Thursday, May 17, 2012


Une belle plante
Tall and hardy, the asphodèle blanc, is a herbaceous perennial that has a marked preference for chalky soil in Mediterranean regions. (Don't we all? This one was seen on the island of Corsica during the month of May.) Thanks to its deep root system, the plant is fire-resistant and able to spring back to life out of the ashes of devastating forest fires. Although deep in the south of France it seems to have cropped up everywhere, including private gardens, the asphodel is a protected species. Don't be tempted to pick its flowers or to dig it up to transplant.

Ancient Greeks adorned grave sites with bouquets of white asphodels which they believed would help their dearly departed pass more easily into Hades' underworld. Attention, although the passage of a fire may be favorable to the spreading of the asphodel through a burned and ravaged terrain, association of this "eternal"  flower with the mythological Greek hell has nothing to do with the later imagery of the Biblical hell of fire and brimstone. The Greeks believed the underworld was a land of the dead divided into three zones; one was for those who were condemned to perform difficult and tedious tasks as punishment; another the champs-Elysées or simply Elysée, was a splendid place for those who had done virtuous or heroic works; and the third which shared the flower's name, was the Prè d'Asphodèle, reserved for the vast majority of average souls who had committed neither exceptionally good nor bad acts.

calcaire:  limestone; calcareous; chalky
une pyrophyte:  a plant that can resist fires
l'enfer:  hell; netherworld
un pré: a meadow

être une belle plante:  to be a beautiful girl or woman

Photo courtesy of Marianne Lecron
©2012 P.B. Lecron

No comments:

Post a Comment