Thursday, October 20, 2011


We have had a successful  crop of Turnips-  actually "crop" is a bit of a misnomer as I had only planted a small row. This is the first time I have grown turnips so next season more of this variety will get planted. Root vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet along with plenty of "greens" and fruit.  The variety was "purple top" :

Also noticed an Oriole flash out of a large elkhorn so I suspected a nest and found this after fetching a ladder :

It was in amongst the top of this large elkhorn.  The Olive backed Oriole (Oriolus sagittatis) has such a lovely call. I have mentioned it before (in November last year).

Monday, October 17, 2011


 Tanacetum parthenium

This herb is of interest to me medically for two reasons - as a treatment for migraines and also for chronic back pain. The information following is not a treatment recommendation or endorsement and the best treatment for you may not be this herb.

It belongs to the Asteraceae (daisy) family. The name feverfew is either a corruption of featherfew referring to the plant's fine feathery leaves, or from the latin, meaning fever reducer. It has small daisy like flowers , the leaves are soft and easily crushed with a scent of a hint of camphor. In form the leaves are a little like Herb Robert and mine are about 1x2cm in size, although only recently planted, so there is no flowers and the leaf size may become larger. It comes from the Balkans area originally.

There is a long history of use of this plant with Dioscorides from about AD 65 in “De Materia Medica” recording uses for this herb probably for headaches. The parthenium part of the name possibly relates to the Greek “parthenos” meaning virgin – referring to young women using the herb for menstrual problems. An alternative explanation is from Plutarch who wrote the herb was used to treat a worker who had fallen whilst helping to build the Parthenon in Athens.

Culpepper wrote in the Middle ages that it was used for female problems and for “pains in the head”. It seems to have been used extensively throughout the ages in Europe and a similar species was also used by the Chinese for much the same medical ailments.

The active ingredients seem to be mainly a compound called Parthenolide - a sesquiterpene lactone. This group of chemicals occurs widely especially in the Asteraceae family and can be toxic, especially to grazing animals.

Medical research: (Pubmed - search term “feverfew” - number of abstracts was 254)

Abstract 1: Parthenolide and a synthetic variation had anti breast cancer effects in vitro.
The effect seemed to have been due to downregulation of messenger RNA and some cellular enzymes.

Abstract 3: The effect of Cocaine (dopamine release in the brain) was blocked by Parthenolide. Nicotine also causes release of Dopamine and thus Feverfew might be useful to help stop smoking.

Abstract 5: Another anti-cancer effect reported. This one against bladder cancer cells but was once again only an in vitro study.

Abstract 6: A double blind placebo controlled trial ( that is the best type of medical study) on feverfew and ginger for migraines. The results were about 2:1 in favour of feverfew - at 2hrs 32% feverfew patients vs 16% placebo pateints were pain free and 63%(feverfew) vs 39% (placebo) had pain reduction.

and finally :

Abstract 15: This explains the traditonal use for menstrual problems . Feverfew was shown to enhance platelet production and function.

There is lots more published medical research on Parthenolide and it broadly has anti-inflammatory, anti-pain and anti-cancer effects. Side effects eported include mouth ulcers and when an extract of the plant is used topically it can cause dermatitis (skin rash).

I think it has a role in the management of migraines – for prophylaxis and acute treatment. As to dose, I'm not sure about that, but 1-2 leaves/day would be reasonable, and like Gotu Kola, maybe don't use it every day and have a blood test after 1-2 months to check blood count (platelets), liver function and the like. The more I delve into weeds and herbs the more impressed I have become and it is really surprising how traditonal uses are often justified by current research findings. However the devil is in the details- how much to use and what side effects.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lousiana Irises

Anne has collected several colour varieties over the years and they are flowering at present:

All bar the last are in full sun  -south facing -  behind the Granny flat - that area drains any rain from the back lawn so it tends to stay damp for longer after rain.  The last photo is a plant growing in the frog pond -  also thriving.

We had a storm this afternoon with a few minutes of hail -  no damage but I bet some parts of SEQ were not so fortunate. The last time we had hail was quite a few years ago - I had just laid some of our driveway and it was pock marked much to my chagrin.

Garden Arch

Another project recently has been the construction of a Garden arch - using some wrought iron railing as the basis of the uprights. These came from our daughter's place when they were renovating and I just knew they would come in handy!
As they were only about 1.8m long I constructed a plint of rocks with concrete infill to set the old rails into an upright position. The rest of the construction was 100x38mm treated pine - uprights and plates for the roof  structure.  The roof structure was made from some recycled 75x 38mm hardwood  with pine battens to finish. Setting the roof up  was interesting - I set  the ridge board up on a couple of temporary bits of timber running between each upright and then attached each rafter (there were only 6) 
We plan on planting hoya or some other climber to grow over it.  This arch marks the start of a gravel track leading to the frog pond and down into the front part of our garden

The Fraser Island creeper (Tecomanthe hillii) is in flower in the foreground

myrtle rust

We have only had one plant affected thus far -  a Eugenia jambos or Rose Apple.
I initially carefully pruned off affected parts but it soon recurred so that plant has been taken out- fortunately it was still quite small. As we have lots of Myrtaceae plants in our garden I didn't want that one plant acting as a focus of infection.  Interestingly we have other  Eugenia jambos and they seem clear of this disease  - so far anyway.