don’t eat me! i’m not green (or even a plant)

peony-emerges2DON’T EAT ME; I’M NOT EVEN A PLANT! That’s part of the survival message that anthocyanin-rich emerging shoots of things like species peonies (above, which of course is a plant in disguise) and bleeding heart and others that are non-green in the vulnerable early going put out to hungry herbivores. “Can’t you see, I’m not even green! Chew on somebody else!” I love the wild hues of spring foliage color as much as I love these non-green pigments when they shout out in autumn. More on anthocyanins in a little slideshow from the archive.

  1. Cary says:

    I worried about my peonies and bleeding hearts when letting my free range chickens out for their first Spring feasting. Amazes me that they aren’t interested in these gorgeous treats. Actually, they have cultivated gorgeous perennial beds we inherited better than I could have. Not interested in voluminous daffodils either. Thanks for your great posts Margaret!

  2. Frances Roth says:

    I very much want to own a copy of the book “A Way to Garden.” Any chance of a new edition or a good used copy? I’ve searched.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Frances. Sorry to say it is out of print and has become “collectible” (meaning $$$$) so the best thing is to ask a local used book dealer to see if they can find one for you. I do hope to bring it back in some format before too many more years pass, but it’s not scheduled yet.

  3. Deborah says:

    Yes, I love the purple colors of spring growth on peonies and bleeding hearts. Thanks to you, I now know it’s all due to anthocyanins. Some of my epimediums first appear with reddish purple leaves also, and turn green later.

  4. John Hanna says:

    Not all garden pests are deterred by purple/red pigments. I have a problem with leaf miners on my beets and swiss chard and they seem to prefer the red leaved types. Joy Larkcom’s Midnight chard is thier favorite.

    1. Margaret says:

      You are so right, John. But some plants have used this as a tactic to avoid nibbles, scientists think, and attract early pollination. Fascinating. I am likewise besieged with pests this year on chard and beets and have eevrything under fabric cover (re-sowed and pinned down lightweight Reemay over the rows). Damn!

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