Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Hebe

with 14 comments

Hebe acutiflora Flowers 4719

After two consecutive posts with no text (but double pictures to compensate), here come words again. Most of the wildflowers that I saw during my three-and-a-half weeks in New Zealand weren’t native, but one that I encountered was not only native but also endemic: Hebe acutiflora. It normally grows on the North Island, although I found this specimen in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens on February 14th.

Did you know that Hebe was the ancient Greek goddess of youth? And did you know that cartoonist William De Beck (1890-1942) coined the term heebie-jeebies in his comic strip Barney Google (which you can google) to mean ‘jitters, nervousness, uneasiness’? If these Hebe flowers give any of you the heebie-jeebies, I’ll be quite surprised.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 16, 2015 at 5:29 AM

14 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I was acquainted with the term heebie-jeebies long before I met the hebe. And, I am sorry to say, my lovely hebes often have to put up with a teasing greeting from me ie something like, “hello little heebie-jeebies”. Makes no sense, of course. But I expect Barney Google would have been capable of doing something equally silly.


    June 16, 2015 at 6:24 AM

    • My first thought was that it’s curious for you to have gotten familiar with the expression heebie-jeebies, which originated in America, before the hebe, which comes from New Zealand and is the largest plant genus there, but maybe that’s a result of your having lived in Fiji and other places, or perhaps as a child you were more interested in silly comic strips than in flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 16, 2015 at 6:52 AM

      • My parents and others of their generation, and my grandparents, used the term heebie-jeebies. I didn’t see hebe plants in Fiji, nor did I see them in any of the NZ gardens we visited whilst on leave in NZ. They weren’t fashionable, it would seem. I saw my first hebes in 2000 when we came back to NZ. I loved them immediately. Hebes had been discovered. They were trendy.


        June 16, 2015 at 7:11 AM

  2. I had no idea the expression “heebie-jeebies” came from a comic strip. It was used so commonly when I was a child that I picked it up and used it often: usually when confronting things like garden spiders, earthworms, or the need to go down into the dark basement by myself.

    Another phrase we used was “googley eyes,” also from the comic strip. It appears De Beck named his character Google after Vincent Cartwright Vickers’ “The Google Book” (1913). And just so we have a little math to go with the words:

    “When mathematician and Columbia University professor Edward Kasner was challenged in the late 1930s to devise a name for a very large number, he asked his nine-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, to suggest a word. The youthful comic strip reader told Kasner to use “Google”. Kasner agreed, and in 1940, he introduced the words “googol” and “googolplex” in his book, “Mathematics and the Imagination.”

    This is the term that Larry Page and Sergey Brin had in mind when they named their company in 1998, but they intentionally misspelled “googol” as “google,” bringing it back full circle to Vickers’ form.”

    None of this is meant to ignore the flower, which is perfectly lovely. The fact that it’s endemic made me wonder about endemic flowers in Texas. Finding some may be a nice diversion for the rainy afternoon which we’re going to have: and you, too, it seems.


    June 16, 2015 at 8:00 AM

    • I just looked at the projections, and it seems you’re going to get more rain from TS Bill than we will. Interesting. We’ve all been pulling for an even more southward landfall, to throw more rain to the west.


      June 16, 2015 at 8:24 AM

      • Last night I heard a projection of as much as six inches of rain in central Texas. If there really is that much in our area, there’ll very likely be more flooding.

        Steve Schwartzman

        June 16, 2015 at 8:39 AM

    • I didn’t know heebie-jeebies came from a comic strip, either, but I looked up the term while preparing this post. In contrast, even before I wrote my etymological dictionary of mathematical terms I’d read about the origin of googol (and a copy of Mathematics and the Imagination has been on my math shelves since I was a teenager). In preparing this post I also mentally heard part of the Barney Google song; I’ve no idea when in my childhood I first heard the song, but it was there in my head at the appropriate time: “Barney Google, with the goo-goo-googly eyes.” Other similar-sounding eye-related words are ogle and goggle.

      As for endemic Texas plants, it seems I’ve featured one each year for the past three years:




      In the United States, pearl milkweed grows only in Texas, but I suspect it’s found in adjacent Mexico as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 16, 2015 at 8:37 AM

  3. Origins are always interesting…or at least almost always. Nothing here to give anyone the HJs.

    Steve Gingold

    June 16, 2015 at 2:28 PM

  4. It’s lovely~nothing creepy about this Hebe. I’ve seen reference to them as a garden plant, but never seen one.


    June 16, 2015 at 5:55 PM

    • Not only not creepy, but some of the Hebe species are showier than this one. I gather that various fancy cultivars have been developed for the garden trade.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 16, 2015 at 7:08 PM

  5. […] you’d like a closer look at a flower spike from another Hebe species, you can check out a photograph from our first visit to New […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: