Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Austere but Eye-catching Beauty: Sea Buckthorn

Sea Buckthorn: an eye-catching beauty.
image credit

There is a cute little flower and plant stand at our local mall that I pass every time I go shopping. In the leadup to our Thanksgiving feast-orama I kept my eyes peeled for something simple, sturdy and colorful that would make a striking yet understated centerpiece to the Thanksgiving table. If chosen correctly, this piece of foliage could also serve as an enduring autumnal-transitioning-into-invernal
centerpiece for the house.

Low-maintenance but beautiful was my game. With those prerequisites in mind, I knew flowers, unless potted, were out of the question. And besides, I did not want to go
the Poinsettia route although my family has established luck with those Christmas flowers.**

The flower stand offered a variety of evergreen wreaths, garlands, bunches of leaves and branches of many sorts - real or fake, bare or full of white fluffy poofs. But one thing caught my eye on day one and continued to do so until almost two weeks later when I finally bought it: a bucket full of tree branches with nothing but bright, brilliantly orange berries on them. I didn't ask the name then, though I should have. I just knew those two big branches of berries were my perfect centerpiece.

It turns out they are from a species of Central Asian / Eastern European shrub called Sea Buckthorn, and though deceptively austere in appearance - no leaves, no flowers, just berries and wood - the species is surprisingly versatile, delicate and above all, beautiful.

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Top 3 Interesting Things About Sea Buckthorn
the bold and the beautiful

3. Resilient Little Bugger
Though the berries fall off easily and they are an awkward and ostensibly delicate thing to carry home from the florist, these shrubs in their full and natural form are about as resilient as plants come. They can survive temperatures up to -40C (that's -40F for you Americans), and are drought AND salt tolerant. They can grown in sand, soil, you name it. Sadly, their resilience means they tend to spread and create ugly large thickets if not kept in check - and they have gigantic thorns when fully mature. Oh well.

2. Berry Good Indeed.

In the Cold War the Russians and East Germans developed a new and improved Sea Buckthorn plant that was tougher, more resilient, yielded more berries, and spiked only westerners with its thorns. Ok kidding about the last part but I guess you could kind of call it the "communist sea buckthorn." :)

The reason they did this is because of the possible precious nature of Sea Buckthorn berries. While nothing has been proven as to their possible benefits with regards to things like cancer or other diseases, we do know that they contain almost 12 TIMES the Vitamin C of oranges, and can
be combined with other sweeter, less astringent juices to make a delicious breakfast smoothy!

1. "She's a Beaut, that One."
There are male and female Sea Buckthorns, which makes sense since the name sounds like some kind of mythical creature out of Harry Potter.

The female, of course, is the only one that bears the much-sought berries. And I say much-sought with no socio-political agenda in mind. I say sought-after for one very simple rea
son of great importance to an aesthetist such as I: their eye-catching beauty.

Or in technical terms:
"The combination of fruit shape and size, together with the contrast between the colour of the fruit and leaves, contributes to the ornamental value of this plant."
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Here is one of my favorite shots of my lovely Sea Buckthorn branches:

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**My grandmother once received a poinsettia as a Christmas gift from a house guest. This was back in the 70s. She took it and planted it in her front garden. It thrived and is currently still alive and well, in tree form, in her front yard in Mexico City.
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  1. I love the detailed thought process that went into your seasonal arrangement, and can I say I think the results are well worth it. What a beautiful holiday addition to the apartment. Very festive indeed!

  2. They certainly are very eye-catching! They put red hollyberries to shame with their sunny color. This is the first I've heard of them and it's cool to know that they're edible (I still remember all those warnings in childhood about not eating berries from bushes!)

  3. Did you know that scientific studies about sea buckthorn focus on its effect on health heart and wound healing.Along this functional use, seabuckthorn is being used more and more for its nutritional purposes.

  4. Obliphica: I think I did read (and mention) something about that, but since my focus is more just on how "pretty" it is, I did not really delve too deeply! :) Either way, very interesting.