Sunday, June 22, 2014

Coneflowers, wild indigo & Palmer amaranth

I observed the solstice with a prairie walk rather than pagan celebration --- although a celebration would have been fine, had I known the schedule. But such gatherings generally are not publicized under "coming events" in the Chariton newspapers.

So it was just me and the pale purple coneflowers (Echinacea pallida), plains wild indigo (Baptisia bracteata), daisies and a few others among all that green --- from whence the show-stoppers will start emerging in a week or so. I have other patches to visit this week and expect to find more in bloom elsewhere.

The purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are just coming to bloom, too, in domesticated borders, but the wild pale kind is more subtle, shyer and more deeply rooted.

It's fun to speculate about how many centuries (or millennia) these plants --- or their ancestors --- have been blooming here. The embankments where they grow, near the 8.5-mile mark on the Cinder Path, were created during the 1870s and have been more or less undisturbed since.

At that time, the adjacent landscape would have been blanketed, too. Now there are only the remnants.

The wild indigo is the most striking of the plants now blooming, spiking up and visible from a considerable distance. There's not much of it here, however, so you do need to know where to look.

My digital version of The Des Moines Register features a front-page article this morning about Palmer amaranth --- a highly aggressive and invasive weed, also herbicide-resistant, that has begun to invade Iowa. There's a good deal of printed hand-wringing about how to control it, focused on the state's multi-billion-dollar ag economy.

Some farmers have abandoned conservation tillage as part of their strategy; most want more powerful chemicals to pour onto the land. The farm chemical companies --- that along with corporate agriculture controls much of Iowa's land surface and pollutes its surface and ground waters --- will be glad to comply. All of that will pour eventually down the Mississippi and into the gulf, increasing the size of the coastal dead zone.

Isn't it curious that farmers, who always have fancied themselves stewards of the land, have become its worst enemies?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"We are trapped in a cage of our convictions. We trim our lawns and living with careful consideration; cultivate convenience, corn, and congeniality while declaring the wild prairie coneflower a weed. To live blindly, not seeing the bird in the bush nor admiring the cottonwood tree's sky-filling immensity, is only existing. The heart pumps, we breathe rhythmically, with catch or gasp, intent on our hopes and ambitions." The late, but still great, Norman Alfred, publisher of the Polk Progressive, Polk, Nebraska, who died at age 82, in 1989