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Lass-in-green and a Damascene Sword. Nigella damascena (Melanthium damascenum), Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam, The Netherlands | by Rana Pipiens
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Lass-in-green and a Damascene Sword. Nigella damascena (Melanthium damascenum), Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Perhaps it was the gorgeous weather here in Amsterdam... our meeting didn't drone on and on like this kind of gathering often does. But the efficient chairman 'let us go' when there was still time for me to stroll to the quite wonderful Hortus Botanicus, formerly of the University of Amsterdam. A garden for medicinal plants had been established elsewhere in Amsterdam in 1638. Under the firm hand of Johanes Sinppendaal (1616-1670) - who published its first catalogue of plants in 1646, it became more of a real botanical garden. But it was dismanteled in 1665. The Town Fathers had other plans for the space it took: buildings. It wasn't until 1682 that the Hortus was re-invented where it is now in the Plantage. But to honor Snippendaal, I've included his name for our Nigella with parentheses in the title above.

This pretty light-blue and remarkably looking Nigella - a related Nigella (sativa) provides Black Cumin, and sometimes our weaker Nigella's seedlets are used in its stead - goes by many names: Devil-in-a-bush, Love-in-a-mist, to give but two. I think the Dutch 'Juffertje-in-het-groen', more or less: 'Lass-in-green', most evocative.

'Nigella' is a diminutive of the Latin for black in reference to the many, small, poppy-like seeds released from its ripe, roundish seed capsules. I'n not sure about the 'damascena'. It seems to me hardly to mean 'Nigella from Damascus'; possibly the reference is to the blue color. Damascus was famous for the manufacture of swords, and the best of these were fine-honed blue-gray in color, made from so-called Blued Steel. Perhaps someone out there on Flickr can enlighten me.

Whatever the case, this blue paired off nicely yesterday afternoon with the bright skies over the Hortus.

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Taken on June 16, 2010