plants. These have been around since humans graduated from folk remedies to the science of medicine. Except that the infancy of that science was a little suspect.
Certain plants, it was believed, had been touched by God, leaving them with markings that were clues to their potential use (more on the Holt Physic Garden at the University of British Columbia below). That’s why, even today, we have a plant called lungwort or Pulmonaria. Its spotted leaves looked like a diseased lung, and it was thought to be useful for ailments of the lung. Of course, it wasn’t.
And it’s why we have Echium vulgare or viper’s bugloss, the blue flower in the image at the top. The markings on the stem and the shape of the spent flower had a snakey look about them – so of course they must be good for snakebite. But, of course, it isn’t.
This European immigrant is pretty, though, with intense purpley blue flowers. Viper’s bugloss has naturalized so freely in Ontario’s dry meadows and roadsides, it’s easy to forget how pretty it can be in a mass. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen it planted in a botanical garden.
|The story of the Holt physic garden, which is themed around Tudor/Elizabethan herbal medicine. I hope you can read it.