Tag Archives: Scorpiurus vermiculatus

Joke plants

From top left and clockwise: Medicago radiata, Medicago scutellata “Sava” and Scorpiurus spp. (picture from my garden on 31st July 2004)
Chorogi or chinese artichokes (Stachys affinis)








I read some 15 years ago (but would love a proper reference*) that the Victorians (and some more recent jokers too) were fond of practical jokes and would add various plant parts that resembled caterpillars, snails, worms etc to their salads. I call them collectively joke plants. I should grow them again…I love humour in the garden :)

Scorpiurus muricatus and S. vermiculatus (Prickly caterpillars, prickly scorpionstail / skorpionurt), Medicago scutellata “Sava” (snail medick), Medicago radiata (ray-podded medick) and chorogi or chinese artichoke (Stachys affinis) are examples. Pictures below (yes, I’ve grown them and smuggled them into my salads for the entertainment of unsuspecting visitors!)
*I find the following reference in Google Books:  A Joy of Gardening by Victoria Sackville-West (Harper, 1958). On pages 184-186, there’s a section called “Joke plants” which I’d love to get hold of! Anyone have this book?
Add 050916: Thanks to Alison Tindale who mentioned joke plants in her great blog  The Backyard Larder having seen a reference in the classic book by Fearing Burr The Field and Garden Vegetables of America Containing Full Descriptions of Nearly Eleven Hundred Species and Varietes; With Directions for Propagation,Culture and Use”  (1863). See 
http://backyardlarder.blogspot.hu/2013/06/rhubarb-vegetable.html (at the bottom)