Stop and smell the mustard

BLACK MUSTARD Brassica nigra

Brassica nigra

By Orrin Morris

Too often we are in such a rush to either make money or spend money that we do not take time to enjoy wildflowers. Proverbs 28:20 reminds us to evaluate anew the order of our priorities. “A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.”

Often that punishment is self-inflicted by anxiety or over-indulgence.

The wildflower for today I call a roadside wildflower. It thrives in some of the most barren habitats. It reminds us that God is present even though the circumstances of our life that cause us to feel neglected, rejected and left to survive in a barren place.

Several years ago, as a very large mall was being developed, I stopped on the side of the partly developed street. I got out and walked along the recently graded shoulder where there were three specimens of this wildflower. These plants were only 18 inches tall, but as I researched the species I learned some may grow to 6 feet or more.

At first glance, the black mustard appears to have both yellow and white blooms but this is not so. The yellow flowers bleach in the sun and as they die they turn a translucent white, somewhat like wet tissue paper. The flowers measure less than 1 inch in diameter with four petals that rarely overlap.

The leaves along the lower part of the stem are deeply lobed, as pictured. The seed pods mature along the stem within a week or so after the bloom falls.

Black mustard is an immigrant from Europe. The young leaves were cooked and eaten as greens. The seeds were crushed for the distinctively flavored oil, used as a seasoning.

Several varieties of the mustard family have been developed for modern gardens, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, and turnips.

A close relative, bitter cress (Cardamine parviflora), is among the earliest spring blooms.

There are many wildflowers that bloom spring, summer and fall and we deprive ourselves of the calming assurance of God’s abundant blessings when we ignore them. Many flowers are so small that we have to kneel to really see them.

If God is so generous with the flowers of nature, think of how much more eager He is to abundantly bless us, His highest creation.  May you discover that peace as you worship God this Lord’s Day.

Wildflower diversity reflects Kingdom diversity

Diodia virginiana

By Orrin Morris

The diversity of the wildflower kingdom is minor compared to the diversity of humanity. Every individual is unique although he or she dwells within a family, a community and a culture.

The issue we face is learning to live together in an increasingly crowded world that can instantly communicate information. That information may be accurate or erroneous, helpful or destructive, loving or hateful.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, world population increases about 77 million in 12 months. In only one year, it increases more than the total population of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas combined.

The highest form of worship is the expression of gratitude for God’s creativity, for His love, and His grace that redeems us from sin. Not only did Jesus teach us to love God completely but He commanded us “to love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39).

The wildflower for today depicts that important truth, that is, righteousness is both vertical, to God, and horizontal, to our neighbor.

Buttonweed is found in shallow ditches, low moist areas on a flat lawn and along the banks of streams. It grows along the ground, often nestled under lawn-grass like Bermuda and fescue. Sometimes the light pinkish-green stem will rise a few inches and even branch out. As the stem moves laterally, the leaves are positioned at right angles in clusters, as illustrated.

The flowers have four petals with two stigmas that extend beyond the petals. They are very long compared to the 2/3-inch bloom. Contrary to most wildflowers, there are only two to four stamens and they barely rise above the petals. Thus, fertilization depends greatly on wandering insects.

The flowers appear where the leaves join the stem. The leaves are generally horizontal and appear in pairs on opposite sides. From these leaf axils the tubular flower rises as pictured in the inset.

The buttonweed’s other distinguishing feature is the seed case that gives the plant its name. Note in the sketch the light green buds where the blooms used to be. These are the seed cases or fruit produced by the plant. These “buttons” are useless except to the survival of the species.

Buttonweed begins blooming in late May and continues until the first frost, unless an extended dry spell kills the plant. Finally, it is not known for any medicinal purpose but is a good example of the diversity of the wildflower kingdom.

May we learn to live and act in such a way that peace and harmony will overcome the chaos that divides us locally and across the world.