Good evening from the beautiful state of Maine. Hope all is well with you and yours. Our family has been enjoying a glorious week here in the heart of Midcoast and between fishing unsuccessfully from the new boat and hiking the woods and shoreline I've been busy doing what you all know I love: taking pictures of wildflowers.
My original objective was to offer a portfolio of native wildflowers but the fact is most of the wildflowers in bloom right now on the island are in fact invasive species that have naturalized to the area. I have never been one to turn my nose up at beauty, and the fact most of my flower friends are immigrants doesn't bother me one bit. Let me introduce you to a few of them. You may find you have met them before in your neck of the woods as well.
Please join me over the tangled rockweed for more.
All images are in Lightbox mode. Click to embiggen.
Leucanthemum vulgare (Oxeye Daisy)
Our first guest tonight is the lovely Oxeye. Though an invasive species brought to the US via European gardeners and considered a noxious weed in a number of states, this beautiful flower is ubiquitous to the the sumer landscape. Andrew Wyeth, who summered in nearby Cushing, ME and owned and painted on and around islands in the immediate vicinity of ours (including ours), documents the ever present daisy in an number of paintings and watercolors across his career. Wyeth is one of my favorite artists because of his ability to convey the landscape of Maine. I feel the wind, sea and light in real time when I view his Maine works. As a visual artist I have heard the spectrum of criticism and critique regarding his work. I have no interest in that nonsense. It speaks to me, that all I have ever cared about anyway.
Several interesting tidbits regarding this flower:
Oxeye is a staple of the botanical pharmacopeia. Harking back to ancient times, the plant is a known treatment for cough, night sweats, cuts and bruises and to ease the flow of urine.
The unopened buds can be marinated and eaten as capers.
'Dioscorides saith that the floures of Oxeie made up in a seare cloth doe asswage and washe away cold hard swellings, and it is reported that if they be drunke by and by after bathing, they make them in a short time wellcoloured that have been troubled with the yellow jaundice.'
Culpepper tells us that it is 'a wound herb of good respect, often used in those drinks and salves that are for wounds, either inward or outward' . . . and that it is 'very fitting to be kept both in oils, ointments, plasters and syrups.' He also tells us that the leaves bruised and applied reduce swellings, and that
'a decoction thereof, with wall-wort and agrimony, and places fomented or bathed therewith warm, giveth great ease in palsy, sciatica or gout. An ointment made thereof heals all wounds that have inflammation about them.'
Ranunculus acris (Tall Buttercup) is a naturalized American wildflower. As kids in Massachusetts we used to place the flowers against our arms and if it cast a yellow light on the skin (it always did) it meant someone "loved" us. Thrilling at six or seven years old to know, as an adult these flowers hold a special place in my memory of summer for their simple beauty.
There is a related variety, Ranunculus bulbosus with a bulbous root that holds folk medicinal properties. Also called Crowfoot and St. Anthony's Turnip, this plant is used as a blistering agent. In a particularly interesting illustration of the power of this root to inflame the skin, Modern Herbal states "Its action as a counter-irritant is both uncertain and violent, and may cause obstinate ulcers. The beggars of Europe sometimes use it to keep open sores for the purpose of exciting sympathy."
The next invasive is Hieracium aurantiacum (Devil's Paintbrush) also known as Orange Hawkweed. Like the Oxeye, beauty is the reason for its widespread distribution. Gardeners couldn't help themselves. They are simply gorgeous.
The USDA link above tells an interesting story of their introduction to New England:
Orange hawkweed is native to northern and central Europe, occurring primarily in mountain meadows and hillsides . It was introduced in Vermont by 1875 as a garden ornamental  and has been planted many times subsequently. Orange hawkweed has repeatedly escaped cultivation .(emphasis mines)
The origin of the Hawkweed name is interesting. I'll let user foxy and the following thread from New Foundland Nature sum it up for us, because i like their style:
By foxy on 7/11/2011 5:21:02 PM
Do you really think it's noxious? I rather like them. I have noticed that the Hieraciums are scorned by bumblebees, but hummingbird moths seem to find them interesting.
By foxy on 7/15/2011 7:57:45 PM
Here's my interpretation of the garbled 'lore' about Hawkweed. It has been written in old medicinal tracts that the weed was used by Hawks to improve their eyesight. In fact, due to the form of the plant - rosette of leaves hugging the ground and slender flowering stems - from a hawk's vantage point, a vole in the grass would become visible when it entered the patch of hawkweed, and available for a strike. The savvy farmer would welcome some patches of hawkweed in the field, knowing that hawks would use them to catch voles or mice, because they made their prey visible.
By Marcel Roy on 7/15/2011 10:19:26 PM
I read somewhere that it was believed that hawks feeding on the sap is what gave them better eyesight. Untreated infestations quickly form dense mats of rosettes that excludes all other vegetation.
By foxy on 7/15/2011 11:08:37 PM
Yes, I've read the same. The reference in Grieve is under a different genus, Leontodon spp,where "Hieracium, derived from the Greek, hieras (a hawk) refers to an ancient belief that hawks ate these plants to sharpen their sight.." Culpepper says it was used externally for eye problems, but this is not surprising if the lore of the farmer was misinterpreted as medicine. I'm not sure that hawkweeds are competitive against meadow grasses... there are some very old fields in my area and perhaps I should go and take a look, how well they have spread in the old pasture.
Then we have the clovers.[Trifolium pratense (Red or Purple Clover)Trifolium pratense/] again came to us from Europe, but are found naturalized all over the world. Often overlooked and taken for granted, these are important forage plants for cows, sheep and goats. They probably were introduced to our island in the 1800's when sheep were kept. I used to eat them myself as a child. Is there anyone here who hasn't eaten clover honey, the most common variety available?
Used as an ingredient in many herbal teas and infusions, red clover has a long history in herbal medicine. Again, a Modern Herbal:
Medicinal Action and Uses---The fluid extract of Trifolium is used as an alterative and antispasmodic. An infusion made by 1 OZ. to 1 pint of boiling water may with advantage be used in cases of bronchial and whooping-cough. Fomentations and poultices of the herb have been used as localapplications to cancerous growths.
I do not know anything at all about this, but I feel it important to include the following caution from the wiki
Warnings and contraindications
In alternative medicine, red clover is promoted as a treatment for a variety of human maladies, including coughs, disorders of the lymphatic system and a variety of cancers. However, according to the American Cancer Society, "available clinical evidence does not show that red clover is effective in treating or preventing cancer, menopausal symptoms, or any other medical conditions."
Dietary amounts of red clover are safe, but medicinal quantities may cause rash-like reactions, muscle ache, headache, nausea, vaginal bleeding in women, and slow blood clotting.
Due to its activity on estrogen receptors, red clover is contraindicated in people with a history of breast cancer, endometriosis, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, or other estrogen-sensitive conditions, but others have suggested the high isoflavone content counteracts this, and even provides benefits in these conditions.
Due to its coumarin derivatives, it should be used in caution in individuals with coagulation disorders or currently undergoing anticoagulation therapy.
It is metabolized by CYP3A4 and therefore caution should be used when taking it with other drugs using this metabolic pathway.
There is evidence that red clover may cause infertility.
Next up: Daucus carota (Queen Anne's Lace), is a wild carrot and if you pull it while young the root is edible. Wait too long and it's woody and unpalatable.
This was one of my great-grandmother's favorite flowers. I used to pick it for her all the time, with a warning from my grandmother to be sure it was the right plant. As a child I might have thought the more rare but still present hemlocks were simply larger and better versions to put int he vase. That could prove a fatal error. Wondering how a child might make this mistake? Here's a pic from the island, poison hemlock and QAL growing in close proximity. Can you tell the difference? Are you 10?
I always loved the carrot smell of QA's Lace. Many people apparently find it irritating. As I am allergic to wasps, I was always careful as a child when picking as they are mightily attracted to these flowers. Did you know that despite their listing as a noxious weed by USDA, some horticulturalists consider Daucus carota beneficial? From wiki:
This beneficial weed can be used as a companion plant to crops. Like most members of the umbellifer family, it attracts wasps to its small flowers in its native land; however, where it has been introduced, it attracts only very few of such wasps. This species is also documented to boost tomato plant production when kept nearby, and it can provide a microclimate of cooler, moister air for lettuce, when intercropped with it.
I will leave you with this link to explore on your own, a plant study from the Flower Essence Society. A very unique exploration and one I encourage you to read if simply for the marvel of this person's relationship with her subject. A fascinating read.
Here is a bonus edible that is in fact native, my all time favorite forgeable food, to be found only this very time of year and only plentiful in the most favorable conditions. This past winter Maine had a lot of snow and as a result of the long, wet spring we have this year a bumper harvest of Fragaria virginiana (Wild Strawberry). Here is the Maine distribution by county. Green means it grows there.
See how green that map is? They are everywhere, IF you know where to look. We used to have them, just a very few, in one place by our camp but over the years they got crowded out by mosses. Now, I know the special spots but I don't tell. I want to keep them away drop prying fingers.
SO, what has been on your plate so far this summer?
Thanks for reading, see you in comments.
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