Hedeoma was the way I wanted to memorialize Carroll Abbott, who died in 1984, the year Native Texans appeared. The whole thing was due to him, Henry Burlage and Alta Niebuhr and many others. Saint Coop printed a review of it here.
"If you were to take one plant with your immortal soul into the afterlife, then Hedeoma (Hedeoma Drummondii) would meet Amaranth. Medina County is starting a Hedeoma Dude Ranch. Aristophanes wanted thyme planted on his grave, but if you can get yourself planted in some Hill Country field you can have the superior Hedeoma. Albertus Magus claims drowned bees can be revived by the fragrance of the inferior pennyroyal, M. Pulegium, and that if you rub it on the "belly of any beast it shall be with birth." The use of Hedeoma in this way would shortly make so many beekeepers and mothers of us all that we would soon be drowned in milk and honey."
Alta said it should have been called A Philosopher Looks at Plants. She provided copies to her herbalists. That's when Brother Lynch of St. Edward's wrote to her and said it humanized botany more than he could have dreamed. Dr. Blackstock said it read like a novel. An editor at TCU press said she had hoped it would have had more philosophy. These folks could subscribe to Human Botany.
It was perilous. The day the ms was typed a stranger appeared at the door who had read one in the Newsletter. She had a book contract with Texas Monthly Press to write about herbs. Knowing nothing of Native Texans she wanted me to read her manuscript and tell her everything I knew about native plants! Native Texans was then enthusiastically greeted by two different regional Texas presses, Eakin and Corona, and canceled.
In another way of saying, the sun shining on herbs in jars on a window ledge in Chicago, at the home of a friend of Jack Dodds, caused this out of nothing. Within a year of migration to the Texas hill country that fragrance produced a desire to grow herbs, which compassed the hills in their seasons, at that time well outside Austin, and affected with rock walls, pumpkins, retama, red bud, limestone, sheep, pot studios and screened porches, reading Edith Sitwell in robin migrations and the click of the equinox in hammocks under oleanders, under chinaberries, on roofs, and in childhood from the hills of western Pennsylvania. I wrote the poem that became The Way into the Flowering Heart on that sheep ranch. The influence of eastern Pennsylvania was in the blood.
Out of these herb jars came A Calendar of Poems and its counterpart, Restorations of the Golden Age in New World Discoveries, but the peaks of roofs were coming over hill tops, so I moved into town. If you call it destiny it is inescapable, so after moving closer to the city, living in Hyde Park, I came one day upon the Experimental Drug and Herb Garden, four acres of herbs and medicinal plants fallen out of favor and cultivation with its proprietor, the College of Pharmacy. Amazed to discover this vestige of pharmacy's past by accident, and after much nay saying about the possibility, for the place was all but closed, Henry Burlage, Dean Emeritus, concocted an encounter with that present Dean to the effect that the place would remain open with himself as the Director, I the horticulturalist. The joy of this venture lasted three years and involved all sorts of trials and encounters, but when friend Henry took his last trip to the ER the end was in sight. The property was deeded back to the UT in trade for a new pharmacy building on campus. All these matters engaged the herb and native plant people, Carroll Abbott among them, who more or less founded the native plant movement in Texas, being an ex-politico, but who subsisted on sales of native plant seeds and bluebonnets with his Texas Wildflower Newsletter. These were days when Ladybird Johnson was active.
Further access to hill country land, explorations over the Edwards Plateau, visits with Carroll, walking up and down rivers and always growing plants, my wife and botanist had written for the Newsletter. Hungry editor that he was Carroll often solicited articles. But who ever does what's in their best interest? These invitations fell fallow, but even after moving to Dallas to pursue something that would pave the way for a medical career invitations kept coming. Carroll by then had contracted cancer, which he movingly wrote of in the Newsletter that I still read. One night I dreamed of him in such a woebegone state, depressed, in the dark, ashen, that I couldn't stand it, and instantly started writing that first piece, Equisitum, followed by Croton and Prickly Poppy and a whole flood. He printed the first two in the last Newsletters. My whole purpose was to make him laugh. From what he said it worked. So I finished writing this, called it Native Texans as a joke since these plants are universal. Croton, equisitum, milkweed, mullein, hedeoma, horehound first appeared in native plant newsletters.