Bad but Beautiful

teasel, weed, invasive, beautiful

Like many native Humboldters, I married an invasive species-an outlander. And, I can see the good fresh ideas that came with intermarriage between my redneck culture and his occupying army of back-to-the-land folk. Perhaps that’s why I have a soft spot for many of Humboldt County’s exotics listed in a brochure put out by one of my favorite local groups-the Northcoast California Native Plant Society.

These plants can and do crowd out indigenous species but that doesn’t mean they don’t bring a beauty and a usefulness of their own. The teasels (pictured above) are on the Invasive Weeds of Humboldt Cause for Concern B list. But, these gorgeous spiny plants not only look majestic now but in the summer they bloom in an extraordinary way. Most plants flower from either the top down or the bottom up but these start with a lovely sapphire band around their center and blush blue both upwards and downwards at the same time.

Honey bees and Bumble bees roll around in the flowers as if in Nirvana and it is said that the teasles’ nectar makes a very fine Honey though unfortunately I have yet to taste any.

The stiff royalty of the winter stalk is used for bouquets and other decorations now but many years ago, New England women used it to sprinkle clothes as an aid in ironing. (They must have had tougher hands than I do.)

The plant only shoots out these stalks-usually about 3-4 feet high-after two years when it reaches maturity. Magical to look on, the plants’ prickly winter majesty led people to believe that rain water collected in the tiny cups formed by the leaves at its base could cure warts.

I know that I should ruthlessly root them out just as I do the star thistle but somehow I never find the time. Who knows what wonders the non-natives will bring into our lives. I know without the exotic and outlandish ideas brought in by the “hippies,” Humboldt would be a poorer place. And, without the prickly pride of the teasel, many a meadow would fade into bland obscurity.

  • Laytonville Rock
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16 comments

  • I’d like to see a photo of the teasel in bloom. How did the New England women use these for sprinkling their ironing? Dip the tops in water and shake it on their ironing?

  • I’d like to see a photo of the teasel in bloom. How did the New England women use these for sprinkling their ironing? Dip the tops in water and shake it on their ironing?

  • The teasel grows in great abundance just North of Layonville. My sister used to pick and trim them, then she would spay paint them every color of the rainbow and make bouquets out of them. She put some other painted dried flowers in with them. They were real stylist in the fifties.

  • The teasel grows in great abundance just North of Layonville. My sister used to pick and trim them, then she would spay paint them every color of the rainbow and make bouquets out of them. She put some other painted dried flowers in with them. They were real stylist in the fifties.

  • Thanks for the picture Ernie.

    In witchcraft, water gathered from the Teasel’s upper leaves prevents wrinkles and planted around your house protects you from wrath when you haven’t cleaned your house! I knew I wanted them around;>
    http://www.cauldronfarm.com/herbal/herbal.html

    The dried flower head is hollow and I think that it was filled with water and used to sprinkle the cloth before Ironing but I can’t find any exact instructions.

  • Thanks for the picture Ernie.

    In witchcraft, water gathered from the Teasel’s upper leaves prevents wrinkles and planted around your house protects you from wrath when you haven’t cleaned your house! I knew I wanted them around;>
    http://www.cauldronfarm.com/herbal/herbal.html

    The dried flower head is hollow and I think that it was filled with water and used to sprinkle the cloth before Ironing but I can’t find any exact instructions.

  • Beautiful shot, Kym. Really crisp sky and love the angle.

  • Beautiful shot, Kym. Really crisp sky and love the angle.

  • A tincture of teasel root can be useful for Lyme Disease. It seems to work as a natural antibiotic. Lomatium root (Indian Celery) is a good natural anti-viral in tincture. It grows occasionally in Salmon Creek. Teasel usually grows on wet ground. Is yours in a wet spot? My favorite “invasive” plant is Butterfly Bush, Buddlea. My least favorite is Scotch Broom followed by Himalayan Blackbery, both of which do very well at my place near the river. The other bad news non native is Vinca or Periwinkle. I also have lots of it. When we were kids we called it by the politically incorrect name “Wandering Jew”. It creeps into my gardens and drives me nuts. Another beautiful but dangerous plant I now see here is Poison Hemlock which now grows along the freeway frontage road. We won’t even talk about Star Thistle. Yikes! But I do love Teasel, a gorgeous plant.

  • A tincture of teasel root can be useful for Lyme Disease. It seems to work as a natural antibiotic. Lomatium root (Indian Celery) is a good natural anti-viral in tincture. It grows occasionally in Salmon Creek. Teasel usually grows on wet ground. Is yours in a wet spot? My favorite “invasive” plant is Butterfly Bush, Buddlea. My least favorite is Scotch Broom followed by Himalayan Blackbery, both of which do very well at my place near the river. The other bad news non native is Vinca or Periwinkle. I also have lots of it. When we were kids we called it by the politically incorrect name “Wandering Jew”. It creeps into my gardens and drives me nuts. Another beautiful but dangerous plant I now see here is Poison Hemlock which now grows along the freeway frontage road. We won’t even talk about Star Thistle. Yikes! But I do love Teasel, a gorgeous plant.

  • Thanks Kitty, I’m not totally happy with it but the plants are gorgeous.

    Ben, I love Butterfly Bush too (Shh I have two planted in my garden) I also have vinca which I love too but Its contained so it cant escape. I also love scotch broom but I chainsawed down the one in my yard and am trying to get rid of the ones around-those suckers will spread fast! I also love the Himalayan Blackberry. It makes a delicious topping for Cheerios but I wouldn’t plant any because talk about suckers… I never can remember poison hemlock. I’ll have to go looking to see if we have any here.

    But I have done my part in eradicating star thistle. We have taken pickup loads out of our place for years but finally we are down to just a few new plants a year. Maybe on the balance scale, I won’t go to Humboldt hell for my butterfly bushes because of my eradication of star thistle and scotch broom.

  • Thanks Kitty, I’m not totally happy with it but the plants are gorgeous.

    Ben, I love Butterfly Bush too (Shh I have two planted in my garden) I also have vinca which I love too but Its contained so it cant escape. I also love scotch broom but I chainsawed down the one in my yard and am trying to get rid of the ones around-those suckers will spread fast! I also love the Himalayan Blackberry. It makes a delicious topping for Cheerios but I wouldn’t plant any because talk about suckers… I never can remember poison hemlock. I’ll have to go looking to see if we have any here.

    But I have done my part in eradicating star thistle. We have taken pickup loads out of our place for years but finally we are down to just a few new plants a year. Maybe on the balance scale, I won’t go to Humboldt hell for my butterfly bushes because of my eradication of star thistle and scotch broom.

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