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#132142 - 08/27/04 03:31 AM Rabbit-Tobacco
Wordwind Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
A group of teachers and I recently attended a workshop on Harper Lee and Truman Capote in Monroeville, Alabama. On the long ride into the deep South, we discussed all kinds of trivia related to "To Kill a Mockingbird." Rabbit-tobacco came up. I happened to have a dictionary page with a very pretty photograph of the plant to show the group, but one teacher said, "I don't think this is rabbit-tobacco. The botanical name is Nicotiana sylvestris." My photograph was of Gnaphalium obtusifolium, which is a well-documented name for rabbit-tobacco. Nicotiana sylvestris is referred to as 'flowering tobacco' sometimes, but I can't find it referred to as 'rabbit-tobacco.' However, common names can cause uncommon confusion when it comes to identifying plants.

How would I best go about knowing which of these tobaccos was the more likely plant to have been growing wildly in the Radley 'swept yard' of Mockingbird?


*Of interest: The American tobacco that is grown for cigarettes is Nicotiana tabacum, and is in the nightshade family along with tomatoes, belladonna, potatoes, eggplant, and the rest of this enormous family. (And seeing that list makes me wonder why is it we add 'es' to tomato and potato, but only 's' to tobacco? English has GOT to be the dadburndest language on earth.)



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#132143 - 08/27/04 04:49 AM Re: Rabbit-Tobacco
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Just an off-the-top-of-my-head suggestion: contact the Alabama state ag. extension program (probably HQ'ed at Bama).


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#132144 - 08/27/04 05:31 AM Re: Rabbit-Tobacco
Alex Williams Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 01/05/01
Posts: 1814
Loc: Spam Factory
I thought rabbit tobacco would be some variation on Roald Dahl's goat's tobacco, but I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded of it in TKAM. You could email someone in the horticulture department or something like that at the University of Alabama. Tell us more about your workshop on Lee and Capote, please.


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#132145 - 08/27/04 08:52 AM Re: H. Lee/ Capote Workshop
Wordwind Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
Every July a panel of Monroeville's citizens sit to tell their individual tales in the old courthouse--the one after which the interior design for Mockingbird of Gregory Peck fame was nearly identically designed. These citizens spend three hours reminiscing about Monroeville's history, which has a similar history to the Maycomb of Mockingbird, and about their knowledge of Harper Lee and Truman Capote in their youth. I can unconditionally recommend this teachers' workshop to anyone who has an interest in Lee and Capote, who were nextdoor neighbors for many years of their childhood and attended the same elementary school together, although Capote was in a slightly higher grade than Lee. It was entirely providential that the two knew each other as children: both were highly imaginative, both loved writing, the girls thought of Lee as a tomboy with fisticuff tendencies, and the boys thought of Capote as an easy target to knock down as long as Harper Lee wasn't around to defend him. Even after Capote permanently moved to the North, the friendship between the two remained firm, and Lee, of course, later moved to New York where she continues to live most of the year with the rest of the time spent in Monroeville with her sister. The likelihood of two such children growing up together in such a backwater area as Monroeville is amazing, and that's why I believe their being nextdoor neighbors was providential. Lee is now 78 years old, and the people on the panel are getting on in years. In the not-too-distant future, these people will pass on, so this opportunity of hearing people who knew the two authors firsthand as children will be no more. Additionaly, the panelists readily entertain questions from the courthouse audience. Among the many interesting stories I've heard about the two is the one told about their having an old typewriter on which they pounded out stories when they were quite young. It is how they spent a good deal of their time.

Monroeville casts its charm securely on any who would visit there. My heart rate slows down; a calm claims me for the time I'm there. And it is an immediate calm I sense whenever remembering it. Monroeville is now a yearly pilgrimmage for me.

#Note to Jackie: I intentionally used the plural verb with the word 'panel' in the first sentence.


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#132146 - 08/27/04 11:10 AM Re: Rabbit-Tobacco
Wordwind Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
Here's a bit more on tobacco at large. Nicotiana covers the genus of tobacco, but I found this information interesting about the genus:

NICOTIANA-This name is taken from Nicot who was at one time a French consul to Portugal and who introduced the use of tobacco to the courts of those countries.

http://www.backyardgardener.com/article/latinwords.html

...and, of course, the 'nicotine' connection between that and Nicotiana.


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#132147 - 08/27/04 07:05 PM Re: Rabbit-Tobacco
amemeba Offline
journeyman

Registered: 05/02/04
Posts: 89




Say, Wordwind, you are quite the teacher. Your enlivening questions make me want to raise my hand whether I know the correct answer or not. And once again I not, but this time I have a plan...tomorrow I'm going to visit with an old farmer in Chilton County (About 60 miles north of Monroeville) and will ask him to show me some rabbit tobacco. Great idea, huh?

This... http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu/okwild/rabbitob.html

... is like the rabbit tobacco that I never smoked in my youth. The plant grew mostly in grassless soil, often near trees. The leaves were fuzzy and about five inches long. To make a smoke the plant's dried brown leaves were gently crumbled into a store-bought slip of white tobacco paper and then rolled into a proper cigarette.

But some of my know-it-all friends back then also called the Gnaphalium obtusifolium plant "rabbit tobacco" as well.

This plant is high stemmed and tall and would have likely grown in the surrounding weeds of a yard that could be swept.

I, myself, was a good boy and never smoked until I started going out with girls at age twenty-three.

But one time I did smoke an Indian Cigar, which was crafted from the long seed pods of the Southern Catalpa tree. First we boys toasted the pods slowly in a oven until the green pods turned a respectable brown. Next we cut the long pods into little cheroots and then smoked the foul smelling Indian sticks until we all turned green. What fun!

Will report back Sunday.







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#132148 - 08/28/04 12:49 PM Re: Rabbit-Tobacco
wow Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 3439
Loc: New England, USA
Cannot be that Nicotiana sylvestris has any connection to the comic character Sylvester the Rabbit!?
EDIT : Ooops! Should have looked before I leaped. Sylvester is is a comic cat.


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#132149 - 08/29/04 06:44 PM Re: Rabbit-Tobacco
amemeba Offline
journeyman

Registered: 05/02/04
Posts: 89
Here is the results of my investigation to answer the question...
In South Alabama, what is considered "rabbit tobacco"?

Methodology: I showed a rabbit tobacco photograph that I had copied earlier from the Internet to a farmer's wife in Clanton Alabama and to a pal of mine from Tallassee, Alabama; both are citizens of a farming culture similar to the farming culture around Monroeville, Alabama.

Results...
The farmers wife: (giggling) Nosiree, that ain't no rabbit Tobacco. I oughta know I smoked aplenty when I was young. Rabbit tobacco is tall and curly at the end; ain't bad when you get use to it.

Pal from Tallasee: Well could be, but that ain't what we call rabbit tobacco around Tallasee, and I've lived there nigh forty-eight years now. Rabbit tobacco is tall like goldenrod but shorter.

Conclusion: In Mid-Alabama this is considered Rabbit Tobacco...

http://www.dreamyland.org/photos/flora/pages/rabbit-tobacco1.htm

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#132150 - 08/29/04 07:50 PM Re: Rabbit-Tobacco
Wordwind Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
Well, what in Sam's hill is that plant, Milo?

(Thanks very much for the research. But, good golly, Miss Molly, it would be really terrific to have genus and species, you know? Thanks again. Sincerely.)


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#132151 - 08/29/04 10:35 PM Re: Rabbit-Tobacco
amemeba Offline
journeyman

Registered: 05/02/04
Posts: 89
Ok, my bad, your good, the genus is Gnaphalium and the species is obtusifolium and I am still bad, and you are still good. Whatever that means.


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