Bergamot promotes health, peace, and patience

WILD BERGAMOT Monarda fistulosa

WILD BERGAMOT
Monarda fistulosa

By Orrin Morris

There are four Sundays in the Advent season. The first Sunday, last week, focused on hope.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah wrote words of hope to the Hebrew’s exiled in Babylon:

In those days, and at that time, will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land” (Jer. 33:15).

Amid the hopelessness of exile, the prophecy assured them that the Messiah of the lineage of David would come to save all who trusted in him.

This Sunday, the second of the Advent season, focuses on peace. John the Baptist’s father was visited by an angel assuring him of a son who would proclaim the coming of the Messiah with these words, “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).

The wildflower for today is not very common, so to find it and benefit from its beauty requires patience. In the same but more serious manner, those Hebrews that remember the exile of 600 years that passed from Jeremiah’s prophecy had to be patient for the fulfillment of his proclamation of peace.

Wild bergamot is also known as Monarda and, for obvious reasons, often mistaken for bee balm. Both plants are present throughout the U.S. Both plants have thin, rigid, hairy stems. Both have serrated leaves of similar size and shape. Both have deep green leaves that are affixed as pairs opposite one another up a stem that may be 2 to 3 feet tall. Both have flower heads composed of two-lipped blooms that stand aright.

The flowers of both plants’ colors are in the reddish range; however, the bee balm blooms are bright red while the bergamot blooms range from light pink (nearly white) to a pinkish-lavender.

The bergamot prefers dry sandy soils while the bee balm requires moist soil. The greenish bracts under the flower head flare out and downward for the bergamot, thus creating a cluttered and enlarged effect. The bergamot has a rectangular stem, and starts blooming in June and continues through September.

This part of the mint family was named after Nicholas Monardes, a Spanish physician who published a book on the medicinal values of plants in the New World. Wild bergamot was also called Oswego tea and used as a treatment for chills and fevers. Other American Indian tribes used tea from the leaves for headaches, sore throat, bronchial infection, acne and to soothe bug bites.

Rev. Orrin Morris is an artist and retired Baptist minister.  His weekly column appears in The Rockdale Citizen.

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Creeping Clover teaches us about the Truth of the Gospel

CREEPING BUSH CLOVER Lespedeza repens

CREEPING BUSH CLOVER
Lespedeza repens

By Orrin Morris

“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The Apostle John quoted this statement when Jesus was confronted with a moral issue, a woman caught in adultery. The Hebrew Law dictated that she was to be stoned to death.

Jesus used the occasion to position Himself as the “light of the world,” that is, the exclusive and faithful source of knowledge about the will of His Heavenly Father. In essence, Jesus said the moral judgments that He made accurately reflect the way God relates to mankind, that is, in redemptive love. (John 8:32ff)

We can be confident that God deeply desires our eternal redemption. That truth was stated by Jesus many times. Furthermore, we are given assurance that God will provide guidance through the presence of his Spirit (John 16:13).

For the Christian, this is comforting, but in the secular arena it is difficult to know the truth. Who is telling the truth? How can we know that we are being told the truth? When we cannot personally experience or view the facts, we simply choose to trust the opinion of a person upon whom we have come to rely.

One year in late September, as the weeds along the road were dying, I spotted a tiny pinkish-purple bloom amid the tans and browns at ground level. I knelt in the ditch and carefully separated the dead materials from the tiny vine. I had discovered another wildflower that was not in my collection.

After taking field notes about color, size (1/4 inch) and shape of the flower (pea-like); length of the vines (6 to 24 inches); shape, markings and size of the three-part leaves (1/2 inch), I searched my library for an accurate identification.

The three-leaf structure suggested it was a clover, but my University of Georgia source did not include it. My Alabama and Carolina sources provided no help either.

Finally, in the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers I found the creeping bush clover. Rather than being in the genus trifolium, it was in the lespedeza. Is it a clover? I think so and will include it in my list of wildflowers as a clover. Several well respected authorities do not include it in their books.

This brings us back to the question of truth. We live in a very strained time in national and world affairs. We choose whom we will believe. History teaches us that this is dangerous when taken to the extreme, dividing families and friends, nations and alliances.

The truth for the moment, as I see it, is that we need a healing of friendships, political parties, religious leaders and participants in international relationships, to name a few.

Pray with me that as Jesus, the Light of the World, said “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Wildflower teaches love for neighbor

VIRGIN’S BOWER Clematis Virginiana

VIRGIN’S BOWER
Clematis Virginiana

By Orrin Morris

The concept Jesus taught us when instructing us “to love our neighbor as ourselves” is of divine dimensions. We are to relate generously, putting the well-being of those who are the objects of our love above our personal desires and pleasure.

To love them includes making an effort to meet their needs and providing security, spiritual growth, self esteem, and emotional maturity.

On the other hand, much of what our culture means by love is self-gratification, lust and shallow manipulation.

May we put feet and hands to our words of love. May the examples of Christ in the Bible be the motivating force that breathes new life into our world.

Virgin’s bower is a climbing vine in the buttercup family. It is a native perennial that loves to climb on fences, or intertwine in shrubs up to about ten feet high. The vines do not have tendrils as grapes do, but the vine itself wraps around objects for support.

The 1-inch flowers pictured are males. The female flowers are less decorative until pollinated, when they look like the frayed ends of a ball of yarn. Each vine is either male or female.

Virgin’s bower needs to keep its “feet wet,” that is, if you want to find this midsummer wonder, check out moist ditches along our roadsides or around creek banks. This beautiful wild white clematis is a little hard to find compared to honeysuckle. Diligence is required to find virgin’s bowers during the blooming season: July, August and September.

The blooms are very fragrant and can cause problems for people who are allergic to airborne irritants. Further, people with sensitive skin often get dermatitis from handling the plant. Nevertheless, herbalists use a mixture of leaves and blooms to relieve severe headaches.

The broad diversity of plants in the wildflower kingdom is evidence of God’s love. I have documented over 300 different species since I started this column in 1997. They range from the tiny blooms of the pool sprite at the horse park to the giant 10-inch cotton rose. Some wildflower plants stay earth bound like bluets, while others, like the invasive kudzu, reach skyward. Each species is a blessing and a curse.

The fascinating diversity of the wildflower kingdom is paled by the diversity of humankind where there are over a thousand languages and dialects. The wildflower kingdom’s diversity is paled by humankind’s cultural styles and family practices including the range of male and female roles, the values placed on male infants versus female infants.

Whereas there seems to be natural factors that guide the wildflower kingdom, in the world of humans where we are called to “love our neighbor” is chaotic. Wealth and corresponding personal power over neighbors — whether family, employees, community, state, country or other nations — is the dominant value, even if it requires armed intervention.

Into this milieu of human chaos, God sees beauty in the hearts of 7.3 billion people (John 3:16-17). The simple three-word phrase “love thy neighbor” calls for an immediate and serious commitment because this very day there will be 68,000 more deaths and 162,000 more births.

May we put feet and hands to our words of love. May the examples of Christ in the Bible be the motivating force that breathes new life into our world.

This article is reprinted with permission.