The Cactus Patch
Volume 11       January 2008      Number 01

Salt Marsh and Stately House
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

I goofed.  October was not as dull as recorded.  I left off the 9th when our money was finally transferred from Botswana (after several e-mails and phone calls which woke us up at 2 a.m.) And then there was the BB King concert at the Fox on the 17th!  He’s getting old, but still fantastic.

November was certainly more exciting, however. The 2nd was an opening of the botanic garden in Botswana.  Too bad I wasn’t there, but I’m glad to see it’s finally official. (I did get a garden hat.) On the 4th we went to the annual Taste of the Arts at CSUB.  Next day our household goods came from Botswana- 133 boxes (73 of them books).  We’re still sorting! Then on the 9th we tasted more of the arts at a concert by the CSUB Singers.  There are noticeably fewer of us old folks singing nowadays, but the quality was up to par.  On the 17th the Mayflower Society had its annual dinner and I spoke on my visit to Plymouth, England.

We migrated to Sacramento for our family Thanksgiving.  It was the usual overeating.  Our son, James, and his wife, Emily, and son, Michael, flew off to Arizona in the morning to have dinner with the other mother, Margaret.  Our older son John took us to the IMAX 3D Beowulf on Friday.  It is not quite the original story.  Next day we shopped for electronics and books in Roseville and toured the gimcrack stores of Folsom. On Sunday our grandson and his parents returned from Arizona and we drove up to Quincy where James fixes computers for the schools.  The Feather River canyon is still spectacular - did you know the Tehachapi loop is rivaled by another rail loop in this area?  The Oroville Dam was dreadfully low.  This was all the more saddening to me because I remember a summer at Bidwell Bar before the dam was built.

Quincy was cold and we all five came down sick so our stay was not the pleasant visit it should have been. After a quick tour of the town we settled down to watching episodes of “Wonderfall”, a series Polly & I missed. One high note was a book from Emily on “Culpepper’s Herbal Remedies” (C.F. Leyel 1979, Wilshire Book Co. No. Hollywood).  Emily was disappointed to find the plants are British* and thus not pertinent to Quincy.  The illustrations are poor, but the information is good. We drove back to Sacramento on the 29th.  The biggest wildlife spotted was a deer.  On the 39th we visited Kaiser Permanente where John works to see his exhibit of pictures for a Red Cross Fair.  He’s getting quite good - this year he has included a calendar of caves and other things from a recent visit to Guatemala- but he’s not quitting his day job.  That evening we returned to Bakersfield.

But enough of now.  Returning to our Cornwall visit, we are now up to the 18th of July.  In the morning we went shopping in Newquay and after lunch we went to the Gannel Estuary to see salt marsh plants.  As expected there was plenty of glasswort (Salicornia spp.), a world wide salt-loving succulent.  It is allegedly edible, but years ago I was served some by friends in Reading and found it to be much too salty.  Other plants seen were  Sueda, a relative of glasswort, Danish scurvy “grass” (Cochlea danica) which has a high vitamin C content and is not a grass but rather a mustard relative, sea arrow “grass” ( Triglochin maritimum) which is also not a grass but a reed related to Juncus, and sea “purslane” (Atriplex portulacoides)  which is not related to purslane but is a relative of salt bush.

Polly found a ball and exercised Hazel’s dog while we went on to look at other plants along the roadside.  There were South African mesembs on the rock wall, trees with hawthorn fruits and giant “dandelions” of the genus Sonchus.

Next we went to Trerice, a stately home which is part of the National Trust.  The gardens were not outstanding - mullein with moth caterpillars, orpine, spurges etc. - but the main room had a great display of 18th century games, crafts etc. which we were allowed to handle.  The gift shop had books and I bought “Wild Flowers of the Cornish coast” (Trevor & Endymion Beer, 2004, Tor Mark Press, Redruth).  It has excellent photographs (the cover shows Portland Spurge) and lists a few uses such as the “eringoes” made from the root of sea holly (see last month’s letter) which are said to be an aphrodesiac.  We had snacks in the restaurant and then toured a collection of lawnmowers in one of the barns.

On the 19th we went to Eden, but I’ll save that for next month.

* With exceptions such as purslane (Portulaca oleracea) which is worldwide. The succulent leaves and young shoots are “cooling to the blood” and they are much cultivated in Holland.  (In fact, the Dutch doctor in Chitipa, Malawi, back in the 60s grew this and served it to us.)

Polly & Hazel at the Salt Marsh


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