Monday, September 23, 2013

Love-in-a-Mist or Devil-in-the-Bush

click photo to enlarge
Can there be a garden plant with more contradictory common names than the annual flower, Nigella damascena? Love-in-a-Mist is delightfully evocative of the way the light, feathery foliage surrounds the modest but beautiful flowers. However, Devil-in-the-Bush paints quite a different picture and must surely refer to the seed pods, each wrapped in a net-like basket with multiple prongs, like a shroud of barbed wire. Other vernacular names are similarly inventive. Jack-in-Prison probably derives from theed pod and its surrounding entanglement. Love-Entangle may also be similarly inspired, though perhaps the "love" is the flower in the mass of lacy leaves. Hair-of-Venus must be based on the leaves too. A legend attaches to one of the names - Lady-in-the-Shade. The story goes that the Frederick I (1122-1190), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, drowned when trying to catch an enticing, green-haired water sprite. Lady-in-the-Shade immediately sprang up by the water's edge, a reminder of the tresses of the temptress. As is often the case, the Latin name of the plant is simply descriptive. Nigella refers to the small, black seeds to be found in the pod, and damascena comes from Damascus.

In my macro photograph of the seed pod that I plucked from the garden I definitely set out to illustrate the Devil-in-the-Bush and Jack-in-Prison names. Concentrating on the base from where the "prison" originates I photographed it against a black background in highly directional light and converted the image to black and white.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On