Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden, Petaluma, California

September 25, 2009

Gynostemma Penta, Copyright Peg Schafer

Gynostemma Pentaphyllum, Jiao Gu Lan, Sweet Tea Vine, Copyright Peg Schafer


Reflections of an Herb Grower

by Peg Schafer

As a grower ( of Chinese Medicinal Herbs) since 1997, I (Peg Schafer) have enjoyed being part of the introduction of Asian botanicals in the U.S. North America and China share the same general latitude and much of the climate is similar, so we’ve been able to do a lot of successful experimentation. Some of the more important Asian herbs that we have found do well here are the Angelicas, the Artemisias, Astragalus membranaceus, Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Chinese licorice), Aswagandha and Codonopsis. Some plants that you may be familiar with, since they were first introduced to the U.S. as ornamentals, are Chrysanthemum, Honeysuckle, Daylilies, and Heavenly Bamboo. As time goes on, there are more resources available, more information on usage and cultivation, more studies being done, and more seed and plant suppliers. This year (August, 2003) we are growing at least 40 different field crops, and many others as transplant stock or for demonstration or as germplasm repository.

Salvia, Copyright Peg Schafer

Salvia Miltiorrhiza, Red Sage Root, Dan Shen, Copyright Peg Schafer

To learn more about this emerging field of study, you might want to visit botanical gardens to view some of the plants. We have several excellent local resources, here in Northern California in the Quarryhill Botanical Gardens in Glen Ellen, where you’ll find many Chinese medicinals spread over 20 acres. Quarryhill is a sister botanical garden of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, on the outskirts of London, which has undertaken the important task of sorting out some of the nomenclature inconsistencies. (Kew, which has an impressive Chinese medicinal herb garden, now offers an authentication service, and is currently working on creating a genetic library of Chinese medicinals.) Two other excellent places to visit are the University of California Berkeley Botanical Garden in Berkeley, and the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Gardens


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