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Hanging over the garden of a grand old house up on the hill is where I saw these flowers. They’re called the Korean Morning Glory, in Japanese they’re called Chousen-asagao. A species of Datura and in the family of the Solanum, the plant was introduced during the Edo period and used to treat asthma. The plant is perhaps so named because the flower shape is similar to that of the morning glory’s (asagao).

 

Below is the fascinating story behind the plant by the paper Japan Times:

“Kae stretched out her hands and snatched the cold, wet
flowers. One after the other she picked them in defiance,
as she was too upset merely to contemplate their
rapaciousness and beauty.
‘Do you know the name of that flower?’ inquired a voice
overhead. Kae had been too engrossed to hear footsteps.
Clutching the flowers, the frightened girl stiffened, looked up at her
husband, and tried to concentrate on the question.”

From “The Doctor’s Wife” by Sawako Ariyoshi, translated by Wakako Hironaka and Ann Siller Kostant (Kodansha International)

Korean morning glory, a species of datura, is poisonous. It belongs to the large Solanum family of plants, which includes tomato and the deadly nightshade. Originally from India, it arrived in Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and was used to treat asthma. Ariyoshi’s compelling novel is based on the true story of a Japanese doctor who created one of the first general anesthetics, using potentially deadly herbs.

By Linda Inoki

Japan Times

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