My recent Flower of the Week, Kirengeshoma palmata, struck a chord with a kind correspondent in Japan, who tells me that the name is an exact phonetic equivalent of what the Japanese call it. The first professor of botany at Tokyo University, in the nineteenth century, called it a yellow Anemonopsis macrophylla, (which it certainly resembles), coining a word that my correspondent describes as ‘soul-stirring; nice to see and to say’.
Kirengeshoma is an endangered plant in the mountains around Tokyo today, threatened with extinction by, among things, the deer. ‘Please look after your plant’, she says, ‘the muntjac kept far away. Yours in Essex might one day be the last survivor as Japan turns into a tropical island’. I love these notes from another culture. It is too easy to see our gardens and plants only through our own eyes. The common language of gardening and botany, though, can give us glimpses of a strange kind of poetry.