People call them weeds, unwanted. But these four wild plants, commonly found along roadsides, vacant lots, and other undisturbed places, have many uses, medicinal and otherwise. They are also very good plants to grow to attract bees and butterflies.
They deserve a place in cultivated gardens, too. These wild weeds are burdock, chickory, milkweed and Queen Anne’s lace—
This is what BURDOCK looks like–
My neighbor has burdock, and I wish I did. The leaves are so large and expressive. Burdock has a long history of medicinal uses. The burrs that cling to clothes and fur are also the inspiration for Velcro.
There is a book by Janet Malcolm, portraits of weathered burdock leaves. You can find out more about it here. It is a beautiful book, a work of art.
This is CHICORY—
Maybe you’ve spotted the lovely sky-blue flowers of chicory growing along the highway. It is native to Europe, but has become naturalized in North America. Chicory is tough and resilient; it can withstand heat and drought, and the roots go deep. It is the roots that people roast to add flavor to coffee. The plants are kind of straggly-looking, but quite striking in the winter landscape. The seeds are also welcome food for birds.
This is MILKWEED—
This is a photo of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in bloom. Milkweed is the host plant of the monarch butterfly caterpillars, but it also appeals to bees. Did you know there are many kinds of milkweed? You can read more about them here.
This is QUEEN ANNE’S LACE—
Also called wild carrot, bird’s nest, and bishop’s lace, Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) is a flowering plant native to temperate regions of Europe. It has become naturalized to North America, and seems to flourish almost anywhere it is left alone. The roots are edible when young, and the flowers are attractive to bees.
Growing these plants can be a challenge–they are not easily contained (the USDA lists Queen Anne’s Lace as an invasive species) and they do like a lot of sun.
But if you can find a place for them, they will reward you with their wild beauty–as well as bees and butterflies.
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