Monday, November 19, 2012

Words with a Garden History: Favela


Cnidoscolus quercifolius Note the spines...[source]

Until this recent article in the Financial Times  I didn't know that the notorious 'favela' of Brazil is also a plant...

"Favelas take their name from a hardy plant which thrives in the arid northeast of the country (which happens to be where most of the slum dwellers hail from ).  Not only do vicious thorns protect the favela against predators but, if ingested, its leaves can kill you with a poison that mimics the effects of cyanide."

Favela is Cnidoscolus quercifolius, a member of the notoriously phytotoxic Euphorbia family.   Its usage as a synonym for 'slum' grew out of a shanty town established by decamped (and unpaid) soldiers who settled on the hills outside of Rio in temporary protest at the end of the 19th century.  But the government never paid and they never left.  They named their site Favela Hill after the plants on the hill where they had celebrated their victory over the rebels of Canudos.  (see rioonwatch).

What is your favorite word with an unexpected or forgotten garden meaning?  Mine is vignette, which means something short enough to be written on a vine leaf.  

Cnidoscolus quercifolius [source]


3 comments:

Brent said...

Try as I might, I can't think of a term in common use that an unexpected or forgotten garden meaning. I must have forgotten them.

Nautical terms spring easily to mind: "bitter end" is nicely apt in this situation. But no unobvious garden terms.

Googling for an answer turns up words like rosary, which has roots in Latin as "rose garden" and then morphed into a "garden of prayers," but that's not really the same caliber as vignette.

I would dearly like to see a few more unexpected garden words.

College Gardener said...

Thanks for this very informative post. I recently learned that "grapple" apparently derives from grape, since it is what the tendrils of grape vines do.

antigonum cajan said...

Antigonum Cajan?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...