In Latin nigellus or niger, meaning black, refers to the color of the seeds; damascena denotes coming “from Damascus”. The plant’s feathery foliage guarding its dainty flowers has stirred the imagination to generate a host of popular names—Love-in-a-mist, Devil-in-the-Bush, Love-entangle, Hair-of-Venus, Jack-in-prison and Lady-in-Shade.
Legend tells a tale about the crusading Emperor Frederick I (1125-1190), who was enticed by a green-haired water sprite and drowned in pursuing her. The Lady-in-the-shade sprang up along the banks of the stream, its fine lacey foliage an enduring reminder of the femme fatale’s seductive tresses. Another folk name refers to the bright red seedpod, an inflated papery capsule composed of fused follicles which house numerous seeds. Continue for larger image “Nigella damascena” »