Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall greens: Poison and otherwise

It's 50 here this morning and a look at the weather map shows freeze warnings out in colder places like Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. So serious fall weather is coming in.

But I've been slaving over a hot computer --- and hardly noticed. Three of four cemetery tour scripts done; then a bunch of other stuff. But if the sun comes out today, as predicted --- I'm gone, at least for a little while (the grass keeps growing, too).

I've been entertaining myself a little this morning by reading up on American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), spotted Saturday along a raggedy fencerow at Red Haw.

It's an interesting looking plant --- red stems, green leaves and immature green berries that are plucked off by birds as soon as they ripen and turn purple.

But pure poison from root to berry, although the ripe berries are reportedly the least toxic. 

I see that its various parts have been utilized for folk medicines, dye and even spring greens, although so many cookings are required to diminish the toxicity it seems hardly worthwhile. If I were a farmer, I'd try to figure out some way to kill it. Since I'm not --- I'll just look at it; another variety of pretty poison.

I was happier on Saturday to find a little Round-headed Bush Clover (Lespedeza capitata), far less hazardous and emblematic of the prairie, which the Red Haw game management acres (and much of the park itself) once was.

It's not a showy plant, but it is a reassuring one.

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