Bad but 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.