The continuing discoveries of a 21st century artist and naturalist …
I once heard someone describe a weed as any plant growing where it’s not supposed to be. I like that definition because, while I’ve struggled in farm fields to keep weeds away from my vegetable plants, some so-called weeds are really quite lovely. Given the definition above even a Morning Glory can be a weed – and they often are.
So the discoveries I’ve made below are about plants that have ‘weed’ in their common name. I can’t include all of them in one post so I’ll likely have another piece on those I leave out today.
Touch-Me-Nots get their name from the sensitivity of their seed pods which, when touched, explode and disperse the tiny seeds within.
Yellow Jewelweed or Pale Touch-Me-Not
Family: Balsaminaceae; Genus: Impatiens; Species: pallida
Orange Jewelweed – Spotted Touch-Me-Not
Family: Balsaminaceae; Genus: Impatiens; Species: capensis
The leaves crushed and applied as a poultice has been a folk remedy for Poison Ivy Rash if done quickly after contact dermatitis occurs. There is a component in the leaves lawsone, which are also sometimes brewed into a tea and frozen to have on hand at all times, is one explanation for the plant leaves’ reported antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. (This also true of the Yellow Jewelweed above.)
Also, given that some studies now show sunscreens are really not effective beyond 50 SPF and need to be re-applied after activity or being in water one might want to consider this plant as an alternative solution. In aqueous extracts it has found to be effective – and might I add, natural –sunless tanning and sunscreen option.
It is, as its name would suggest, the most common form of Milkweed in Northeastern North America. Warning: Potentially toxic – contains cardioactive compounds.
Family: Asclepiadaceae; Genus: Asclepias; Species: syriaca
Note: Also potentially toxic
Family: Asclepiadaceae; Genus: Asclepias; Species: incarnata
So, while these plants are named as weeds, their beauty, variety and potential medicinal properties set them apart from what I consider real weeds like crabgrass.