Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chincherinchees (Ornithogalum thyrsoides)

With the end of the wildflower season in sight, I want to tell you about the flowers you probably know as "chinks". Summer is getting warmer and all over the fields they are now drying off.

The Greeks, and some sources say the Romans, would describe something that was amazing, incredible and wonderful as "birds milk" which in translation would be ornis + gala. From there the scientific name Ornithogalum. South Africans claimed to have heard a ching sound when picking at the stems and that gave us the common name for this flower: Chincherinchees.

You know by now that Kabeljoubank where I live is absolutely steeped in history and culture. Here the British Peer and her crew perished in 1896, and we still see pieces of their red bricks ballast, rounded and shrunk by ocean movement to the size of pebbles. Here, also, if people will look where I direct them, (a photographers dream....but nobody is interested) the process of snoek drying in the seabreeze can be seen.

But this is the nicest Kabeljoubank story of all: Between the two world wars, tourists who had travelled to Cape Town by ocean liner or train, would sometimes in spring and early summer hire a horse cart and travel the distance to Kabeljoubank for a picnic. They admired the beautiful views, the bluest ocean, the fields of spring flowers. One of the sights they saw was the picking of chincherinchees (in bud form) to be exported to Covent Garden where they were sold, a popular flower which can last for weeks in a vase.

Of course my vases at home bear nothing of the sort, as all our flowers in the Cape Flower Kingdom are now protected! To be admired, photographed, sketched, but never to be picked! The first image is my painting, the second the veld next to my studio with ragwort and chinkerinchees, then a bunch I photographed at the annual Wild Flower Show and lastly a little macro photo I took. Do not forget to let me know if you have ever seen or grown "chinks"!


  1. quelle luminosité ! j'aime beaucoup !

  2. Wonder if there is anything that will interest you in this post?
    from Diana of Elephant's Eye, not so far from you ;>)

  3. Pragtige chinks, MArie. En baie sterkte met die uitstalling...ek sien dit nou eers...iewers het ek dit gemis. En ek stem saam, ek sien jou absoluut woeker met die seemeeu, ek dink dis in jou bloed, in jou wese. Hoe dan anders daar aan die weskus, jou gelukkige ding! Elke kunstenaar het so 'n "trademark", dink ek en as ek aan jou dink, dan dink ek weskus...see, meeue, strande. Dis so eie aan wat mens diep binne is, wat jou siel voed. Dis wat ons uniek maak. Doen so voort. Jou werk is uniek.

  4. Those are beautiful flowers!! Glad to hear that your Summer is coming ....our Winter is fast approaching. : ((

  5. The flowers are gorgeous... both yours that you painted and the photos.

    Tell me ... what is a veld?? your "garden" flowers are really stunning!

  6. Thank you for the visit, Diana. I visited several sites to find a true English name for those flowers. The article on the work of other artists was very interesting. You will find some amazing wildlife artists on my blogroll. I must admit, the bee painting is outstanding!

    Thank you, Paint-By-Cath!

    Ronelle, niks maak my gelukkiger as om as 'n Weskusser beskou te word nie! Dankie vir al jou aanmoediging! bisous!

    Thank you, Manon....get some nice bright red paint to take you through winter!

    Marian, the veld or veldt is a piece of unspoiled and uncultivated land with natural vegetation, just like a forest but without trees.....hope the definition helps. In spring it forms a true wild garden.

  7. Aren't they absolutely lovely Marie?! the macro shot is SO typical of Chinks! No, never grown them, but have seen them at the Floral markets up here in Gauteng. Lovely informative post!

  8. Hi Marie,

    Beautiful flowers and great painting. Love the composition. Yes, our winter is fast approaching. Enjoy your summer.

    All the best to you.

  9. These flowers look so familiar, but I don't think I have ever grown them. These wild flowers are so lovely and abundant. Such a beautiful place you live in and I thoroughly enjoy the history and the information.
    I like your painting with the blues, greens, and whites.

  10. Marie, thanks for checking in on my blog. I love the floral painting and all your seagulls are wonderful. Good news about the show.

    I don't believe I've seen Chinks in person. Great post.

  11. Thank you, Maree, to see them blooming in mass is such a treat! And yes, thank you for showing me so tactfully on my mistake! Of course it should read Macro, not Micro!

    Thank you Joan, enjoy your winter and the new themes that it will provide!

    Thank you Catherine, what the photo shows better than the painting is the green in the unopened buds.

    Mary , it was a treat visiting your blog! the course must have bee terrific and inspiring! No, these chinks seem to be unknown. I am told that farmers still grow them for the London markets.

  12. They are beautiful! I have never heard of them or seen them. Your painting of them is perfect. Isn't he internet wonderful? Visiting each other from all parts of the world.

  13. Oh my Marie, it's so long since I've seen Chincherinchees and what an amazing painting! It's beautiful. These flowers will always remind me of my mother - thank you!

  14. Hi Barbara, it really seems as if these flowers are not available as plants or cut flowers in the USA.I will ask my daughter in Texas whether she has ever found them under another name! But to tell the truth, I am quite pleased when I can tell you about something that isunknown over there!

    Ah Liz, yes of course you know them....but please do not miss them next October....they are truly abundant over here!

  15. Marie, it's lovely to see that you've been painting beautiful paintints and being busy showing them while I was away being busy with the big move.... loves to you!

  16. Great painting and story. I have never seen or heard of chinks.

  17. Thank you Theresa, your Washington paintings are as beautiful as ever!

    Thank you, Liana. They can be cultivated but it seems as if nobody I know has ever seen them in the US!

  18. Wow! That was so interesting! I love the painting of these delicate little flowers. Thank you for the interesting history lesson and candy for the eyes with the lovely painting and photos.

  19. Thank you, Helen! I wish you could see them in mass!

  20. I have some right now, way up here in Northern Maine close to the Canadian border, that I got as a Christmas present in a flower arrangement. Five 'chincs'! So wonderful, as I am from the Cape. Taking a photo every day as they open for me. Makes me very homesick.

  21. Dear Anonymous, how kind of you to tell me this. I would love to see the photos. I think you probably received hothouse flowers, much neater than ours and with extra long stems? p/s I love all I read about Maine, and would love to see it one day!


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