The “Canada Thistle” (Cirsium arvense) did not come from Canada but from Europe ? It is the national emblem of Scotland and one of their mottos is “Touch Me Who Dares” because of the prickly leaves.

          “Nigella” (Ranunculaceae) who has its flowers embedded in thread like foliage, is 8 to 10 inches high and is called “Love In A Mist” in some places and “Devil In A Bush” in others as well as “Persian Jewels”. The striped seed pods are often used in winter bouquets. It will seed itself if you don’t deadhead.

          Have you eaten a “Jerusalem Artichoke”? It isn’t from Jerusalem nor is it an artichoke but a sunflower (Helianthus tuberosa). It was cultivated by the Indians for its tuberous roots. In some areas it is called “Canada Potato”.  It grows very easily here in Lincoln -a coarse plant 6 to 10 feet high.  Somehow I was never very impressed with its taste but then I am not cook so it may be delicious.

          “Tomatoes” were exported to Europe by the Spanish explorer Cortes .  The French called them “Love Apples”. Many others considered them poison, while others grew them for their “ornamental beauty”. The United States government classifies them as vegetables while botanists classify them as fruit.

          “Cabbage” leaves have been used for years to ease hurting knees or elbows. Find a big leaf, dip it in hot water to soften for shaping then fasten it in place with a wrap.

          “Hakonechloa macra” (Golden hakon grass), also called “Japanese Forest Grass” has been declared the 2009 perennial of the year. I have had it for several years as I wanted a grass that liked shade. It has grown very slowly for me but that may be because its write ups say it does not like clay soil, which is where I have it. Recommendations call for moist, humus rich, well drained soil.  It has narrow yellow blades with green stripes and arches over rather than growing upright like other grasses. I have it where it “flops” toward a path under the “Cottonwood Tree” and I fill in the spaces with painted “Caladium” bulbs that like the same soil and need to be kept damp but not wet.

          “Poison Ivy” is native Nebraskan. Deer, game birds, and wild turkeys eat the seeds, fruit, and leaves.  Very few animals are affected by urushol, the oil that causes skin poisoning in people. It spread by seeds and rhizomes and is found in pastures and rangelands throughout Nebraska . Even the dry plant can affect people and the smoke from burning it is equally bad. Not everyone is affected the first time they are exposed but may be on a later exposure.  It can grow from one to 6 1/2 feet tall with leaves in groups of three. Most of the drug stores now have a crème to reduce the itching.

          Have you had a very sturdy vine trying to conquer your yard? The “Honeyvine Milkweed” (Asclepiadaceae) suddenly appears climbing on anything it can find up to 6 1/2 feet long.  It leaves a long pod that produces many seeds as well as spreading by rhizomes.  Every year I find them in a number of places in the yard. It is also known as “Sand Vine” or “Climbing Milkweed”. A number of them on one plant can smother its victim.  It will not appear until the ground is quite warm but when it does, it grows very rapidly.

          “Chicory” (Cichorium intybus) is a plant usually thought of as a weed but grown for its blue flowers in some yards. It is a perennial that spreads by seeds.  Later in the early fall there are areas along the roads that are very blue and pretty. Our pioneers dried and roasted the roots for their coffee. It doesn’t do well in cultivated fields so will be found in lawns, pastures, and road sides. 

Be careful when dealing with the plant as some people are allergic or get that way after more exposure.

          “Joepyeweed” (Eupatorium) is also listed as a weed in “Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains (Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Lincoln , Nebraska : 2003, pages 128-129) but the varieties that have been developed by plant scientists are for sale in nurseries and garden centers. There is a short and a tall version. Both will become crowded with “Butterflies” so I try to keep several clumps of the 6 feet tall kind in the background.  It prefers an almost wet soil so will gradually become a smaller clump unless I remember to give it extra water during dry spells. Birds like to live in it near the edges of waterways. Joe Pye was named for an Indian who befriended the pioneers by showing them how to reduce pain and fever. 

          Is there such a thing as a “tame flower” or are they just the ones who have been remodeled by plant breeders?

Copyright 2009