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What’s Blooming this Week: Lenten Rose

For this last week of Lent, our featured plant from the Mizzou Botanic Garden is helleborus orientalis, or Lenten Rose.  You'll find them blooming on the west side of Ellis Library.  The plants in the photo are just outside the entrace to Ellis Auditorium.

Lenten rose

Helleborus orientalis is native to Anatolia and was not introduced to European gardens until the mid-1800s.  It is grown primarily for its ornamental value. However, there are several other species in the hellebore family, and they were used medicinally in Europe for thousands of years.  In Medical Botany (London, 1790), William Woodville provides illustrations of two hellebores related to those growing on campus: Helleborus foetidus, or Bear's Foot, and Helleborus niger, or Christmas Rose.

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Woodville’s book is a work on plants, but he’s primarily interested in their medicinal uses.  Woodville writes that Helleborus niger was introduced in England in 1596, while Helleborus foetidus was “constantly used in medicine from the time of Hippocrates [and] was the only species of Hellebore known in the Materia Medica of our pharmacopoeias.”   He notes:

The smell of the recent plant is extremely fetid, and the taste is bitter, and remarkably acrid, insomuch, that when chewed, it excoriates the mouth and fauces; it commonly operates as a cathartic, sometimes as an emetic, and in large doses proves highly deleterious.  (54)

Of course, the Helleborus orientalis growing on our campus may have different properties than its cousins H. foetidus and H. niger.  It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: the information provided here is most certainly not meant to provide any form of medical advice!

Many thanks to David Massey, a research specialist at Landscape Services, and to Pete Millier, director of the Mizzou Botanic Garden, for lending their wisdom for this post.

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What’s Blooming this Week in Special Collections

Did you know that Mizzou is a botanic garden?  Our campus is gorgeous all year round, but it's particularly outstanding in the spring and summer.  We're celebrating the natural beauty around us with a new series that links Mizzou's campus gardens with the herbals, botanical books, and gardening manuals in Special Collections. 

We didn't have to go far to find inspiration this week.  These magnolia trees on the Ninth Street side of Ellis Library are show-stoppers every spring. Daffodils of several varieties provide a cheerful shot of yellow underneath. 

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We found images and descriptions of these plants in Curtis' Botanical Magazine, a publication that started in the late 1700s with the aim "to unite systematic knowledge with the pleasures of the flower-garden."  William Curtis includes several types of narcissus throughout the publication; the ones illustrated here are only a few.  About the magnolia, Curtis writes,"There is a magnificence about the plants of this genus which renders them unsuitable subjects of representation in a work the size of ours."  We have to agree; in person they're really amazing.

scan0014 scan0011 scan0016 scan0017 scan0013Apologies for my fingers; these volumes of Curtis are really tightly bound!  Special thanks to Arthur Mehrhoff at the Museum of Art and Archaeology.  Be sure to check out his Pride of Place website, which provided an inspiration for this series.

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The search for sustainable energy in 1869

Continuing our theme of engines, this week's pamphlet is Power without Fuel by James Baldwin, published in New York in 1869.  In this pamphlet, Baldwin explains his attempts to design an engine that isn't dependent on coal, wood, oil, gas, or other combustible fuel. His idea (he wasn't the first to think of it) was a variation on the carbonic acid motor: an engine that would run on a solution of carbon dioxide in water.  Engineers investigated carbonic acid engines as a possible replacement for steam power in the nineteenth century.  While the gasoline engine won out in the end, there are several turn-of-the-century patents for carbonic acid motors in the United States and Europe.  Today, we'd probably say that Baldwin was attempting to develop alternative energy, an endeavor which is one of the University of Missouri's four strategic research areas

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MERLIN catalog record

 

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