I love a challenge, especially about plant identification and I am a pretty good guesser. It was a small stick of a shrub, sticking out of a plastic grocery bag that held the roots and some soil. The stem was woody and the leaves were bronze, with pointy ends like a holly. But it didn’t really seem holly-like. I took a stab at it, “Some sort of Mahonia?” “Correct. Here you go, happy planting”, was the answer.
“Oh, thank you so much! I will plant it with the other Mahonias that are growing under the tall pines. They must like it there, I can’t seem to get rid of them, even after cutting them down to the ground and trying to dig out the roots.”
The above exchange happened several years ago, initiated by my postal carrier, Claude da Mailman. He would leave bags of plants or home made goodies at my front door or even inside the metal box at the street if it wasn’t too hot or too cold, with a little torn corner of an envelope with that name scribbled on it.
He had white hair and a white beard, almost a slimmer Santa Claus type of fellow. I learned that he was very interested in native plants, often being called over to rescue choice specimens when construction was planned. He was very generous and shared large clumps of blue eyed grass, Sisyrinchium albidum, and Spigelia marilandica with me. When he came around the corner of my street, he would chat with my neighbor Mickey if he was out gardening, then come on down to my yard and visit with me, too, if I was outside. I am usually outside.
He once gave me a large bag of freshly picked figs that had been given to him by another of his mailbox customers just up the street. He had given me cuttings from his fig tree, but they did not survive here. Fig trees were ordered and also bought locally but they are still quite small. Last year we did get to eat two of our own figs. I dream of having bags full of them to share. I did share many plants with Claude, having to press them upon him. I hope they still are growing in his garden or he shared them with others who could use them.
Back to the subject matter of this post, the passalong Mahonia. It is very different from the larger leaf ones that dot our older neighborhood, planted from the digested berries by gourmet birds dining in the tree limbs above. I have given up trying to remove these, Mahonia bealei, and move the seedlings to out of the way spots for the birds to enjoy. The berries are very beautiful and they flower in winter. If you can’t beat ’em…
But since Claude shared this smaller leaf specimen, I am assuming it is a native. Does anyone know it? Research leads to it being Mahonia aquifolium. Could it be? I have not seen any berries form in the few years it has been blooming size. Perhaps it needs another shrub for pollination? Whatever it is, it is treasured for the remembrance of a kind friend, who retired a couple of years ago and has not been seen since then. He did not live in this town, but commuted to our post office every work day. His replacement mail carrier is a young fellow, sweet and friendly, but Claude is missed. I hope he is happily spending quality time in his own garden now. He had told me that was his plan.
Happy Wildflower Wednesday! Please check out the other wildflower presentations over at my dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone’s place on the fourth Wednesday of each month.