Kiwi or Kiwifruit?

Hello! It’s week five of the first month of our blog. Today we’ll talk about the West and West Coast and the flowers and vines you might find there. When I glanced over my list and further researched each item, kiwifruit stood out. Why?
First, I didn’t know the true name was kiwifruit. Kiwi is actually a nickname. My research further revealed that kiwifruit is grown on a vine, like a grape, and cultivated in a similar manner. Did you know kiwifruit is the most nutrient dense fruit? Kiwifruit is rich in vitamin C and potassium.
If you’re allergic to latex, you could be allergic to this fruit, because of its unique enzymes. Some of these enzymes break down milk and gelatin, so it is unsuitable for many desserts. Kiwifruit is great either raw or made into jam. Recipes are available at
Christina, Betty, and I have learned a lot on our “plant” tour of the United States and we hope you have also. Now you know where to go when you need a flower for a bridal bouquet, fruit tree for a historical, or a strangling vine for a murder mystery. June will feature writing prompts, thoughts and ideas concerning weather so make sure to stop by each week and add to your creative wordlists. See you then!
Writing prompt for the week: He wrenched the kiwifruit from Anna’s hand, and…
Flowers of the West
 Mountain heather
 Thistle sage
 Tolmie star-tulip
 Buttercup/Coyote’s eyes
 Rabbit brush
 Bitter root
 Mountain lady’s slipper
Western Flowering Vines and Parasitic Plants
Japanese Honeysuckle
Flowering Trees
Horse chestnut
Silk Tree/Mimosa
Indian bean tree
Judas tree
Flowering dogwood
Chinese lantern tree
Crape myrtle
Tulip tree
Southern magnolia
Crab apple
Japanese cherry


The Jewel of Autumn – Punica Granatum (Pomegranate)


GFDL by Kurt Stueber, also PD-US
GFDL by Kurt Stueber/PD-US

Punica refers to Phoenicians; granatum – garnet, referring to the color. The common name, “Pomegranate” comes from Pomme garnete, which is literally, “seeded apple.” Also called a Chinese Apple. Some scholars believe it to be the famed “forbidden fruit” in the Garden of Eden.

The first pomegranate tree planted in the southwestern United States hitched a ride on a Spanish ship (along with oranges) in the late 1700’s. If you use this tree in your writing, you’ll need to know that its normal season is October to January. The Pomegranate is indigenous to Persia and the Western Himalayan Range. You’ll find many mentions of the pomegranate in the Bible. It likes a dry, hot environment. As you can see in the photo, the flowers of the pomegranate tree are quite beautiful.

If your southwestern historical novel characters are ill and in need of a cure, you can include the pomegranate fruit and tree in your “medicine chest.” The rind and the bark were traditionally used to remedy diarrhea and dysentery. The juice and seeds are thought to heal heart ailments and sore throat. The flower juice was used to stem bleeding and tone the skin. Just think of the possibilities! 

Stan Shebs
PD/Photo by Stan Shebs

Eating a pomegranate: the seeds are contained in a juice sac. You can eat the seeds, or ream a halved pomegranate like an orange or lemon to remove the delicious juice. The seeds make a nice addition to any salad. You can find dozens of recipes on the internet, ranging from soups to syrup (grenadine) and wine. The rind is tough and woody, but it is sometimes consumed. Many use the attractive fruit in arrangements on their Fall table. 





Southwestern Splendor

What’s a western story without a picturesque field blooming with fiery Red Indian paintbrushes? Combine this flower with the Texas bluebell and the contrast of color, shape, and texture will bring your tale to life. I love to picture fields or pastures thriving with flowers, weeds, and grasses I push aside as I walk through them in my mind. The sage grass waves like wheat while I’m careful to avoid the prickly thistles and their attractive purple flowers. Indian paintbrushes beckon to be examined, while a wild turkey calls somewhere in the background.
Add to that the Indian usage of many flowers and trees for medicine and your story now has depth. The flowers of the Indian paintbrush were boiled into tea and consumed to ease the symptoms of menstruation. An early day form of Midol? The flowers of the Ocotillo plant were dried and made into herbal tea. Yum!
So the next time one of your story characters tries to influence you in a visit to the southwest, let him or her go. Allow them to walk through a meadow of wildflowers and let your imagination paint the picture.
Prompt of the week: John glanced from the burnt orange sunset to the blush of the Indian paintbrush in the meadow below before his gaze settled on…
Flowers of the Southwest
Texas bluebonnets
Scarlet four o’clock
Winding Mariposa lily
Prickly pear
Wind flower
Mexican tulip poppy
Barrel cactus
Indian paintbrush
Texas bluebell
Sacred Datura
Ghost Flower
Southwestern flowering vines and parasitic plants
Rambling Milkweed
Dutchman’s pipe
Cardinal creeper
Fingerleaf gourd
Lilac vine
Cornelian cherry

Southwestern trees
Pinon Pine

Silphium laciniatum

I just love Latin, don’t you? If only I could pronounce it.

I was excited to find out I got the privilege to write a post on flowers during Midwest week. After all, I’m a Midwesterner. Yep, straight out of Kansas. And would you believe it if I told you that I have a poster of Kansas Wildflowers, Native Grasses & Shrubs right in front of my desk? Well I do. It comes in handy when I need a quick visual reference while writing.

However, it wasn’t until I came across a diary filled with all kinds of useful information that I began to see the real value of some of these native Kansas wildflowers.

Check out this entry from Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life by Sara Robinson published in 1856.

18th. — The morning sun never shone more brightly than now. We found everything in the house damp, but had taken no cold. The cholera patient was doing well. The gentleman of the house assured me he slept well, but it was a mystery to me where he found a dry nook. Had a fine ride home in the early morning light, which gives to every object a double value. “Old Gray” nibbled at the “compass plant,” which always points northward in these prairies, occasionally cropping its bright yellow flowers with a satisfied air as he trotted along. The rattlesnake weed was also blooming in profusion. Nature is ever mindful of the needs of her children, and provides an antidote against the bane of rattlesnakes, and a sure guide over the wide prairie in the compass plant. When I reached home, found the doctor gone to attend upon a broken limb. A man, in rafting logs down the river, had met with this misfortune. The doctor has many calls professionally, and, though he assures them all that he is not now a practicing physician, he looks in upon many to advise them.

How cool is that? These diary entries are filled with all sorts of information that could be used in almost any research. I think they’re the best resource for writing historicals, and of course, they can lead to other resources as well.

Here are a few notes on the compass plant.

1. The picture came from Oklahoma Biological Survey.

2. I have found several occasions where pioneers often believed off the wall tales, or remedies. Like how tying a raw chicken to your abdomen would draw rattlesnake venom from the body after having been bittern. So when I saw the little tidbit about the compass plant always pointing north, I had to investigate further. And they were at least partly right. The leaves, not the flower, do point in a north-south direction. Most of the time.

3.  It is harmless to livestock.

4. Native Americans have used this plant for teas.

5. The sap was often used as chewing gum.

6. (I love this one and can’t wait to use it in a story) Native Americans wouldn’t camp near the compass plant. It was believe, as you can see here, that lightening was attracted to the compass plant.

Compass Plant Fact Sheet
Kansas Native Plants– excellent pictures
Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses-Compass Plant

The Red Maple

All writers, from one that writes a high-school essay to the veteran novelist, need depth, color, and background to make their story stand out. I love to throw in either magnificant trees or showy flowers to liven up my scenes. I’ve written about flowers the last two weeks, so this week I’ll introduce a broadleaf tree. You can’t go wrong with the red maple, especially if your story takes place in the northeast. This week I decided to list a ton of fun facts about the red maple to strengthen any tale, from comedy to historical.


Leaves of my red maple


Did you know…
The red maple is the state tree of Rhode Island?
The red maple is used commercially on a small scale for maple syrup production?
The red maple yields medium to high quality lumber?
The red maple is best known for its deep scarlet foliage in autumn?
The largest known living red maple is located in Michigan and is 125 feet high?
The red maple is one of the most abundant and widespread trees in eastern North America?
The red maple can live up to 150 years?
The red maple is used as a food source by elk, white-tailed deer, and some species of butterflies and moths?
The leaves of red maple, especially when dead or wilted, are extremely toxic to horses?
Story ideas abound. A maple syrup romance. A historical centered around the largest red maple, destined by our villain for firewood. A suspense where horses are fed red maple leaves. So friend, the next time you take pen in hand, consider the red maple, and let your imagination take root. J
Our writing prompt for the week: He grasped the lowest branch of the stately red maple, and tugged until…
Flowers of the Midwest
Michigan lily
Prairie ragwort
Indian blanket
Evening primrose
Prairie smoke
Prairie mimosa
Yellow goat beard
White prickly poppy
Blue wild indigo
Midwestern Flowering Vines & Parasitic Plants
Black-eyed Susan vine
Redberry moonseed
Black dog-strangling vine
Box elder
Japanese maple
Red maple
White Birch
Red gum
Common beech
Weeping fig
Red/White oak
Mountain Elm