Micro-Season: “The Crow-dipper Sprouts”

We have entered the micro-season of “The Crow-dipper Sprouts”.  This is the third micro-season of the mini-season of Summer Solstice.  The other micro-seasons within Summer Solstice are:

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you. 

As a way to honor the season of “The Crow-dipper Sprouts”, we are going to look at the Crow-dipper plant, review its medicinal uses, and investigate its cultural significance. We will then close with some seasonal haiku from Basho and Issa.


The Crow-dipper (Pinellia ternata)

The Crow-dipper and Green Dragon are the common names for the plant with the scientific name of Pinellia ternata.  This plant is native to China, Japan, and Korea. However, it is also found in parts of North America and Europe where it is considered an invasive species. 

Crow-dipper-Photo Credit Abrimaal, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Crow-dipper-Photo Credit Abrimaal, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Pinellia ternata is part of the Araceae family of plants.  Plants in this family use a spathe and spadix configuration when flowering.

The spadix is an arrangement of small flowers that cluster around a stem.  The spathe is a leaf-like bract that grows along with the spadix and may enclose the spadix. For many plants in the Araceae family, the spathe can also be large and colorful.

Other plants that you may be familiar with that have a spathe and spadix are the Peace lily, Calla lily, Arrowleaf Elephant Ear, and the Jack-in-the-Pulpit. 

Peace Lily-Photo Credit Jotbepe CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Peace Lily-Photo Credit Jotbepe CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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Medicinal Uses

Pinellia ternata, and more specifically the tubers of Pinellia ternata, are used in traditional Chinese Medicine. 

Pinellia ternata is commonly combined with other ingredients like ginger and alum to make treatments for phlegm conditions, nausea, and vomiting.(4)  However, if not properly prepared and treated the plant is toxic.

Pinellia ternata is potentially hazardous because it contains organic compounds known as ephedrine alkaloids. These compounds have been known to induce heart attacks or seizures.(5)

Pinellia ternata has been banned as a medical treatment in the United States since 2004. This ban does not apply to traditional medicines that might contain Pinellia ternata as an active ingredient. In these products, the alkaloids are neutralized during the compounding process.  

Hangesho, the Crow-dipper, and the Rice Crop

Hangesho, which occurs on the eleventh day of the mini-season Summer Solstice, marks the end of the rice planting season and a time of rest for the farming community.  Hangesho starts when “the sun passes overhead at an ecliptic longitude of 100 degrees”(7) and will last for five days.  The sun usually reaches this location on the second of July.

Mark Hovane of the Koyoto Garden Experience explains that during hangesho, “many people would restrict meat and alcohol intake and therefore recover from the intense planting process.”(8) Mark continues by explaining that this is an example of “nature providing a punctuation mark that helped regulate the rhythm of daily life.”(8)  

While the cultural significance of hangesho is well established, the term “hangesho” seems to have a couple of different origin stories.

The Crow-dipper plant and hangesho

The Crow-dipper plant, Pinellia ternata, is known as hange in Japanese.(7,8,9)  Just by name itself, we have a link between the plant and hangesho.  Then, we have the fact that the timing of the micro-season “The Crow-dipper Sprouts” coincides with hangesho’s solar event. With these two items, we can see the connections between the crow-dipper and hangesho  However, there is another, and potentially more direct, botanical connection.

The Asian lizard tail plant and hangesho

The Asian lizard tail plant, or Saururus chinensis, is actually known as hangesho in Japanese.  With this bit of information, there already seems to be a more direct connection between Saururus chinensis and seasonal event of hangesho

The Saururus chinensis is an herb found in China, Japan, India, and the Philipines.  This herb thrives in damp spaces and can grow to be about three feet tall.  During this time of year, the plant’s heart-shaped leaves turn from green to white in an attempt to draw more pollinators to its flowers.  After pollination, the leaves return to their full green color.  Some people suspect that this transition may also be the reason for the seasonal name.(7,8,9)

Saururus chinensis-Photo Credit Alpsdake CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Saururus chinensis-Photo Credit Alpsdake CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Hange-ame

Another interesting natural event that happens during this time of rest and recovery is the arrival of heavy rains. These rains will help with the growth of the rice crop and also encourage the farmers to seek shelter. These rains are called the hange-ame, and I believe they provide us with yet another example of how nature helps regulate the rhythm of daily life.


Haiku For The Season

For this micro-season, I have chosen a few haiku that focus on the rice crop. I landed on this theme because rice farming plays a significant role in this season’s activities.


Our first haiku comes from Matsuo Basho. This haiku is from Basho’s, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North”. Basho wrote this haiku after he passed the Shirakawa barrier and met up with friends. It is said that Basho and his friends used these lines as the opening verse of a renga.(10)

beginnings of poetry –
the rice planting songs
of the interior
-Basho

What I like about this haiku is Basho’s ability to link the agricultural process to song and poetry. It is almost like he is saying, everything, including songs and poetry, starts with the planting of the seed.

This next haiku is from Kobayashi Issa and it suggests a different kind of musicality that can arise from the rice fields.

a foreigner watches 
the rice planting too...
flutes and drums
-Issa

In this haiku, the image of the foreigner is intriguing. Is Issa the foreigner? Are we the foreigner? Do the flutes and drums create a sound that is welcoming, or does the music sound unfamiliar? So much to think about with this one.

For our final haiku, we return to Basho.

a whole field of
rice seedlings planted – I part
from the willow
-Basho

With this haiku, Basho has brought us into hangesho, and it is now time to depart the fields and seek the shade of a willow tree.

It is time to rest.

Willow Tree: Photo by Diovana Papen on Pexels.com
Willow Tree: Photo by Diovana Papen

Resources:

  1. Andy Senesac, “Weed Of Interest: Crowdipper–If You See It, Don’t Let It Go!”: Cornell.edu
  2. “Pinellia ternata”; Wikipedia
  3. “Araceae”: Wikipedia
  4. “Pinellia (ban xia)”; Acupuncturetoday.com
  5. “Pinellia ternata”: RXlist.com
  6. “Pinellia Ternata – Uses, Side Effects, and More”: WebMD
  7. “Hangesho”: Japanese Wiki Corpus.org
  8. “半夏生 hange shōzu:crow-dipper sprouts”: KyotoGardenExperience.com
  9. “The Crow-Dipper Sprouts”: 72-Season App
  10. Jim Wilson, “Poetry and Song 3”: ShapingWords

Want to support our work? Visit the Naturalist Weekly bookstore and browse our curated lists of books of poetry and haiku. Or pick up a gift card that can be used throughout the store.   

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