Ghost Flowers – What are They?
Ghost flowers are members of the figwort family of plant species. They are native to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of southeastern California to southern Nevada and western Arizona. As a desert-dwelling plant species, ghost flowers are very hardy and able to survive in very dry and arid locations. They tend to grow on rocky slopes below an altitude of 2,500 feet.
Ghost flowers get their name because of the ghost-like translucence of their petals. The petals are a translucent white, often spotted with pink or purple in the center, and sport blotches of red and yellow (as part of the stamen) in the idle. Seeing an entire plant blowing in the wind can be almost eerie, especially at night.
Like the Snapdragon and Penstemon, ghost flowers are a member of the Figwort Family Scrophulariaceae. They are erect annuals which grow to between 4 and 16 inches in height. They have long, hairy, light-green leaves that are elliptical, and which usually grow up to 4 inches long.
Ghost Flowers and the Figwort Family
Figwort and ghost flowers in general, are a coarse erect plant with thick, sharply square, fleshy stems. Growing up to 150cm tall, it arises from a knotted horizontal rootstock. The leaves are opposite, short-stemmed ovate at base, lanceolate near the top, with toothed margins.
In varieties other than ghost flowers, the flowers are in loose cymes in pyramidal or oblong loose groups of flowers. On the figwort, (excluding ghost flowers) each flower is globular, has five green sepals encircling a green or purple flower that gives way to an egg-shaped seed capsule. It grows in moist and cultivated waste ground, in woodlands and copses throughout the northern hemisphere except western North America.
Figwort is used as a remedy in the treatment of skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, pruritis and any other skin condition where there tends to be persistent itching, discharge and irritation. Its purgative and diuretic actions enhance the cleansing effect. It may also be used as a mild laxative to treat cases of constipation.
Ghost Flowers and Figwort – Interesting Historical Fact
The Romans used figwort to treat hemorrhoids. Scrophularia was also once used to treat the ‘King’s Evil’ or scrofula (tuberculosis of the cervical lymph nodes), as well leaking wounds and abscesses that would normally prove difficult to keep clean and sterile.
Figwort has been considered an important medicinal plant for many years and was often treasured by naturalistic healers, shamans and witch doctors for the properties outlined above. Although ghost flowers themselves are not known for these things, it is quite possible that they share many of the same curative properties that their ancestors exhibit.
Growing Ghost Flowers
Because they are native to dry and arid desert environments, it is relatively easy to grow and maintain ghost flowers so long as you live within their natural habitat. It may be harder to get good results in a colder and wetter climate, if not actually impossible to grow them in the first place.
If you live in the southern United States, however, you should have little to know difficulty. For an interesting aesthetic appeal, consider planting them amongst rocks to recreate the appearance of their natural habitat. You may wish to consider growing additional desert plants such as aloe and cacti to complement and provide counterparts.
The pale and translucent white of the flower goes well with other light blossoms. See if you can grow plants that feature light blue or yellow blooms, which will look great mixed in with ghost flowers. Planting the odd shrub is another idea worth considering, especially one that helps to bring out the mystery of the flower.
By working with combinations such as those mentioned above, you can quickly fashion a garden that you will love to spend time in, and that will become the envy of friends and neighbors alike. Always keep in mind, however, that any strenuous activities outdoors in the warm months require constant hydration and frequent rest. Gardening counts, so make sure you stay safe!
Ghost Flowers – Where to Learn More
If you are fascinated with ghost flowers, or would like to learn more about how to grow them and where to find them, check online for more resources such as this one, or feel free to visit your local florist. Stop by their shop and take advantage of their expertise and knowledge about all floral products, including bouquets and other arrangements – all of which make excellent gifts for holidays, and can be sent out through delivery to save time and worry.
Perhaps the best place to see this species is in their native habitat. If you get a chance, schedule a hike through the Mojave or Sonoran deserts in California. This is a great way to see not only this species, but many other divers plants and animals that have adapted to their harsh environments.
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