Wednesday, March 8, 2017

BUTTERWEEDS

After the rain last night, the weatherman predicted a cloudy day, but the sun is shining and my thoughts turn to a cache of gold I saw today in a ditch—butterweeds blooming in a large colony. These robust flowers that belong to the sunflower family had been ignored by the wild and crazy mowers that destroy highway wildflowers, and I'm happy I saw them bloom before I depart for The Mountain in Tennessee. Last week, we brought a cluster of them indoors, and they lasted for a week, a lengthy stay for wildflowers.

The sunflower family produces some of the cheeriest blooms in the plant kingdom. I remember when my friend, Janet Faulk-Gonzales, decided to cultivate a field of sunflowers, designed a special card advertising them as "Radiant Faces," and sold them at the open market in downtown New Iberia, Louisiana for a short spell. As she was the sole caretaker for this agricultural project, she closed her business after farming one season of blooms. She decided that watering and weeding chores were too demanding as a "moonlighting" job.

Although sunflowers enjoy good press, butterweeds are regarded as noxious plants in some states; e.g., Ohio. Such prohibitions don't affect this wildflower's will to endure in other states, and in the early spring, our Louisiana mosquitoes stay busy pollinating them. (By the way, only the male mosquito feeds on nectar.) Also, the blooms of butterweeds are sometimes used in making dyes and are useful as well as beautiful.

Back in the late 70's, my botanist friend, Dr. Victoria Sullivan, who has notebooks filled with unpublished poetry, published a snippet about butterweeds in the Connecticut Fireside Review. This snippet is a better response to sighting a field of golden butterweed than this blog.

It's entitled "Wildflower":

Butterweeds decorate the ditch,
temptresses in the springtime,
yellow dresses waving
in the warm April sun,
hiding their sweet nectar,
anxious to give some bee a tumble.

In Tennessee, I've mistaken a field of rapeseed for butterweed, but the former belongs to another family of flowers cultivated and used for Canola oil. The sight of a sheet of the rapeseed in bloom is as pleasing a vision as the butterweed, so I'll have the opportunity to see another field of gold soon.

P.S. Happy International Women's Day. Enjoy your day off! You can see I'm honoring the suggestion to refrain from labor today by creating a shorter blog.


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