Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

"What's in a name?” wondered Juliet, in Shakespeare's lyrical tale of star-crossed lovers. Indeed. Names carry in them identity, even respect. But would we take the time to look if the plant in question was small, usually referred to as a weed, and bore the rather off-putting name “fleabane?” That’s what the lovely little wildflower in the photo is—fleabane. More specifically, Erigeron annuus, which those of us who prefer to use names we can pronounce know as Daisy Fleabane, Sweet Scabious, or Lace Buttons. The plant in the picture is currently blooming in a tangled corner of my side yard. The largest flower head shown is barely a half-inch across. Fleabanes are composites, members of the Asteraceae (Aster) family. According to some texts, the Genus name, “Erigeron,” stems from the Greek words meaning "early" and "old man," which allude to the plant's tendency to blossom in late spring and to form fuzzy white seed heads while still producing new flowers. The Species name, “annuus,” indicates it blooms annually. In the old days, folks believed you could dry the flowers, crush them into a fine powder, and sprinkle the powder about on bedding and such to repel fleas. Some writers say it was smoke from burning the powder that did the repelling. Neither method seems to stand the test of scientific scrutiny. “That which we call a rose,” fair Juliet went on to say, “by any other name would smell as sweet." Also true. Except fragrance often catches us unaware. But to truly see a plant, you must first look—and the diminutive fleabane is regularly overlooked, or given a cursory glance and relegated to immediate ignoring if perceived as a weed…not to mention forthcoming death-by-mowing if it’s found in the yard. Yet the Daisy Fleabane is pretty enough that it deserves more frequent and closer notice. The delicate flowers can be anywhere from white to pink to purple or even bluish. Most of the ones in my yard are white and tinged with pink on the outer portion of their rays. I protect my daisy fleabanes through their blooming cycle, allowing them to do their thing, so that I can look forward to enjoying them again next year. And I try and protect those that grow in the yards of neighbors who tend toward playing a bit too loose with their power trimmers by pointing out the flowers and employing what I think is their most endearing alias—Lace Buttons. I’ve found that citing a cute name will often earn a reprieve from even the most clean-lawn hardliner. So “what’s in a name?” Well, death if you’re considered expendable. And a glimpse of jewel-like beauty for those who take time to consider the treasure at their feet.

16 comments:

Wanda said...

I'll confess I'm not as fond of Fleabane as I am the wild Daisies and I even like Dandelions...but your photo makes me realize Fleabane actually has a little bit of each of their characteristics in it's flower.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

All three are members of the Aster Family. I always think of fleabanes as simply daisies with more rays—which is about what they are.

What I like is their mix of colors and color mixing on the same bloom—e.g., those in the photo.

Different flowers for different folks, though. And BTW, I also like dandelions and daisies. My tastes are pretty broad and inclusive, I guess.

Bernie said...

I think Fleabane's are pretty and should be left to grown in all their beauty. Love the picture,
.......:-) Bernie

Blessings each day said...

Yesterday's, no, it was June 1st's post was a royal hoot...there's nothing like horror mixed/ameliorated with comedy as I love to laugh and make others laugh.
As for your flowers, hmmm...I have a problem as I love them all. I even posted about and showed a picture of a weed in my garden that had tiny purple flowers thereby ensuring its own longevity...it remains thriving in my garden (sorta sad to say).
Also posted my wild daisies as a "present from God" and I will try to tend to them way in the back, near the little bit of woods where all sorts of unknown but terrifying insects and spiders await my visit!

blessings,

marcy

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Me, too. Lovely wildflower, awful name. Should have hired a better press agent, I expect. But they find a sympathetic home here.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Blessings…

I understand and agree completely…if it blooms, I'm pretty much guaranteed to like it, wild or planted, tame or weed. For a blooming whatever to get moved from most of the yard it would have to jump up and bite me every time I came near—and even then, I might be prone to just relocate it to the more remote sections of the yard.

Thank you for writing. Hope you return…you're always welcome.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: you beat me to it. My photo today was either going to be another one of my Sunday hike or the daisy fleabane, and I went with the hike photo instead.

Carolyn H.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Lovely flowers, Grizzled! I bet there is truth in the 'fleabane' properties - these things are usually founded in reality. Hope I never need to test it!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

There's always room for two fleabane pieces in the same week…or ten. Your take is bound to be different than mine. But I liked the Sunday walk one, too.

Hope you're drying out.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

I don't want to test it, either! One of the older wildflower writers says that while dried and powered fleabane applied to dogs' bedding didn't work at repelling fleas, it worked well at repelling the dogs.

Gail said...

Hey Grizz-

Beautiful photo - no news flash there huh? :-) My sense of humor is coming back so that means I am on the mend. Phew. I have a ways to go but I am definitely on the upside!

I learned a lot from your post today. Thanks Grizz -

Love you
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Glad to hear you're on the mend. You've had a round of it, I know. And when things start being funny again, you're definitely getting better.

So stay on the healing road, get well, and write when you feel like it.

Rowan said...

It's a really pretty flower and I like the name Lace Buttons, haven't heard that before. I have the perenniel form growing - erigeron kara-something-long-and-complicated, it grows in impossible looking places on my terrace and the original one was deliberately planted after I saw it in old country gardens growing in steps and crazy paving. I'm glad you notice and care for this little plant.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

Two other old names from pioneer times here in the States are: White-Top, and Mule-Tail.

You know, in all honesty, while I may be nonchalant toward a few plants, there's almost none I thoroughly dislike—particularly if they bloom. I take great delight in most "weeds," and especially enjoy tiny-flowered plants, plants others ignore or dismiss or fail to notice, the stuff that's often underfoot or growing out of cracks in the rocks, or waste places. I have this theory that if something is "common," then it ought to be worthwhile and worth noticing, since God gave us a good supply.

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a lovely flower it is and yes one of those that could so easily be overlooked. I love looking closely whenver I go for a walk, so much to see if you've got eyes really open

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Crafty…

I often think that even those of us who would consider themselves observant, probably overlook more than we see, even in our own yards. Right now I have perhaps a half dozen plants—weeds or wildflowers, depending on viewpoint—blooming in my dooryard whose tiny blooms are less than half an inch across.

To look is easy…to SEE is the trick.