A weed of beauty is a joy for a season


I THINK that I shall never see a weed as lovely as the Queen Anne's lace or spiked "blue devil" plants growing along the winding back roads, country lanes and even major thoroughfares of rural northern Maryland.

A rose is a rose . . . is a rose, and indeed gorgeous. However, any gardener who's attempted to grow the American Beauty knows that its propagation requires much time, effort and attention. The same applies to orderly beds of petunias, borders of impatiens and tubs of geraniums, especially in a parched, dry season.

Not so the spritely wildflowers, which some would call "weeds" -- unwanted intruders gasping for air, space, soil and moisture in humankind's planned environment. Yet, to behold their comeliness just for the gazing is to experience eye-dazzling and heartfelt joy for a season.

Awesome admiration, along with a growing curiosity, led me on a search through a wildflower field guide in order to garner a more intimate knowledge.

Queen Anne's lace is aptly nicknamed for the delicately spun, white blossoms reminiscent of the flat doilies that graced Grandma's parlor sofa. One can imagine the creator's hand lovingly crocheting these intricate, filigree threads, each a stunning, unique design.

The spiked "blue devil" (as my dad always called it) sports a square, blue flower hugging a nearly naked stem. Formally named "chicory," it keeps what used to be called "banker's hours." Indeed, the sleepyhead closes by noon, getting plenty of shuteye until the dawning of a new day.

As August approaches, a magnificent specimen appears, mostly marshy, low-lying meadows and along stream banks. The dome-shaped cluster of blooms balances atop a sturdy, multi-leafed stem.

These extravaganzas demand no weeding, watering or pruning. Their glorious fanfare announces them to be . . . a weed of beauty, a joy for a season.

Jane Lippy writes from Hampstead.

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