Didn’t mom ever tell you that money doesn’t grow on trees? Sometimes money does indeed grow on trees or on plants at least.
Here are a few examples. The saffron, used for cooking and to produce a yellow dye prized by Buddhists is made from the stamens of crocus sativus. To make a single pound of this rare spice, the most costly of all spices, 75,000 crocus blossoms give their lives. Each blossom is useful for only a few grains of pollen from each stamen of the bloom, meaning 225,000 hand-picked sexual parts per pound. Think of that the next time you eat saffron rice.
Roses are another example. Attar of Roses is an essential oil distilled from bushels of flowers to create perfume base more valuable per ounce than gold. Bulgaria’s valley of roses is the largest producer in the world and roses are the chief export of that Southeastern European nation. So finicky are these roses that a spike in temperatures occurring naturally every seven years wrecks economic havoc as the warmth releases precious volatile oils worth millions into the summer air.
Let’s not forget the silver dollar or money plant, lunaria, beloved by many of us for its funky shape and pretty seed cases.
But for my money, shipmast locusts, Robinia pseudoacacia var. rectissima, a Virginia native imported to Long Island in 1707 takes the cake. What is the ideal accoutrement to wedded bliss, is it a 1-caret rock on the bride’s finger? Perhaps, as in the story of St. Nicholas, a few bags of gold thrown down a chimney for a handy dowry or maybe a few cows as was once customary in Africa.
But if you were a proud poppa in colonial America, a big grove of trees was just the thing. When a new child was born, poppa planted a grove of new shipmast locusts, so-named for the extremely valuable lumber, used in what else? Ship masts. Fast forward twenty years or so and the newly harvested wood made the perfect wedding gift. Even today, the wood is prized for its straight, branchless trunks and natural resistance to rot. Regrettably, it does make an excellent lunch for many insects so its stardom in the early days of the settlement of the Eastern United States did not last.
Pay no attention when told money doesn’t grow on trees. Sometimes it does.