Driving down State Route west this summer, you will see a kind soul placed signs periodically along the road to read as you whiz by at 50 miles per hour. They say, Weeds……are…..just…..unloved…..flowers. George Washington Carver felt the same way. Although he expressed his opinion 80 years earlier, “A weed is a flower.” Although, what he is trying to say is that all plants in God’s creation have value and purpose, right? Even if we cannot see that value, that value that George Washington Carver found with many plants once and still considered weeds. According to Ideafinder.com, “Henry Ford, head of Ford Motor Company invited Carver to his Dearborn, Michigan plant where the two devised a way to use goldenrod, a plant weed, to create synthetic rubber.” How cool! Goldenrod rubber!
This and the fact that while out on my daily runs I see some cool “weeds” – got me thinking. I started researching some weeds/wildflowers and here are pictures and info on a few that seemed interesting to me.
Jewelweed is named so due to the fact that when water droplets fall on leaves they shine like tiny jewels. This picture was taken at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, just off an especially wet, boggy part of the path. A beautiful plant to look at, with its pale almost translucent stem, look close enough and you will see it does resemble your your shady annual impatiens, for it is in the same family Impatiens pallida. The stems contain a liquid that can be used to soothe the sting from Poison-Ivy. Although, another name for this plant is “Touch-me-not”, not due to any poisonous properties, but because its long seedpods explode when touched throwing seeds in all directions. Hummingbirds enjoy sipping the nectar from this bright yellow flowers. You may also be familiar with Spotted Jewelweed nearly the same, but with orange flowers.
Wild Bergamot, also known as Monarda is a member of the mint family. You will find this plant has a strong order when crushed. It can be used as a mint tea to treat respiratory and digestive ailments. Named wild Bergamot, after the Bergamot Orange which has a similar odor to its foliage. This plant continues to be a flavoring in Earl Grey Tea.
Bird foot Trefoil is common sight if you look out your window as you drive down a country road in summer. This plant hails from Europe and was imported here to control erosion along roadsides. Its seedpods resemble a bird foot, while its leaves look like a group of three, thus the plant was given its name. It is a nectar source for the European Skipper and Sulfur butterflies. Commonly seen with Chicories creating a beautiful roadside contrast of blue and yellow, the intro picture shows.
Onward we move down the road, to an awesome seed head we found growing on the banks of the Huron River, I believe this to be Great Angelica (Angelica atropupurea). Hailing from the carrot family, this plant was once thought to cure contagious disease. Its stems can be candied (don’t ask me how) to decorate Christmas cakes and is a common practice in France. I like it just from the standpoint of form. It has big bold structure says “Hello!” If you like this plant think about planting the slightly better behaved form of Korean angelica in your gardens (Angelica gigas).
Am I saying you should plant these in your landscape? No, I just thought it would be fun to identify some common weeds, so we may appreciate them for what they are. They each have their own beauty from foliage color to interesting seed heads. I have about 6 or 7 more to share with you, but I will do this in stages. Have a weed you cannot identify or you just think is cool? Let me know, I will include it in an upcoming blog. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a response.
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
-George Washington Carver