In 1833, Thomas Drummond, a naturalist from Scotland, came to Texas to catalogue native plants. Among the many plants he discovered was the Malvaviscus arboreus. The variety was later named "drummondii" in his honor. This plant has also been known as the Red Mallow, the Texas Mallow, and the Wax Mallow. More recently, it has come to be called Turk's Cap because its bright red partially closed bud with a long pollen filled stamen rising above resembles a Turkish turban. But, the old folks, my mother's and grandmother's generations called it, incorrectly, Bleeding Heart, which is the name of a different plant. I remember these misnamed plants at my grandmother's home in Dallas when I was young, and how hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies always swarmed around them.
As the United States geared up for a potential war, two events occurred in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie. North American Aviation, a long time defense contractor, opened a plant in April 1941 on the east side of town. Because this plant would be hiring hundreds of workers over the next few years and because of the lack of housing in the area, the Federal Works Agency designed and built a 300 home development near the North American plant to house the workers. It was called Avion Village. After the war, the Avion Village Mutual Housing Corporation purchased the homes from the federal government, and today those homes are occupied in a neat and well kept corner of Grand Prairie and are a historical element of the city.
In the late 1960s, my wife's grandfather moved into a small apartment which was part of a public housing development in Grand Prairie and formerly part of Avion Village. My mother-in-law lived only a few blocks away, which meant she could easily keep watch on her father and provide him meals, yet allow him some independence. In front of Grandpa's apartment was a large Malvaviscus arboreus, or, as my mother-in-law called it, a Bleeding Heart.
My mother-in-law loved gardening. She would pinch off stems of plants she hadn't seen before and root them, or collect seeds from newly discovered plants and sow them in her garden. It was no big deal when she dug up some of the Bleeding Heart from that apartment and planted it at her home in Grand Prairie. Several years later, she and my father-in-law moved away to East Texas in retirement. She dug up a portion of one of the many plants she had cultivated at her home from the plant at Grandpa’s apartment twenty years earlier and planted it at her new home in East Texas. Although she is no longer with us, several of those Bleeding Hearts still grace her East Texas home.
About twenty years ago, I asked mother-in-law about those Bleeding Heart plants in her front yard and that is when I learned about their journey from some unknown place to that old apartment, then to her home in Grand Prairie, and, now, to this home in East Texas. She then asked, “Why don’t you dig up some of the roots and start a plant at your house?”
Later in the fall, I dug up a portion of one of her plants, packed it with some of that East Texas sandy loam into a clay pot and took it home. That one square foot of Bleeding Heart roots is now an eight foot by ten foot feeder for birds, bees, and butterflies in my backyard in a Dallas suburb.
But, that is not the end of the journey for our plant. I am now trying to root some of the stalks to plant at my daughter’s home nearby. If that fails, in the fall, I will dig up a one foot square section of my Bleeding Heart and replant it at her home.
We all have family photographs and other family memorabilia we pass down the generational line. My family also has a beautiful plant which will remain on its journey from one generation to the next. It has already passed through three generations and soon to a fourth.
Paul wrote in the book of Romans, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1: 20, NIV) In a time when many people are not working, many are homebound, and many are discouraged, with nothing to do in their isolation, they should look around themselves at the plants, the trees, listen to the birds, and the summer song of the cicada and know, as Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer said about God, “ He is there, and he is not silent.”© Jim Terry
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