Dandelion more than a pest, a delight of God’s goodness

COMMON DANDELION Taraxacum officinale

COMMON DANDELION
Taraxacum officinale

By Orrin Morris

In Psalm 65:12, the Psalmist rejoices in the beauty of the natural world God has provided. We can easily apply his words to the beauty we anticipate each year in the coming of spring.

The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.”

One of the harbingers of spring is the common dandelion. Once they start blooming, they are like medallions of sun shining about us. In fact, this season I saw several clusters in bloom.

Eight different names are used for dandelion, depending on the region or culture group you visit. These common names include blowball, cankerwort, lion’s tooth (after the shape of the leaves, which is the meaning of the common name), priest’s crown, swine snout, and wild endive.

Most children view the dandelion as a yellow delight of the natural world, spreading its joyous sunshine. We adults call it a pest because we want uniform grassy lawns. Of course, we adults overrule the children’s delight and the battle to eradicate the dandelion never ends.

Dandelions have a very long blooming season in the South. During a mild winter they may bloom all year. The long tap root must be completely dug up before a plant can be successfully eradicated naturally, otherwise a broadleaf herbicide must be applied.

Dandelions are widely distributed. They have been documented in every state and territory of the United States and Canada. They are in the Yukon, above the arctic circle.

Besides the effects of severe drought on the plant population, dandelions are also adversely affected by soils permeated with salt water and dense shade, as in hardwood forests with heavy undergrowth.

We should be grateful that dandelions are not the pest here that they are up North. As a kid growing up in Omaha, I learned there was a strict code of conduct regarding dandelions.  Mother would scold me if I picked a fluff-ball and blew on it to see the “parachutes” float in the wind.  People who were known as good neighbors taught their children better manners than that. Of course kids will be kids.

As a very young child, my baby-sitter introduced me to dandelions with the promise that if I let her show me a trick I would “get some butter.” In my mind that meant the greasy yellow stuff I put on toast for breakfast. That was not the case. It was a trick. She picked a bloom and rubbed it on my chin. The yellow pollen stuck to my chin like rouge.

During cold weather, the stem holding the bloom is very short. Those I saw earlier this spring were flush with the ground. In hot weather, the soft greenish-white stem may rise 6 inches.

The plant has been useful in spite of its pesky reputation. The young leaves can be picked and boiled as one of the “greens.” Its leaves, before the flowers form, have been squeezed into milk and warmed for a spring tonic. In the fall, the root has been steeped in boiling water as a tea.  Just another sign that, even when inconvenient, the many things God provides is something to behold.

Bergamot promotes health, peace, and patience

WILD BERGAMOT Monarda fistulosa

WILD BERGAMOT
Monarda fistulosa

By Orrin Morris

There are four Sundays in the Advent season. The first Sunday, last week, focused on hope.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah wrote words of hope to the Hebrew’s exiled in Babylon:

In those days, and at that time, will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land” (Jer. 33:15).

Amid the hopelessness of exile, the prophecy assured them that the Messiah of the lineage of David would come to save all who trusted in him.

This Sunday, the second of the Advent season, focuses on peace. John the Baptist’s father was visited by an angel assuring him of a son who would proclaim the coming of the Messiah with these words, “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).

The wildflower for today is not very common, so to find it and benefit from its beauty requires patience. In the same but more serious manner, those Hebrews that remember the exile of 600 years that passed from Jeremiah’s prophecy had to be patient for the fulfillment of his proclamation of peace.

Wild bergamot is also known as Monarda and, for obvious reasons, often mistaken for bee balm. Both plants are present throughout the U.S. Both plants have thin, rigid, hairy stems. Both have serrated leaves of similar size and shape. Both have deep green leaves that are affixed as pairs opposite one another up a stem that may be 2 to 3 feet tall. Both have flower heads composed of two-lipped blooms that stand aright.

The flowers of both plants’ colors are in the reddish range; however, the bee balm blooms are bright red while the bergamot blooms range from light pink (nearly white) to a pinkish-lavender.

The bergamot prefers dry sandy soils while the bee balm requires moist soil. The greenish bracts under the flower head flare out and downward for the bergamot, thus creating a cluttered and enlarged effect. The bergamot has a rectangular stem, and starts blooming in June and continues through September.

This part of the mint family was named after Nicholas Monardes, a Spanish physician who published a book on the medicinal values of plants in the New World. Wild bergamot was also called Oswego tea and used as a treatment for chills and fevers. Other American Indian tribes used tea from the leaves for headaches, sore throat, bronchial infection, acne and to soothe bug bites.

Rev. Orrin Morris is an artist and retired Baptist minister.  His weekly column appears in The Rockdale Citizen.

Creeping Clover teaches us about the Truth of the Gospel

CREEPING BUSH CLOVER Lespedeza repens

CREEPING BUSH CLOVER
Lespedeza repens

By Orrin Morris

“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The Apostle John quoted this statement when Jesus was confronted with a moral issue, a woman caught in adultery. The Hebrew Law dictated that she was to be stoned to death.

Jesus used the occasion to position Himself as the “light of the world,” that is, the exclusive and faithful source of knowledge about the will of His Heavenly Father. In essence, Jesus said the moral judgments that He made accurately reflect the way God relates to mankind, that is, in redemptive love. (John 8:32ff)

We can be confident that God deeply desires our eternal redemption. That truth was stated by Jesus many times. Furthermore, we are given assurance that God will provide guidance through the presence of his Spirit (John 16:13).

For the Christian, this is comforting, but in the secular arena it is difficult to know the truth. Who is telling the truth? How can we know that we are being told the truth? When we cannot personally experience or view the facts, we simply choose to trust the opinion of a person upon whom we have come to rely.

One year in late September, as the weeds along the road were dying, I spotted a tiny pinkish-purple bloom amid the tans and browns at ground level. I knelt in the ditch and carefully separated the dead materials from the tiny vine. I had discovered another wildflower that was not in my collection.

After taking field notes about color, size (1/4 inch) and shape of the flower (pea-like); length of the vines (6 to 24 inches); shape, markings and size of the three-part leaves (1/2 inch), I searched my library for an accurate identification.

The three-leaf structure suggested it was a clover, but my University of Georgia source did not include it. My Alabama and Carolina sources provided no help either.

Finally, in the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers I found the creeping bush clover. Rather than being in the genus trifolium, it was in the lespedeza. Is it a clover? I think so and will include it in my list of wildflowers as a clover. Several well respected authorities do not include it in their books.

This brings us back to the question of truth. We live in a very strained time in national and world affairs. We choose whom we will believe. History teaches us that this is dangerous when taken to the extreme, dividing families and friends, nations and alliances.

The truth for the moment, as I see it, is that we need a healing of friendships, political parties, religious leaders and participants in international relationships, to name a few.

Pray with me that as Jesus, the Light of the World, said “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”