Ma cos'è questa pianta? (What is this plant?) I think my father-in-law already knows that whenever I show a keen interest in something, it means that I want to take it home with me. He didn't have any idea what the botanical name was, only that it was the scappa talpa plant. The plant that made moles want to pack up leave. Earlier on, we had been transplanting a few young Thessaloniki tomato bushes in the garden, a gift that I wanted to give my inlaws since I had started way too many to fit into my own garden. Of course this little planting session did not go without free advice on how to properly water the newcomers to his orto (garden).
“Don't pour water from the top! Water below. Water on the leaves acts like a magnifying glass in the sun. It'll make too much heat on the leaves, you understand?” he says with a smile in his eyes.
Back again to the scappa talpa plant, he told me that 10 years ago his yard was full of moles - and holes. My mother-in-law chimed in at the mention of the holes, “sono pericolosi!” (they're dangerous!). A neighbor had given them a young plant and from then on, moles be gone! But still to this day, they only refer to the bush as scappa talpa. Scappa from the verb scappare (to escape) and talpa (mole). So far we haven't had any visits from the tunnel-excavating critters, but I couldn't resist doing a bit of sleuthing on the net, and what did I find? A plant species called Euphorbia lathyrus, otherwise known as the Gopher Purge or Mole Plant.
Not bad for just 15 minutes of digging around...