God’s Mercy Lasts Forever

CYPRESS VINE Quamoclit pennata

CYPRESS VINE
Quamoclit pennata

By Orrin Morris

Psalm 107 begins, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever” (KJV). This verse reminds us of God’s mercy. It is not temporary, that is, here today and gone tomorrow. It is applied to all sins, not favoring one infraction over another. It is available to all, not to only one nation or culture but to all people. God’s grace and mercy is available forever to everyone who will yield to His love and forgiveness.

The wildflower for today is one whose blooming season endures over many months, even until today.

Another name for the cypress vine is the humming bird vine. I like that name because it has became a major attraction for humming birds on my garden fence.

Cypress vine blooms are very similar to the red morning glory, but smaller. The primary difference is the leaves. The cypress vine has a delicate leaf structure that reminds me of miniature palm tree fronds, as illustrated. Technically they are called “even pinnate leaves.”

Cypress vine is a tropical plant imported for commercial distribution. As a very hardy species of the starglories in the Convolvulaceae Family, it soon went wild. This is not a recent phenomenon since one of my resources, copyright 1931, documents this fact (Seymour).

The flowers are scarlet red stars with a 1 1/2 inch tube, proportionately long for most similar shaped blooms, such as trumpet vine, yellow Jessamine, and dame’s rocket.

The vines are thin and twining. They may be as long as 15 feet or ascend to that height if an appropriate host is available. The preferred habitat is waste places where they may bloom from July to October. If you find one of these plants don’t try to cultivate it. It likes to be left alone, and when so treated rewards the owner generously.

The seeds may be taken to start a new vine but don’t make a fuss about it. Cast the seeds at the base of a fence and forget about them. It is highly likely you will have a cluster of vines with beautiful scarlet blooms next summer. However, one word of caution, the cypress vine can become invasive and difficult to eradicate except with a strong herbicide.

Remember again the Psalm, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.”  Mercy is unmerited favor and God offers forgiveness to all who call upon His name. May you express your thankfulness for God’s mercy in a place of worship this Sunday.

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Eastern Sweetshrub reminds us to “be still and know”

east

EASTERN SWEETSHRUB Calycanthus floridus

By Orrin Morris

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 ).

Wildflowers are objects of beauty to some and weeds to others. To some of us they are another example of God’s grace. That is, gifts from God that favor us though we do not merit such blessing.  They exalt God’s “in the earth” by their presence.

One of the unique delights we can look forward to in spring is the blooming of the Eastern sweetshrub. It was introduced to our colonial forefathers in 1726 but from what country or region is unclear.

The sweetshrub in my yard blooms for only a week or 10 days, but ooh what pleasure. To me, the flowers are the most redolent of all the spring scents. They waft the fragrance of apple butter cooking in Mama’s kitchen; however, others declare that the scent reminds them of strawberries. If you’ve never been around this unique blossom you’ve missed a treat.

This shrub grows to about 10 feet in wooded areas. Ours is among some pines, but most thrive on hills and stream banks on the edge of hardwood groves. The blooms are deep reddish-brown and measure from 1 1/2 to 2 inches across when fully opened. The dark glossy leaves are opposites and the blooms appear at the axil of each pair of leaves. The chocolate colored branches are smooth.

Two other common names for this shrub are Carolina allspice and sweet Betsy. The Eastern sweetshrub needs moist soil, so like most plants, they don’t do well during extended dry spells.

If you miss seeing and smelling the sweetshrub in our local area this spring, may I suggest you take a trip into North Georgia in June and watch for the shrubs along stream banks. One of the sure places to go is Amicalola Falls State Park above Dahlonega toward Ellijay, Ga.

Eastern sweetshrub can be found from New York and Massachusetts to Florida and westward to Louisiana and Missouri.  Wherever found, they remind us to be still and remember that God is exalted above all.

Rev. Orrin Morris is an artist and retired minister.  This article first appeared in The Rockdale Citizen and is reprinted with permission by the author.

Dandelion more than a pest, a delight of God’s goodness

COMMON DANDELION Taraxacum officinale

COMMON DANDELION
Taraxacum officinale

By Orrin Morris

In Psalm 65:12, the Psalmist rejoices in the beauty of the natural world God has provided. We can easily apply his words to the beauty we anticipate each year in the coming of spring.

The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.”

One of the harbingers of spring is the common dandelion. Once they start blooming, they are like medallions of sun shining about us. In fact, this season I saw several clusters in bloom.

Eight different names are used for dandelion, depending on the region or culture group you visit. These common names include blowball, cankerwort, lion’s tooth (after the shape of the leaves, which is the meaning of the common name), priest’s crown, swine snout, and wild endive.

Most children view the dandelion as a yellow delight of the natural world, spreading its joyous sunshine. We adults call it a pest because we want uniform grassy lawns. Of course, we adults overrule the children’s delight and the battle to eradicate the dandelion never ends.

Dandelions have a very long blooming season in the South. During a mild winter they may bloom all year. The long tap root must be completely dug up before a plant can be successfully eradicated naturally, otherwise a broadleaf herbicide must be applied.

Dandelions are widely distributed. They have been documented in every state and territory of the United States and Canada. They are in the Yukon, above the arctic circle.

Besides the effects of severe drought on the plant population, dandelions are also adversely affected by soils permeated with salt water and dense shade, as in hardwood forests with heavy undergrowth.

We should be grateful that dandelions are not the pest here that they are up North. As a kid growing up in Omaha, I learned there was a strict code of conduct regarding dandelions.  Mother would scold me if I picked a fluff-ball and blew on it to see the “parachutes” float in the wind.  People who were known as good neighbors taught their children better manners than that. Of course kids will be kids.

As a very young child, my baby-sitter introduced me to dandelions with the promise that if I let her show me a trick I would “get some butter.” In my mind that meant the greasy yellow stuff I put on toast for breakfast. That was not the case. It was a trick. She picked a bloom and rubbed it on my chin. The yellow pollen stuck to my chin like rouge.

During cold weather, the stem holding the bloom is very short. Those I saw earlier this spring were flush with the ground. In hot weather, the soft greenish-white stem may rise 6 inches.

The plant has been useful in spite of its pesky reputation. The young leaves can be picked and boiled as one of the “greens.” Its leaves, before the flowers form, have been squeezed into milk and warmed for a spring tonic. In the fall, the root has been steeped in boiling water as a tea.  Just another sign that, even when inconvenient, the many things God provides is something to behold.