Saturday, August 24, 2013

Inula helenium (elecampane)

I don't know what I was expecting 3 summers ago when I planted the seed of Inula helenium, but it sure was not this. It's quite a disappointment, especially for the long wait for flowers. It has big leaves that stay close to the ground till the bloom stalk starts to form. The leaves are light green, in spite of ample fertilizer and because they are long lasting and close to the ground, they get a tattered look that is not very appealing. The flowers themselves are nice enough individually, but not long lasting and the stalk winds up looking disheveled because of the spent flowers. I didn't try cutting the whole stalk (perhaps I should have), but the individual flowers are too short for cutting.
I wondered why it finally chose to bloom this year and thought it might be because of the ample rain, but a look at it's distribution shows that it appears in much drier places than the southeast. It originally hails from Europe and has been used as a healing herb as an expectorate and for water retention. Recent research indicates an extract of Inula can kill many bacteria, including the one responsible for MRSA. Maybe it has other worthwhile attributes that can substitute for beauty.
Horse-heal is a common name for it and it is usual use to day is in veterinary medicine.

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