This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
John G. Eisele says : " In regard to what Mr. De Niedman volunteered to state in the February number of the Gardener's Monthly, concerning I. longiflora: First, I received the seed from which I raised the plants from a friend at Tampico, Mexico. There, I was told, the flower is a favorite, and bears the poetical name of "Estrella del Mer." To be sure, Tampico lies pretty well south - below the Tropic of Cancer - and has consequently rather a warm climate; but nevertheless, especially in the beginning of winter, it is not seldom severely exposed to the cold northern winds, sweeping down from Texas. The blooming time of I. longifiora falls between October and January ; and that fact made me think that it was not, strictly speaking, a stove plant, and must not be treated as such, although it may thrive well in an orchid house, like Pteris trimula. I kept the specimens I succeeded in raising, in a temperature of from 50° to 65°, mostly in a Rose house, on the ground, where the Tea Roses are planted, in and between the rose bushes, knowing that they will thrive well in the shade, which they did, and merrily went on blooming.
I often cut from one good-sized plant in a six inch pot, from four to six flowers a day, and as the flower was a novelty in this market, it readily brought two cents apiece. We ourselves used it freely in our designs, and found that just that peculiar length of the flower tube was the strikingly pleasing feature in it. We could either let it stick out and produce its whole length, or we somewhat clipped it (the tube) below, and then applied it according to circumstances, to taste, and so pleased all.
I concede, that the flower cannot in truth be called a very desirable one; yet we found it anyhow as lasting as the Jasmine or Azalea flowers. Florists, here and elsewhere, have offered and sent us voluntarily flattering testimonials as to its value as a cut flower. That the plant is an annual, I am, so far, inclined to doubt, as, after blooming, it puts out numerous sprouts or shoots from the roots. For rockeries, as Mr. De Niedman suggests, I do not consider it suitable or fit at all; at least not in this latitude, for the obvious reason that it blooms too late in fall.
As to the poisonous properties of the plant in any or all of its parts, of which Mr. De Neidman talks, I can only say, I have not observed anything marked about it. Of course, any one who puts one of the flowers into his mouth and masticates it, may feel a kind of a burning sensation on his tongue ; but that is the case with many. Many a highly-priced ornamental plant will have some kind of acid. I found the seed of I. longifiora mentioned as something rare, even in the seed.
Catalogues of Haage& Schmidt, in Erfurt, Germany, and I. axilaris and Brownii, I often meet in some European gardens. Mr. De Niedman tries to make even the odors of Isotoma suspected, if not odious. I do not remember having seen or heard much of flowers emitting poison. At any rate, if we are going to discard all poisonous and suspicious plants we are carefully cultivating and highly prizing, we would have to discard and to miss some of our most beautiful favorites in the garden, as, for instance: Azalea pontica, Aconitum, Euphorbia, Calla, Solanum, Oleander, Ranunculi, Laurus cerasus, Arum, Helleborus niger, Digitalis, Dativia, Kalmia, and last, if not least, Daphne, which Phytohemie designates as poisonous. All this is only to say, that what I stated in the December number of this journal about I. longifiora, was no exaggeration or fiction, but the naked truth. That any plant, newly introduced, brought into public notice, has to stand the cross fire of the critics, is an old, well-known fact, and I don't complain of it.
In justice to Mr. Eisele, it should be said that we had never seen the plant before, and we had to give him the name from botanical analysis alone. He is justified in regarding it as rather rare under culture. He is also one of the most intelligent of the rising race of commercial florists in Philadelphia, and well qualified to judge of an acceptable cut flower. It is true, as Mr. De N. says, that the sweet odor of the flower has the reputation among the Carribeans of producing headaches, but we have known South Carolinians cut down Gardenias for the same reason. - Ed. G. M].