Monday, January 12, 2009

'tis the season

Well, it's technically a bit after the season, but here is a plant that inspired in me some Christmas spirit. It's not related to Christmas holly (Ilex spp.), but this Argentine Berberis species (possibly ilicifolia or buxifolia) does a good imitation. My Argentine colleagues told me the common name of this plant is "calafate" - like the Patagonian city.

According to the Bradt Chilean Travel Guide, there is a saying "Quien come el calafate vuelve por más" (Whoever eats the calafate berry will come back for more). Berberis is in the barberry family, and other barberries are edible and supposedly make a good jam. However, take care on your identifications - my Plant Systematics textbook (Judd et al. 1999) says that many other Berberidaceae species are "extremely poisonous."

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