Since we moved home to Oregon, I’ve been brushing up on my plant ID.
Our backyard in Hillsboro, in a late-90s HOA-administered cookie cutter neighborhood, was pretty boring: Grass, some broadleaf plantain, more grass, dandelion, grass, moss, Russian thistle, grass.
But here? Here it’s chaos. There are things I still haven’t identified. Things that were deliberately planted here by some previous tenants unknown, invasive foreign specimens, wild native plants I’ve never seen before.
Things with names that the smalls can’t render and I revel in, like catchweed bedstraw, Siberian bugloss, red dead nettle, snow-in-summer.
Things I was ecstatic to discover, like yarrow and violet, oxalis and lemon balm.
Things that are good to eat, like miner’s lettuce and dandelion and dwarf black cherry.
Things that make good pollinator habitat, like butterfly bush, white clover, black medic.
Things that the chickens are welcome to destroy, like English ivy and Himalayan blackberry.
Things that are useful to my apothecary cabinet, like pineapple weed, broad-leaf plantain, Oregon manroot, and wild madder.
Things that perfume the evenings and are a balm to my soul, like lilac and rose.
When I was a small child, we had a picture book called Grindle Lamfoon and the Procurnious Fleekers.
If you know it, you already know why I brought it up– looking at a backyard full of wild-growing, escaped and never-tamed possibilities reminds me of the moon and its tune.
If you don’t know it, it’s basically a hippie allegory from the first back-to-the-earth movement: the protagonist can’t afford a fancy storebought costume for the big party, and while he’s moping about this, the moon sings him a song about the beauty of wildflowers and the DIY ethos, and he is so inspired that he makes his own fancy costume for the party, staying up all the night to do it, thus starting a DIY revolution in his community and making a stand for individualism and creativity.
“These things from the woods
are much greater by far
than expensive made costumes
and Fleeker-made cars.”
— Grindle Lamfoon and the Procurnious Fleekers
So go on out there and look around this week, people. See what there is.