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Wildflowers of Jamaica: Spanish Needle

I’ve become fascinated by the variety of flowers, including wildflowers, that grow in Jamaica. When I asked about this one and heard that it was the Spanish Needle, I thought of a poem I learned years ago in school.

Spanish Needle
Spanish Needle

The poem, The Spanish Needle, was written by Jamaican poet, Claude McKay, who certainly thought a lot of the lowly wildflower. McKay was born in 1889 and moved to the U.S. in 1912, where he became a seminal figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Besides poetry, he also wrote the novels Home to Harlem, Banjo and Banana Bottom, short stories and autobiographical books.

This is what he had to say about The Spanish Needle

Lovely dainty Spanish needle

With your yellow flower and white,

Dew bedecked and softly sleeping,

Do you think of me to-night?


Shadowed by the spreading mango,

Nodding o’er the rippling stream,

Tell me, dear plant of my childhood,

Do you of the exile dream?


Do you see me by the brook’s side

Catching crayfish ‘neath the stone,

As you did the day you whispered:

Leave the harmless dears alone?


Do you see me in the meadow

Coming from the woodland spring

With a bamboo on my shoulder

And a pail slung from a string?


Do you see me all expectant

Lying in an orange grove,

While the swee-swees sing above me,

Waiting for my elf-eyed love?


Lovely dainty Spanish needle,

Source to me of sweet delight,

In your far-off sunny southland

Do you dream of me to-night? 

I was also surprised to learn (but really, I shouldn’t have been) that the medicinal qualities found in the roots, leaves and seeds of the Spanish Needle can be used to treat a variety of illnesses including malaria, headaches and arthritis. It is used widely in Africa, Asia and the Americas.