Monthly Archives: August 2013

Botanico-Literary Question Marks III: Three Minor Botherations

One: The Kiss

Groombridge Place

Groombridge Place

In Anton Chekov’s short story “The Kiss” he describes the scene at a manor house in the country:

“Everyone was conscious of the fragrance of roses, of lilac, and of the young leaves of the poplar.”


“Here, as in the drawing room, the windows were open wide and the smell of poplars, lilacs, and roses flooded the air.”

Phenologically speaking, I was troubled by the idea of poplar leaves (April?) unfurling at the same time as blooming lilacs (May?) and flowering roses (June?).

Two: The Enchanted April

The Enchanted April, a novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim, takes place mostly in an Italian seaside villa. It’s a fun, fantastical novel about escaping dreary England for rejuvenation on the Mediterranean. Romance and complications ensue. A film adaptation came out in 1991.

The villa has a lovely garden, of course, which is almost a character itself.

No one had noticed how many acacias there were till one day the garden was full of a new scent, and there were the delicate trees, the lovely successors to the wisteria, hung all over among their trembling leaves with blossom.  To lie under an acacia tree that last week and look up through the branches at its frail leaves and white flowers quivering against the blue of the sky, while the least movement of the air shook down their scent, was a great happiness.

Sadly, I have never spent any time at a seaside villa in Italy. So white acacias may indeed grow in such a place.

However, the acacias I knew growing up in California all came from Australia, all had yellow flowers, and all smelled sickly-sweet and made us sneeze.

I wonder if the author is actually referring to black locust trees? Their scientific name is Robinia pseudoacacia (i.e., fake acacia). The leaves could be described as delicate, I guess; the flowers are definitely white and sweet-smelling.

What do you think?

Three: Pride and Prejudice (2005 film version)

Keira Knightley as Jane Austen

Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett

In the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth Bennett. We see her at one point sitting on the ground beneath a tree at her family home, Longbourne.

Longbourne is played by Groombridge Place, in Kent.

One slight problem, however.

Pride and Prejudice presumably takes place in the period when Jane Austen was alive, 1775–1817. The species that Keira Knightley sits next to, giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), wasn’t brought to England until 1853!

Oh well.

Have you had any botanico-literary question marks lately?