prickles, curls, and an unknown herb

This happy little holly sapling has appeared before in this blog. Today we feature its very classy buds and young leaves, already showing their sharp little poky-bits. It’s in its third year now, almost ready to be transplanted into its own container. Still no signs of blooms, but lots of new growth.

European holly (here is the Wikipedia page; sadly it needs some editing!) is an ancient, hardy tree or shrub that used to grow in large forests in Europe. It is interesting to imagine huge, old growth holly trees up to ten meters tall. Such trees are exceptionally rare today.

A mature tree bears many white flowers pollinated by bees, followed in the fall (on female trees only) by the well-known, bright red holly berries. The berries are poisonous to humans, but birds like them, especially after the frosts have mellowed them chemically.

The big question for this little tree is which gender is it, and where can I find a plant of the opposite gender so we can make some berries?

Also looking very classy and happy in the sunlight are these brand new curly willow leaves. This tree is growing in a smallish container, but its long water roots have spread out in a fan underneath. One upcoming task is to repot it, which will be complicated by the fact that much of the tree is deeply entangled in vines and netting.

do you know what this is?

Our last feature today is this mystery herb. Several of these have appeared this spring in the containers upstairs. The curly leaves and distinctive flower stalk should make it easy to identify, but so far it has eluded me.

In our Bay Area climate it’s an annual that starts in mid-winter with a basal rosette of arugula-like leaves, then shoots up a stalk with increasingly curly, dark green leaves. The flowers are tiny and yellow, with four petals, maturing first at the base of the stalk. The unfolding flower buds at the top almost have a spiral structure. Very interesting.

Can anyone offer up a possible identification? Is this beautiful little herb edible by any chance?

If you know what it is, please do leave a comment! (button is at top left of post)

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