On Being in Relationship with My Landbase

I had a meeting on Capitol Hill today and I took the opportunity to run over at lunchtime to the U.S. Botanic Gardens, one of my city’s many under-appreciated treasures. I always call it the Congressional Botanical Gardens, and it is directly in the shadow of the statue of Columbia, atop the U.S. Capitol. It shows just how important our Founders believed horticulture to be, that they set this space aside to collect all different kinds of plants.

Someone had set up a lovely, tiny exhibit entitled “What’s Growing” that had small vases of native plants that are currently in bloom. It’s no secret that one of the real joys of my life is my trip into work, past Spout Run, past the Potomac River, past T.R. Island, and into the heart of the city. One of the things I love is the chance to be in relationship with lots of local plants: grasses and weeds that most people (I fear) never even bother to see. One benefit of recent budget cuts (and I’m not ignoring the many problems that they’ve caused) is that there’s been less money to mow roadsides. And, so, local grasses and weeds are doing better and having a better chance to mature than they once did. (I know that we all (I know I do) have these lovely notions of being, as Pagans, in deep relationship with The Land, and, by “The Land,” we mean an amazing primeval forest, a mountain fastness, a circle of stones built upon the Ley lines, etc. But, really, there are traffic islands, roadsides, and bits of Earth next to parking lots that are full-to-bursting with plants, insects, minerals, animals, and every sort of fairey, genius locii, and dryad imaginable. And, as Richard Louv says, if you can’t be with the Land you love, honey, love the land you’re with.)

There’s a weed blooming all along the G.W. Parkway that I’ve been trying to identify. It’s got, just now, these v. small flowers, kind of purple, kind of white, that make almost a haze along the roadside. So I stopped at the exhibit, hoping to learn this weed’s name. No luck on that score, but the exhibit did teach me the name of another lovely grass that’s now in bloom all along the side of the roads: Virginia Switchgrass. Isn’t it amazingly lovely?

What weeds tie you to your landbase?

Picture found here.

6 responses to “On Being in Relationship with My Landbase

  1. I have never known what it’s called. It has yellow flowers with I think four petals, sort of furry stems and leaves that look like clovers almost. The main thing about it is that it has bright yellow sap. My sister and I used to break off stems and write with it when we were kids. I don’t know what it’s called, and I don’t know how to look it up. But it grows all around my yard and I know it by smell.

  2. I know the exact flowers…as you swing off Spout Run onto GW Pkwy. towards T.R., right? Those are wild blue Asters. Very similar to the wild white Asters that have now naturalized all over my garden. I love them.

  3. Oh wow Google really is amazing. With that limited info within a minute I found that it is called greater celandine, and is not native but introduced. I can’t believe I finally know what it’s called. Apparently the sap was used to treat warts and so it’s also called wartweed or, get this, wartwort.

    !

  4. This is a lovely post. And I very much enjoy “background weeds” that usually go unnoticed: Queen Anne’s Lace, May Apple blossoms, wild strawberrys’ little yellow flowers, blue Bachelors’ Buttons, and in particular Brown-Eyed Susans.

  5. greenman,

    Those are the ones and I think you’re right! Thank you!

    Thalia,

    Isn’t it fun to learn about old friends? I love “wartwort.”

    cabochon,

    Thanks so much! I grow queen anne’s lace and black-eyed susans in my front gardens!

  6. This was a wonderful post. We live in Santa Cruz, where Calla Lillies grow like weeds. But the weed that I really love to hate is oxalis. Do you know it? It’s a terrible weed–it has a seed, a rhizome, and runners. It assures success by making sure that no other plants can grow nearby. But it looks like clover, and I keep looking for the four-leafed one.

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