The roadside has sent me to my copy of Missouri Wildflowers quite a bit lately. Summer flowers tend to be more nondescript than spring ones–the delicate pinks and purples are replaced by rangy, white or yellow flowers whose names, unfortunately, I forget from one year to the next: feverfews and teasels, the sort of plant that often has “weed” in its name.
These roadside plants rarely make anyone’s list of favorite wildflowers; we see them from our car windows as a blur. But as these close-up photos show, they have a delicacy of construction that rewards examination. Umbels within umbels, twining and wiry stems, curiously wrought flowers that often nest among brambles.
What to say about these plants besides the obvious? That there is beauty in the common, beauty that repays attention, and that you have to get out of your car and stomp into the weeds in order to find it. On my wall hangs a watercolor with the marvelous verse from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Inversnaid”:
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
Queen Anne’s Lace
“Her body is not so white as
anemony petals nor so smooth—nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand’s span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over—
William Carlos Williams
One of my very favorites. Thank you for reminding me. I grew up in the southern woods with Queen Anne’s Lace all around.
Thanks for reminding me of that poem! It had been years since I read it. That is a terrific piece of writing.