Foolywank Friday: There is a plant called Wandering Jew?!?

A few weeks ago, I was wandering through a beloved nursery seeking visual inspiration for my flower beds.  This particular nursery is my favorite one in town.  I adore the people who own and run it because they are knowledgeable, fun, family-oriented and extremely patient teachers.  Whenever I have an outdoor need, they're my first (and quite often my only) stop.  

Perusing the perennials, I came across an unusual but beautiful purple and green plant that I had never seen before.  The plant was gorgeous and hearty.  I wanted to know the name of it, but it was unmarked and there was no one nearby at the time so I stroked the plant and moved on.  I planned to ask someone about it on my way back up front.  As I started to retrace my steps, I saw that another customer was eyeballing my precious purple plant.  Although I wasn't close enough to let her know that she was touching my plant (lol), I was close enough to hear her ask the name of the plant.  Finally, I thought, I will know the name of my beloved precious.  To my surprise, I hear one of the owners say, "That is a Wandering  Jew."


all around the nursery for at least twenty seconds...

Seriously, nobody moved or said a word.  
Not the owner, the lady trying to take my plant, my gardening accomplice or me.  This nursery sits close to a main road and not a single car whizzed by.  Everything and everyone was stoic, silent and completely still.  

I could not completely wrap my mind around the myriad of emotions I was feeling about the name of that plant.  I still loved it, still thought it was beautiful, but could not bring myself to purchase it.  Mainly because the other lady grabbed it before I could get back to it; however, the name of the plant hit me as being extremely odd, ill-fitting and outright ridiculous.  I went home and searched Google only to find that "Wandering Jew" is indeed the name commonly used for the plant.  What the foolywank? These findings made me sick to my stomach.  

On and off I kept thinking about my plant.  I would envision it in my garden and then instantly cringe at the thought of someone asking me, "What type of plant is this?"
I had to overcome sadness and anger at ignorance, racism and prejudice perpetuated through the naming of a plant.  I wanted to know who originally named this plant so that I could give them a piece of my mind.  Then I realized that they were probably dead.  *sigh*  So much for poetic justice...

A few days after the PND (Plant Name Debacle) at the nursery, I was visiting with a beloved neighbor who happens to be a gifted gardener.  This neighbor has cultivated a pristine, manicured front yard and a back yard that is equal parts lovely, breathtaking and enchanting.  My gardening accomplice asked to see the neighbor's backyard so we traipsed across the street.  We had just meandered through echinacea, phlox and hollyhocks when I stopped.  My eyes fixated on the gorgeous, purple plants that were growing in abundance... I recognized them immediately.  

I gathered my thoughts, harnessed a flurry of feelings and somewhat hesitantly asked my neighbor, "What is the name of that plant?"  

There was a moment of silence and then a reply with somewhat of a giggle at the end of it.  "You know folks used to call it Wandering Jew, but surely no one calls it that anymore."


all around my neighbor's backyard for at least twenty seconds...

Once again, nobody moved or said a word.  
Not my neighbor, my gardening accomplice or me.  Everything and everyone was stoic, silent and completely still once more as we all stared at the lovely plant...  

My neighbor broke the silence with the swell of a heartfelt question, "Well, do you want some?"  We locked eyes and after another moment of silence, I flashed the biggest smile and said an emphatic "Yes!"  As my neighbor began to spout instructions and dig up the lovely, precious plants, I realized that I was starting to come full circle with this lesson.  

I brought the plants home and per instructions placed the jar in the window sill and waited for the roots to sprout.  Just yesterday I noticed the first roots have arrived and it was at that precise moment when I realized the Latin name of the plant probably sounds so much better. 

So whenever it cools off, I am really, really looking forward to planting my Zebrina.  


  1. I loved this....I don't think it is nessisarily a "negative" name. I am assuming the one who named the plant had the same observations as you. "Gorgeous and hearty," and assumed it was a compliment to the Jewish people, who through their trials and travels, remain just that, gorgeous and hearty. I sincerely do not mean to offend. thanks for your post!

  2. There is a legend about a "Wandering Jew" who taunted Jesus at his crucifixion (wikipedia! lol!)...however, I have no idea what that has to do with such a pretty plant.
    My mom always kept "Wandering Jew" when I was a kid, and honestly, I never thought of the implications of that name, it was just what it was called. But with a cool name like "Zebrina" why would anyone want to call it anything else anyway?!

  3. Totally agree, Kells!!! :D

  4. Dear "Anonymous", I never thought of it that way... and I really like your perspective! Thank you for sharing! I will hold that thought as a treasure! :D


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