Feb 182008

It’s funny how the plants get our attention… I often have all these carefully made plans about which plants to use in medicine, all methodically based in sustainability, availability and the balance they can provide my materia medica. I’m always aware that I’m using only a tiny piece of the many plants available around the world or even right here in the mountains of New Mexico, and I’m ok with that because I’m the kind of person that likes to be super focused on a few very important things. I don’t generally do well when I spread myself around, (and lord knows I’ve tried), and I keep that in mind when I limit both the number of plants I use as well as the number of clients I work with at one time, or the number of students I teach. But sometimes, the best laid plans of mice and medicine women just go right out the window.

A few seasons ago I threw a handful of mixed seeds into my weedy little garden. It’s hard to get normal plants to grow in the sandy soil and dry, hot air of New Mexico’s long summers, so I try not to get attached to the idea of anything actually coming up. When brave little sproutlings do venture into the light, they’re most likely to be gobbled up right away by some hungry critter looking for green delicacies (like a packrat or a javelina or even an elk). So usually I just toss the seeds in and provide supplemental water when I can. It’s a tough life for garden plants, and even the most ferocious weeds often disappear in a matter of days.

From packets and packets of seeds, I’ve been grateful to get a steady supply of thriving Mexican Poppies, a few stunted Echinacea plants, a few Burdock that the gophers view as their own personal property and often randomly disappear, an amazing colony of volunteer Heartsease that I adore, a smattering of Milk Thistles, a lovely variety of Salvias, myriad Calendula seedlings that never ever mature into a grown plant (they must be tasty), a tiny but stubborn Lemon Balm plant, a few half hearted Sweet Basil plants and a single tiny purple holy basil that finally bit the dust. I was impressed then, when the Motherwort not only germinated but proceeded to try to take over the world. It grew giant jagged heart shaped leaves and shot up inches in only a few days, even with the critters still chewing on it every night. Not just one plant, but about twenty. They appeared in nearly every corner of the garden, and though some people consider them invasive weeds, they actually helped protect the other surviving plants with their shade.

I have great respect for survivors, so even though I hadn’t given Motherwort much thought as an herb in the past, I tipped my hat to the vibrant green lion of a plant. Now of course with such an abundance of flowering plants I couldn’t help but tincture up a pint or three. And much to my surprise I’ve been using it fairly constantly ever since, and it seems to find its way into a striking number of formulas. Funny how that is, I wouldn’t have picked Motherwort out of an herb book or even an herb store for something I might want. Yet the tenacity and vibrance of the plant spoke beyond my own well thought plans and right down to some deeper level.

I think the Catnip’s after me next, and the Wild Carrot has been making eyes at me all Winter while the rest of the plants have been asleep.

  2 Responses to “Unexpected Love Affairs with Weeds”

  1. This post is getting me excited to see what comes up in the garden this year. Have you ever eaten a motherwort flower? It is an interesting bitter-sweet experience for the senses.

  2. “I think the Catnip’s after me next, and the Wild Carrot has been making eyes at me all Winter while the rest of the plants have been asleep.”

    You write beautifully!

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