1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Growing Chamberbitter--Mithridates' Curse or Blessing in Disguise?

Chamberbitter, variously known as Phyllanthus urinaria, leafflower, shatterstone, gripeweed, and Bhumyamalaki (Sanskrit) makes itself right at home in my northwest Florida garden. If I didn't know better, I would say it's a noxious weed. It has its way with every flower bed, the veggie garden, and any other cultivated spot in my yard. The seeds it bears on the undersides of its leaves spread easily by design. Every time I pull up one plant by the roots, several dozen more potential plants fall to the ground to take its place. Since it possesses such an obviously aggressive method of reproduction, I just had to know: where did this plant come from and what is it good for? An agent with the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service thinks it might be something other than a noxious weed. Shawn Jadrnicek calls it "A Valuable Weed [that] Lurks in the Garden." If you click on this link that I've provided, scroll down to read his article. According to him, this weed is anything but noxious. In fact, if ancient Ayurveda practice has any credibility--and who can argue with thousands of years' practice--chamberbitter might well be the answer to my current (perennial) weed dilemma: seek and destroy or harvest and use? Hey, if the vanga sena treatment works--consuming seeds with rice water--I might soon be poo-pooing those gynecological symptoms that menstruating and perimenopausal women consider so burdensome. And that purported benefit would be only the beginning. Look what else chamberbitter has the capability of conquering:
  • anorexia
  • hyperacidity
  • gastric burning
  • peptic ulcers
  • urinary disorders
  • diabetes mellitus
  • skin disorders
  • liver disturbances
  • anemia 
...Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure,
I'd face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good,
'Tis true the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul's stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day...
--from "Terence, This is Stupid Stuff," by A. E. Housman, 1896-- 
If there's any hope for my garden, it might be as a nursery for this pernicious--as most horticulturalists as well as naturalists consider it--weed that came aboard with some other, more delightfully ornamental, horticulturally recommended, exotic introduction to my landscape. The veggies I would like to see growing here don't find the soil or other conditions appealing, but the chamberbitter does for some reason. Could it be that Mithridates has finally found a way to confound the Western modus operandi in the garden of all places?

There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink,
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white's their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
--I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

--A. E. Housman, as above--


  1. Sometimes you have to go with the flow with what grows. Funny how you had to do research to find the good in it.

  2. How interesting! Maybe I need to look at those that are taking over my garden here in Michigan.

  3. Interesting info. The rise from bad to good, these chamberweeds...

  4. I remember the curious case of Albert Einstein. Since he knew to play violin, he used to play music at public places to attract people. Then he would speak to the gathered people about Physics and Theory of relativity.
    I feel that u also are following the same strategy. You use the power of literature to attract the people to horticulture.
    I like the way you make it a success!!

  5. Mr. S, going with the flow in the garden is certainly a lot easier on the back. I will buck the trend to use weed killer. No nasty chemicals if I can help it!

    Ciss B, if we can't beat 'em, maybe we should eat 'em.

    RGB, I used to say a few choice words at them when it was time to pull weeds, but now I'm starting to see them from a different perspective.

  6. Thanks, Tomz! Or maybe I'm using horticulture to attract people to literature. They do go together quite nicely. I didn't know that interesting fact about Einstein. Thank you for pointing it out to me. I'm sure I would have needed some music to prepare me for a lecture on physics!

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  9. I'm glad to know that Bitter Chamber has some useful purpose because frankly, I find it so annoying. We didn't have it before Hurricane Erin and it's been the bane of my gardening experience ever since.

    Personally I don't think the photo the guy uses is correct, it looks like something else to me, but I looked it up and you've definitely named it which means that now I can curse it with more authority.

    Incidentally, some people think you should leave it in place and just cover it with mulch so the seeds won't spread. They're prolly right.

    A very interesting post.

  10. I am thinking noxious weed if it self seeds so much. Yuck! Glad I don't have it here.

  11. Sometimes letting the aggresive plants take over is so appealing too! Good, bad, good, bad...such a quandary!

  12. You tried to dig out the weed and instead dug out a lot of information to change your views about it. Nature has decreed a use for all things.:)
    Love your research spirit and presentation of info with verse.

  13. Lol, I've never read this poem by Housman before:) This is one weed I don't have in my garden--thank goodness! But if it grew in Illinois, I'm sure it would find its way to my garden:) Definitely sounds like a noxious weed, but if you could find a market for it, you'd have a nice source of income, W2W. I've been looking for a little extra income myself; know any medicinal uses for crabgrass or poison ivy??

  14. Paula, I think you're right about the photo in the article. It doesn't look like the other pics of chamberbitter that I've seen. It's interesting that you didn't see any of it until after Erin. When was that hurricane, in the late 90s? We moved here in late 2003. I didn't begin to notice it here until after I began tilling up the yard for flower and veggie beds and adding plants to the yard. It's everywhere now but most prevalent wherever I disturb the soil. So the veggie garden is where it really takes over. Weed killer is not an option; mulch helps some, but if anything new gets planted (and that happens in the vegetable garden all the time), I'm battling it again. I can't beat it so I may as well consider it a crop.

    Tina, I'm glad it's not there in your garden too. Thankfully, for you, it's more of a tropical weed. Those seeds wouldn't survive up north.

    Julie, maybe I should get a flamethrower to control it. At the very least, I might try solarizing the soil in the vegetable garden before the plants emerge next summer.

    THL, thank you! I think you have a unique perspective on life. I've really been enjoying your stories.

    Rose, I don't know about a market yet, but I'm going to give it a try myself. If all goes well, maybe it will fund our retirement, haha. Oh yes, the crabgrass and poison ivy. I still have nightmares about them taking over the world. Someone somewhere is probably working on a market for them. You can make wine with dandelions; why not crabgrass? I'm sorry, though, that I'll leave poison ivy to more capable hands for study.

  15. Paula, not yet, but I'll be making some special tea next time I'm home. I hope it's not bitter like the name implies, or it may be the first and last time I use it like that. It doesn't irritate my skin--I know because I've pulled it up many times without wearing gloves--so I might make a poultice with it and use it on some problem areas for inflammation. It's got some interesting constituents that should make it a candidate for essential oil production. If only I had a still!

  16. Oh lordy, don't tell me I've been pulling up and tossing something worth money!! Drives me crazy and its taking over my yard!!! We didn't have it until Ivan came through. Our lot was just woods when Erin blew through. Don't know if I'll be brave enough to try it or not.

  17. Hello and welcome, FFG! I'm going to try it this weekend when I get back home, and I'll let you know what I think. I read in one of your blog posts that you're thinking about taking the Florida Naturalist program. Go for it! I found out about it after I had signed up for the Master Gardener session this past spring. Now I wish I could do both!

  18. Naturalist program won't start until first of the year at the earliest. Nothing on the schedule yet due to all those other watery diversions we've been afflicted with in the past few months.:D Keep an eye out come December and I'll try to keep you posted.

    And, thanks for the kind words on my blog. Love to have your company.

  19. Good luck to you then, FFG. Since we're not able to garden as much now that we're living most of the time in a Tally apartment, that naturalist program is looking more and more like a path I might take in the future. I could probably even get my husband interested in it because he's not really into gardening--except when it comes to harvesting the fruits and veggies, of course! We both love to hike and explore natural areas.

    You're welcome! You're on my list now, and I'll be able to keep up with your posts as they appear.

  20. Pull, pull, pull. I can scarcely stay ahead of it. I wrote about it here: