Having found lists of obscure/obsolete color names and rounded out the alphabet with a few simply-charming-to-me colors, each day, I’ll introduce a color and a swatch I’ve painted and then write about whatever comes to mind as I muse about the day’s color. Fair warning, my mind is a non-linear traveler, so who knows where my contemplations will take us.
R is for…
Rose Madder – rose colored
A rose-colored pigment made from the roots of the common Madder plant, Rubia tinctorum, was first used to dye fabrics. Evidence of its use in Egypt, Greece, and Rome dates back to at least 1500 BCE. It arrived in Europe with the Crusaders and was being cultivated widely by the 13th century, mostly in the Netherlands. In the early 1800s, a more efficient extraction process was discovered, which produced a more vibrant, stronger pigment to boot. As an artist’s pigment, it is available in watercolor and oil.
I want to be clear that Madder is not a rose, but rather a herbaceous perennial with tiny flowers, and a red root that produces the pigment. But apparently, my mind is refusing to be serious today, because I had hardly turned it to Rose Madder, when it decided what it wanted to muse about was a madder rose. What would cause a rose to get mad, and then get madder?
That thought led me to remember a strange bit of info I came upon once when researching roses – the Rose from Hell. Not not a fairytale, but not exactly a rose either. However, it was reported in Popular Science magazine back in the early 1900s. Near the summit of the long inactive Agua volcano in Guatemala, strange plant life was known to grow. Because they were believed to be the only flowers that grew in the “lower world” and, having escaped through the crater from that region, were supposed to exist nowhere in the world except upon the upper portion of the sloping sides of the Agua volcano. The flowers were considered evil, and contact with them was to be avoided at all costs, lest one be contaminated. The flowers had small wooden stems, which ended in a quite large rose-shaped blob (often 18 inches in diameter) that had bark petals.
It turns out the wooden roses from hell are actually galls. The parasites are only able to attach themselves to new branch shoots on the host tree, hence the very short stem before the tree starts growing around the parasite in order to protect itself, causing the bark petals.
So not a rose, and not from hell.
One more musing, again not madder or rose related, but definitely on my mind. Thanks to a mention some days ago in the comments on someone’s blog, I’ve been pondering the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts, of the Lewis Carroll books. I remembered I had a wonderful dream about the Queen of Hearts once, and searched my dream journals and found it.
I’m standing in my backyard admiring a bush with amazing red flowers. The scent is intoxicating, and when I bend closer, I hear the flowers talking and simultaneously notice they are shaped like little red lips.
This discovery excites me – I turn to see if there’s anyone around I can tell. And that’s when I notice a cool table in the yard – small enough to seat one person, with a round silver metal top that has a black club (card image) painted on it. As I walk over to get a better look, suddenly, my grandmother is sitting at the table, laying out a spread with a deck of playing cards. She motions me to look at the card she’s just laid down – it’s the Queen of Hearts. But there’s a little tab on the heart symbol, and when you pull it, underneath appears another picture of a heart – this time an anatomically correct version. She flips the tab up and down, and the effect is the heart is sort of “winking” at me. This seems to delight my grandmother as much as me, and I start laughing. I think I really need to stop because the flower lips are whispering something, and if I could just quiet down, I could probably make out what they are saying. As it is, it’s just an intriguing buzz.
I confess to being a wee bit disappointed that the Queen, my grandmother, and the amazing talking lip-flowers didn’t make it back with me into wakefulness. But I’m certainly glad I got a dreamtime chance to visit with them all.
I think this Queen of Hearts might be one of my favorite postage stamps ever – a vintage beauty from 2009. I especially like that she is adorned with a flower and vines.
What about you? Are you familiar with Madder? Think the wooden flower is more magical than hellish? Ever have a dream about talking flowers? Do tell – you know I’d love to hear.