Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thistles

Last night, as we sat in the dusky glow before the sun sets, watching the first fireflies, instead of fireworks, appear, I mentioned that, due to the recent visit by goldfinches to the catmint, I was thinking of letting thistle go ahead and bloom instead of digging it up as usual, as goldfinches love thistle seed, too.

"It's illegal to grow thistle in Illinois," said my dad. "Thistle is strong enough to break a combine."

So, early this morning, still in my swimsuit from lap swimming, as I let the hose soak the flowerbeds in the shade, I dug up the thistles about to bloom, and the little ones along my side of the fence, the ones I could budge with a pitchfork and uproot.

Then it occurred to me to doublecheck the law. Indeed, a certain kind of thistle, Canada thistle, is illegal in Illinois. So is purple loosestrife, a beautiful but invasive plant that made its way into one of my poems, along with the legal wildflower yellow loosestrife. (Pretty much any and everything makes its way into my poems. And, hey, thistles made their way into the work of Robert Burns and Edna St. Vincent Millay, too!)

The thistles in my own back yard were about to bloom yellow, not lavender, as pictured here, in the beautiful photo by Richard Bartz. So, alas, I may have removed a perfectly innocuous, legal thistle, but they are prickly and could easily do harm to my husband's ankles, if not the lawnmower. Anyhoo, they are gone, and in the bin awaiting compost/yard waste pickup by our lovely town, which now also picks up recycling at the curb. Wooee!

And here is the globe thistle, also called Russian thistle in this area, that grows in the ditches beside the cornfields. Russian thistle made its way into one of my first short stories. I used to ride my bike out to the Russian thistles gone to seed, spray them with hairspray to fix them, and bring them home for use in dried flower arrangements--for home use or the county 4-H fair. Mabel, married to the farmer next door, told me how to do this. Mabel is buried up the road in Hudson, Illinois, and I will never forget her--her warmth, her jet black hair.

Who knew today would bring Mabel back to me so dearly?

11 comments:

Maureen said...

I love to learn new things, and I did here today. I had no idea that the thistle is so strong or that it is illegal in any state.

Molly said...

So many beautiful details..... and a wonderful reminder of how life leads us along surprising and tender paths if we're paying attention. Thanks for this post. I needed that reminder today, as we continue to unpack from our move :).

Kathleen said...

Thank you both for your thoughts.

seana graham said...

Loosestrife is such a beautiful word.

Kathleen said...

That's the name of the poem!

seana graham said...

Is it online anywhere?

nene said...

It is such a sad irony that nature's wondrous beauty when determined to jeopardize, supposedly, Man's pursuits ends up being demonized and made 'unlawful'.

Very informative, Kathleen

Kathleen said...

Thanks for asking, Seana. No, that particular poem, "Loosestrife," is in a print journal, Willow Review, in the 2010 issue in which I am the featured Illinois author, so there are several poems by me and an interview. It was fun to do, and I was glad and grateful, you can bet. The poem also won the Editors' award that year, added delight + cash! Wooee!

Nene, I know! It's a dilemma, and I learned more about those nature vs agribusiness conflicts when I read The Omnivore's Dilemma. I was so impressed with natural, ecological farming and am pleased to see the smaller, family farm coming back via the local-food movement and Farmers Markets.

Kim said...

It's a shame to have to cut down things that bees like.

Kathleen said...

Fortunately, bees also like purple coneflowers, spiderwort, and gloriosa daisies! And I left them a zillion gloriosa daisies, an actual zillion.

Kim said...

and I have a zillion purple coneflowers and a small spiderwort...

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