Thomas E. Bertelsen Jr. Associate Professor of Art History and Religion, Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University


During the past months, nature has returned to our urban garden. My husband, James, took this photo of our angelica plant when it was in full bloom.  The scientific name is for the archangel Michael, who is said to have foretold its use as a medicine, and it is both an excellent pollinator and Medieval plague remedy.  As John Gerarde wrote in his Herball of 1597,

"What greater delight is there than to behold the earth apparalled with plants, as with a robe of embroidered work...The delight is great but the use is greater, and joined often with necessities…to maintain life, and for medicine to recover health."

After two years in bloom, we harvested this short-lived perennial, re-seeding the flower, drying the leaves, and creating a brandy tincture from the roots.  The project inspired me to create my own ‘Physic Garden’; a collection of herbs and shrubs valued for their medicinal purposes.

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