Cover for Ecotone magazine's Love Issue, featuring Passionflower, Mimosa, Hawthorn, and Rose.
Drawing plants is a particular pleasure of mine. Spending time attending to the individual curves of petals, the structure of branches, the serrated edges of leaves while drawing, is my own form of plant medicine—a means of connecting to the world around me. For the cover of the Love Issue, which is inspired by classic handkerchief designs, I chose to draw rose, hawthorn, passionflower, and mimosa. These plants are known in Western herbal medicine to cultivate a feeling of openness, strengthen the heart, and calm the mind, and are used medicinally in teas and tinctures. Purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), which is native to the area now known as the southeastern United States, has viney tendrils that encircle branches and fences, like an anchor in a wall, helping the plant to climb high into the sun and bloom. Likewise, this vine helps us create a mental anchor to pause cycles of circular thoughts, and regain a sense of calm and clarity above our ruminations.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) and rose (Rosa spp.), some species of which are also native to North America, have sweet flowers and fruit that feed wildlife and humans, but also have sharp thorns along their branches to keep themselves protected. These plants help us regain a feeling of safety and strength, so we can open ourselves to the outside world. Finally, mimosa (Albizia julibrissin Durazz.) helps uplift our spirits and brings us a sense of wellbeing. This plant, also called the tree of happiness, was introduced from Asia to North America in 1745 as an ornamental. It flowers in disturbed habitat, from the edges of interstate highways to street corners. The downside of this expansive resilience is that mimosa inadvertently displaces native trees and shrubs, reducing sunlight and available nutrients. Fortunately this makes Mimosa in North America an ideal source for herbal medicine. Native plant populations across the United States have been harmed by overharvesting in the wild. But plentiful introduced species such as Mimosa can be harvested more freely—shifting the pressure off native species, creating heart-lifting medicine, and making space for native plants to thrive.