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` Meehania cordata
Meehania cordata
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When Thomas Meehan, a Philadelphia Botanist, died in 1901, I'm sure that he departed for that big forest in the sky feeling proud that Nathaniel Lord Britton (1859-1934), named a genus of plants in his honor. I'd also bet that he didn't now how wonderful his namesake plant was.

In fact most people don't know how wonderful Meehania cordata is.

Charles and Martha Oliver are proprietors of the Primrose Path Nursery in Scottdale PA, http://www.theprimrosepath.com/ and are dear friends of mine. I'd noticed  Meehania cordata listed in their catalog. After reading their description and hearing  them extol the virtues about how charming  this little plant was, I asked them  to please bring me one on their upcoming visit. I had requested  one the year before, but it always seemed they were sold out. So I was emphatic that I must have one, and intimated that should they not bring me one,  they may end up sleeping in my barn that chilly Autumn night.

Tiarella, Heuchera and Heucherella are the main focus of their breeding work, so we had planned a day of Tiarella hunting in Wolfpen Hollow, a hauntingly mysterious woodland area near my farm.  We'd  just descended a summit into the foggy creekbottom when I heard Charles laughing hysterically behind me on the trail. Thinking that I must have had a hole in the back of my pants,  I turned to see what he found so amusing and saw him pointing to the ground. There, all around him, the ground was covered with "Meehans Mint"

Talk about getting caught not "practicing what you preach". Me, who in all of my lectures on Native plants makes a point  of telling people to  "look in your own backyard"!  Well, after I recovered from my initial embarrassment, we looked further,  and found  the entire West facing slope of the hill down to the creekbed was a veritable carpet of dark, almost glossy green, cordate, ( heart shaped, hence the specific epithet cordata) leaves, vining over rocks and decaying tree limbs basking in the deep shade of the Hemlock and oak woods above the water.

I took some cuttings, not knowing whether they would root so late in the season but I had a gut feeling of optimism. Sure enough they rooted in a matter of weeks.

The following Spring, I checked in on the population and found that the new growth was thick and lovely.  In June, I went back to observe the flowers and found a sea of lilac, pink and lavender trumpet like blooms at the tips of the stems. They reminded me very much of Scuttellaria, another member of the mint family and close relative of  Meehania.

In my garden,  now having many plants from the rooted cuttings that I overwintered under a dark bench in a poly tunnel (another testament to the virtues of Meehania is how deep a shade it thrives in), I  proceeded to plant them under a small grove of Lilacs and Viburnums. They responded to the rich humus that had accumulated under these older shrubs and almost immediately started to wind their way around on the ground.

Taxonomically speaking, Meehania cordata is in Lamiaceae (The Mint) family). In North America Meehania cordata is a  montypic (single) species in the genus.  Its reported range is from SW Pa to NC and TN. Its heart shaped leaves are on the petite side, averaging 1-1 1/2 " wide at the petiole and are about 1" long. I suspect that it is hardy to zone 4, maybe even 3.

I know of at least one other Meehania species in cultivation, that being Meehania urticifolia, Meehania cordata's Asian cousin. It can be found growing through the woods of the  mountain forests in the Honshu area of Japan. The specific epithet urticifolia refers to the nettle like foliage.

Propagation of Meehania cordata is also very easy from stem cuttings and by division.

Meehania cordata is one of the best plants  I can think of for those dark and foreboding corners of the garden where there isn't enough light for most other plants. Even if it didn't have the added benefit of those really bright colorful flowers, I would recommend it as a very useful groundcover.

You can read more about Thomas Meehan,  writer, editor, nurseryman and horticulturist at:
http://www.hcs.ohio- state.edu/hort/history/140.html and Nathaniel Lord Britton,  who was the first director of the New York Botanic Garden at:  http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/~alroy/lefa/Britt on.html

Tim Rhodus of Ohio State University,  one of my early Internet Gurus,  and a few other folks have put together a really neat site about the History of Horticulture.  It is a searchable database,  based on a course that Professor Freeman S. Howlett taught in the late 60's, titled "The History and Literature of Horticulture: From Earliest Times to the Present." The information presented therein constitutes Professor Howlett's course outline that was distributed to students. A copy of his Course Preface is also provided. You can visit this site by going to: http://www.hcs.ohio- state.edu/hort/history.html

Guess what.....more anagrams.....Hubert Agback of Uppsala Sweden writes "The most elaborate group of anagrams I know about is Filago, Gifola, Ifloga, Lifago, Logfia, Oglifa. This series was started with Filago in 1753 by Linnaeus Then came Gifola, Ifloga, Logfia in 1819 by Cassini who added Oglifa in 1922 Finally Schweinfurth & Muschler added Lifago in 1911. If all this is due to a twisted sense of humour or a sad lack of imagination, I'm not sure".  Thanks Hubie.  Anybody have anymore???

A complete set of back issues of "Glick Pick of the Week" is available for the asking. If you would like me to send them, or if you would like to first see the list, send me an email. Also, if you're getting more than one copy of this weekly mailing, or would like to subscribe a friend, or for some crazy reason, to unsubscribe, let me know.

2000 Barry Glick and Sunshine Farm & Gardens



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Last modified February 24, 2009
URL: http://www.sunfarm.com/picks/meehaniacordata-120903.phtml