Daisy fleabane — Erigeron annuus:
This wild flower got its name because back in the old days, people would pick the flowers, dry them, and then strew them around the house to chase the fleas out of the straw that kept the stone and dirt floors from being cold in the winter. This met with varying degrees of success. Culpepper says, “The juice makes an excellent pectoral tonic, although unpleasant to take. The decoction, or infusion, may be sweetened and used with success in consumptive cases.” He also mentions that fleabane is useful as a diuretic as well as a treatment for diarrhoea, kidney stones, and as a treatment for bleeding in the lungs or colon.
I thought about titling this post “Give it an inch and it will take over,” which would be so descriptive of what fleabane does. But many of the common flowers around here do exactly the same thing, so I didn’t think it would be fair to single fleabane out. Joining fleabane in
plant thuggery taking over gardens are goldenrod, mint, vinca, dock, violets, the common buttercup, sweet autumn clematis, and others too numerous to mention. I will just say here that all of the above are found duking it out mingling in my day lily bed, much to the dismay of the Hemerocallis.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, weeding the fleabane out of the day lily bed was on my list of things that had to get done. I finally got around to starting the project after I finished clearing the vinca and goldenrod out of the small bed by the back door. By the way, I did finish that job, and it looks very nice now. And just in case the need arises, Jim will be able to find the sewer clean out caps, which are under the flat rock you can see in the gravel path.
So, that business concluded, I arrayed myself in long pants, long sleeved white shirt, hat, gloves, doused myself with pennyroyal (in an attempt to dissuade the mosquitoes from feasting on me), and took my cobra head weeder, a spade, the wheel barrow and a lot of grit and determination out to the day lilies.
The bed looked like this.
There are day lilies in there somewhere, blooming beautfiully.
What happened!!??? you might ask. The short answer is, “Life happened.” The long answer is a lot of people died, a relationship blew up, I got depressed, my energy levels dropped, the events of the last year intervened… and the fleabane, dock, goldenrod, violets and other
thug plants wild flowers of the region took full advantage of my distraction.
I worked out there for about three hours the first day I assailed the mess. The following day I spent another two hours on the job, and I’m still not finished. I thought about working on it yesterday, but after two days with the vinca and the two sessions in the day lilies, my hands were actually very sore. Since I really need them in order to do my job, I thought I’d give them the day off from weeding.
Besides. It looks much better now.
Fleabane was just one of the problems out there. There was yellow dock as well. It gets as tall as I am and has the most amazing root system, which is why I really needed the shovel for the job.
I tolerate it out behind the pond and in the labyrinth because it makes an impressive amount of seeds. The seed eating birds love them, but believe me, the dock has plenty to spare and freely reseeds itself. It is quite the colonizer, and since it is a perennial, once it gets established it just keeps coming back unless you dig the roots out.
Another little friend that loves to colonize is goldenrod, genus Solidago. There are approximately 125 species of goldenrod, and I have no idea which kind is
infesting enjoying my yard. It could be Showy Goldenrod, or Rough-stemmed Goldenrod, or Stiff Goldenrod. (I’m pretty sure it is NOT Seaside Goldenrod since we are nowhere near a brackish marsh, nor is this a sandy site) At any rate, it also gets as tall or taller than I am.
Please note the root system. This plant is one year old, and is all cocked and primed to take over everything in the general vicinity. The white parts of the root system are rhizomes, which can and do travel many feet out from the mother plant, entwining around the roots of other plants along the way and strangling them from below while the plant effectively blocks out the light the victimized plants need to prosper from above.
Again, this is a plant that I actively encourage in the wild parts of the yard because it provides habitat for butterflies, an important fall pollen source for the honeybees, and a source of winter food for the birds. However, it is definitely something that I don’t really like in the more domesticated parts of the garden because of its invasive habit. A gardener would do well to learn to identify this one and pull it out when it is very small.
This is where things like goldenrod and fleabane and dock belong: in the Petite Prairie.
It’s really not very good garden design that the Petite Prairie is right across the path from the Daylily Garden. It makes it all too easy for the
weeds wild flowers mentioned above to colonize the tamer garden.
But gosh, I don’t have enough to do around here. I really need an ongoing project to occupy my time.