Saturday, July 18, 2009

Creating a Wildflower Meadow

Today's Washington Post Real Estate section had an article on creating a wildflower meadow. Here's an excerpt:

Summer is prime time for wildflower meadow displays. You can see them along many interstates and along hiking and biking trials. They are fashionable in roadside design, adding lovely focal points to otherwise featureless areas, and, because they are rarely mowed, they lower the cost of road maintenance. They provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, and they reappear every year.

These qualities are desirable in home settings, as well -- who doesn't want low-maintenance, dependable flowering and a profusion of birds and butterflies? You don't need a prairie-size yard, either. A small, sunny patch, a side yard or a bright corner will do.

I didn't realize that Cleome serrulata, Rocky Mountain beeplant (I knew it as Spider Lily), was native (West of us), and therefore acceptable in our Wildlife area. If any of you folks are growing it and want to save seeds, they'll be welcome. Here's a fact sheet on them. I found the section on uses interesting:

Lewis and Clark collected Rocky Mountain Beeplant in South Dakota in August of 1804. At that time the plant was new to science.

Rocky Mountain Beeplant has many medicinal uses. It was highly used by Native Americans, and was probably cultivated and grown by them. They would allow the plant to produce seed when it was growing wild in the cornfields in order to ensure a supply the following year.

The seed can be harvested and eaten raw or cooked. It can be dried and ground into a meal then used as a mush or mixed with flour to make bread etc. The seedpods can also be cooked.

An infusion of the plant is drunk in the treatment of fevers and stomach disorders.

A poultice made from the pounded, soaked leaves has been applied to sore eyes. A decoction of the leaves has been used as a body and shoe deodorant.

A black dye is obtained by boiling down the whole plant. It is used as paint for decorating pottery. The young plants are harvested in mid-summer, boiled well in water, the woody parts of the plant are removed and the decoction is boiled again until it becomes thick and turns black. This thick liquid is then poured onto a board to dry in cakes and can be kept for an indefinite period. When needed it is soaked in hot water until the correct consistency for paint is achieved. The hardened cakes of dyestuff can be soaked in hot water and then eaten fried.

Other self sowing annuals welcome in the wildlife area: Cosmos and larkspur. According to Dr. Goldman of Renfew, larkspur seeds were used in the 1800's as a treatment for head lice. It makes sense - the plants are also highly toxic!

No comments:

Post a Comment