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Helenium autumnaleHelenium autumnale
Helen's Flower
This otherwise cheerful plant is said to have sprung from the tears of Helen, who wept as she was kidnapped. Helen was the daughter of Zeus and Nemesis, who mated in the form of birds. She was kidnapped twice--first as a child, by an Athenian who wanted her for his wife but who ended up being trapped by Hades, and second by Paris, although there are stories that Helen left her then husband King Menelaus and ran off with Paris. If you believe the latter, then the other bit of folklore about this plant--that Helen used it to prepare her cosmetics--makes more sense, although this is a New World plant and so never grew in ancient Greece! Helen's flower represents tears in the language of flowers. Oddly enough, this plant was traditionally used as a medicinal snuff by the Iroquois--the dried flowers are especially irritating to mucous membranes--to get rid of headaches, and such use does cause a lot of tearing as well. It was also though that taking such a snuff would rid the body of an evil spirit. While it's not a good idea to make a snuff of this plant, it is a fine candidate for protecting one's property and house from negative spirits, especialy considering its other common name, dogtooth daisy. This plant hasn't received any planetary correspondence, but I believe a good case can be made for Jupiter, on account of its tallness and boldness, its yellow colored flowers, and its use in headache (Zeus had an awful headache when Athena was inside him). Top

The flowers, which can appear the first year, occur in late summer through fall, when it makes a nice contrast with purple asters. The blooms attract bees and butterflies. The plant is also food for the caterpillar of the dainty sulfur butterfly, whose wings kind of match the color of the petals. The plant tends to be floppy, but if you cut it back in June before it flowers, it will produce more flowers and not be so tall. You can also leave it alone but prop it a bit by planting closely with other plants or against a wall. It also tends to flop more if it dries out and naturally likes a very moist spot, even growing within a foot of a riverbank or in swamps. To give it the moist soil and full sun it needs, it's helpful to use a mulch with this plant. Deadhead to encourage blooming, but don't use your bare fingers, as some people are allergic to the sap. Despite its common name of sneezeweed, this plant does not cause hay fever (the sneezing was from its use as snuff). It's good for naturalizing but shouldn't be planted in grazing meadows, as cows and such are sickened by eating it (although they will eat it only if nothing else is left). Its poisonousness means it's also rabbit-proof. The flowers are nice for cutting. Helen's flower is also known as sneezeweed, sneezewort, bitterweed, swamp sunflower, and dogtooth daisy. Top

Barely cover the seeds to germinate in 1-6 weeks at room temperature  at room temperature (65-70F/18-21C). Transplant to moist soil in full sun, planting 36-48"/90-120cm apart. This plant gets 4-6ft/1.2-1.8m tall and is perennial down to -40F/-40C (zone 3). It flowers August-October (until first frost) and likes growing in moist woodlands and swampy area. Dig up and divide the clumps every four years. General growing info.
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Helenium autumnale
Helen's Flower
200 seeds $3.50


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Protection Spells
Jupiter Herb

2007, 2015 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission