Brushin' Up on the Local Flora
If you're anything like me, you'll wonder through Mother Nature, oggling her fruits (sorry that sounded dirty), but not have the slightest clue what you're looking at! Welp, I'm here to enlighten both you AND myself about three über common plants found throughout our area...as well as one intriguing insect I couldn't help but investigate! Here we go...
1. Staghorn Sumac
What you see right here is the FRUIT of the Staghorn Sumac. This can be collected, soaked and washed in cold water, strained, sweetened and made into a pink tea...sounds delicious! Though I'd look up thorough directions before following through with that recipe. Also, the dried fruit can be crushed up into a spice that is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine! Döner kebap, anyone?
This plant is commonly mistaken for the invasive Tree-of-Heaven who releases chemicals into the soil that inhibit other plants' growth (what a dirty trick!). However, now that we can recognize the Sumac's luscious, ruby fruit, the Tree-of-Heaven's not-so-pretty seedpod bushels (and bad attitude) will immediately tip you off to the difference.
Also, Sumac is an excellent food source for wildlife and is integral to helping various critters get through the winter thanks to its tasty fruit. The Tree-of-Heaven ain't got nothin' on the Staghorn Sumac! [Read all about invasives vs non-invasives here.]
2. Queen Anne's Lace aka Wild Carrot
How did "Queen Anne's Lace," get its name, you ask? Apparently both Anne, Queen of Great Britain, and her great grandmother, Anne of Denmark, are supposedly the Queens for which this frilly plant is named. As for the lace, while the flower resembles the fabric, the red flower in the center is thought to represent a blood droplet where Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle when she was MAKING the lace. Lovely! In reality, this tiny red flower is used to attract insects...Queen Anne's little sexy secret ;).
Yes, I just described a flower as sexy, deal with it.
It is also known as "Wild Carrot" since it's young roots are edible (like the cultivated carrot), though they quickly become too woody to consume. If you do consider collecting, be sure to know how to differentiate between "WIld Carrot" and Poison Hemlock as they are rather similar in appearance. Bon appetit...?
3. Wooly Mullein
Ah, verbascum thapsus ...sounds like I have a lithp.
This tall goldenrod of a plant is sometimes thought of as a weed, but actually cannot compete with established plants. Therefore it is no longer considered a serious agricultural weed and is easily crowded out in cultivation #themoreyouknow.
The FUN facts about this plant are that it not only has been used since ancient times as a remedy for skin, throat and breathing ailments, but ALSO is linked to WITCHES! Though no one knows for sure the connection (because they never do), it is widely known that the plant was held to ward off curses and evil spirits. Excuse me while I go hang Wooly Mullein everywhere to cleanse my soul.
Also, in relation to the Native Americans, the "wooly" part of this plant (its leaves) were used as insulation in their moccasins and the dried stalks as fire torches...neat-o!
4. The Metallic Green-Sweat Bee
I never knew these iridescent lil' buggers were BEES, did you?
These teensy-tiny bees are excellent pollinators of many of the smaller flower type of native plants which are often bypassed by the larger bees. I am sure the small flowers are abuzz with gratitude.
Pictured above is a female as denoted by its solid green coloring. Males have distinct stripes of different colors on their abdomens most likely to attract females...another sexy detail thanks to Mother Nature, that saucy minx!
And on that note, my friends, I will conclude this entry. Now it's time to impress your friends by ID'ing these bad boys wherever you romp...Flora and fauna for us all-a!