Butterfly Weed & Late Spring Storms: An Update
There’s been huge, tree breaking winds for the last three or four days and today it soaked the ground with a cold light rain. It was so chilly that Rhiannon wore her little fur coat and I shivered as I walked through the storm in a silk skirt and tank top. Strange weather, usually it’s still and hot as an oven all June until the monsoons come in mid July. Usually, the plants are baked into gold skeletons until they’re revived by the Summer rains… This year the Wild Sage, normally a monsoon dependent plant that blooms in August, is blooming today.
I drank Elderflower and Wild Mint tea and watched the storm dance through the Canyon, filling the rain barrels and soaking our little garden, urging the wild grasses to grow still higher, and the flowers to bloom in radiant profusion.
But the river is low from the aquecias sucking the water into fields and gardens and cattle drinking containers, it’s sad to see the sandbars protruding like bones from the river’s body, and I wait for the storms that will fill her to overflowing.
It’s been a rich Spring, and I’ve put up quarts and quarts of tinctures, vinegars and oils…. I’ve dried I don’t know how many pounds of Stinging Nettle, we’ve gathered wild Currants in the rain and we’re waiting for the Wild Cherries, Saskatoons and Gooseberries to be dark and plump and ready to eat. Up in the high mountain areas nearby the Raspberries, Salmonberries and Blueberries are slowly growing in the deep shade of mixed Spruce forests. I love this place, the Gila’s rich mixture of forest, grasslands, desert and riparian habitat. I love how the Cottonwoods and mutter and sing with morning breezes and the way the Alders shade cools me on even the hottest, stillest day.
The Mugwort is HUGE this year, about hip high in places just now, with many of the plants have brilliant red stems this year, full of fragrant medicine for the liver, belly, nerves and skin. I’ll harvest and dry many pounds of her this year, to use for myself and my family and to pass on as a healing gift to others.
I’ve already deepened my relationship with several plants this season, especially the Salsify, Wild Honeysuckle, Silverweed, Corydalis, Sweet Clover and Evening Primrose and I’m looking forward to working with the Wild Hyssop later on the in the Summer.
And oh, the Butterfly Weed, I’m so in love with her… She’s blooming everywhere right now, all shades of yellow and orange and gold. Every year she’s so gorgeous I can hardly bear to harvest her. Otherwise known as Pleurisy Root, the roots of this radiant plant have been traditionally used in cold, damp chest conditions like pneumonia, chest colds, bronchitis and you guessed it, pleurisy. It can also work as a tonic for adrenalin stress (Pitta) type people with blood sugar problems, skin deficiency and pulmonary trouble. I’ve just begun to work with this use and can’t wait to explore it further. As a side note, Butterfly Weed is a real pain in the ass to dig, at least around here, where it’s roots work down into the most unknown crevices in hard, rocky ground. Expect to work for your Pleurisy Root! More on this one in the near future. Oh, and please note that this plant is on the United Plant Savers’ “to watch” list so be respectful and don’t harvest this plant until Autumn when it’s already seeded and only gather from a well established, healthy stand.