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There was a post over at Growing with Plants a few days ago mentioning blackberry lilies that got me thinking about our local flora. I, too, lusted after the strangely exotic lilies for some time before acquiring seeds and planting some of my own. When they finally bloomed late in their second year, I realized there was a grove of them by a rural mailbox which I passed (at 60 mph) every day on my commute. So much for rarity.

Matt mentions:

In 1910, you would have found this plant common in gardens, but when was the last time you ever saw it in a garden?

Apparently, for me, last summer.

The area I live isn’t far from civilization, but it is still distinctly rural, lots of farms and farm families that still live on their grand parents’ land and remnants of little towns centered around now defunct schools and post offices that had mail delivered every other day from the train depot in the ‘city’ that is now less than a 10 minute drive away. There are a few houses like ours that sold their adjoining frontage to developers along they way, but for the most part, the area has the same population density it did100 years ago – it’s just a much more mobile population now.  And, it has some unique plants.

We, for instance, have a gigantic white lilac. Now, that really isn’t that rare of a plant, but generally, lilacs are purple. Except, not here. On my little drive into work in the spring, the white lilacs out number the purple ones. There are a lot of very similar daffodils as well. Of course, how much variation is there in daffodils? But there seem to be two predominant types here, a white small cup style that looks like a poeticus, but blooms much earlier, and another with a white outside and slightly flattened pale yellow cup. There are very few standard yellow daffodils, and the ‘local’ ones tend to be in enormous clumps in the middle of someone’s lawn rather than strategically placed in a bed. I get the impression they’ve been there a while.

I find this fascinating. One day, someone buys a lilac, or a few bulbs – something frivolous (and apparently her favorite color was white). And shares it with her neighbors five miles down the road. And it spreads. And people forget about it, but it’s still there. And it lives. And you get this strange, incidental, inherited continuity across the township. Somehow this is much more charming to me than all the McMansion developers planting the same junipers, sedum and maple tree in every yard.

There’s also rather a lot of trumpet creeper growing up the utility poles here to just be chance. I know our several other of our shrubs – like the forsythia and the mock orange – are old as well, but I haven’t seen them around other houses as much. Plus, forsythia isn’t a terribly distinctive thing, and it’s still popular and readily available – it’s harder to tell whether any given bush is a vintage pass-along, or a new acquisition from wal-mart.

I wonder how long those blackberry lilies have been growing by that mailbox. I wonder if the gardener even knows what they are, or just calls them ‘aunt sally flowers’ or a silly invented name.

One of these days I need to get up the nerve to knock on someone’s door and ask them for a division of those daffodils.