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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hyssop Spurge


Hyssop Spurge, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

A flowering weed;
Hearing its name,
I looked anew at it.
~ Teiji


I have to say that I consider this plant to be a weedy nuisance. I see it everywhere it shouldn’t be: mostly in my flowerpots and growing in the patio and driveway cracks. It flowers, it seeds, I weed it, it sprouts again.

Just to be contradictory, I also like weeds. And I happen to like the sound of this one: SPURGE. If I have the identification correct, I can further enjoy rolling the words “Hyssop spurge” around my brain.

The Haiku above reflects my feelings after identifying and naming a plant – I suddenly look at it differently. Perhaps it’s a personal connection, or maybe I like things to have a place in the world, even if it’s in a human-created concept. I also feel a shared sense of wonder with plant explorers from the past who passionately learned all they could about each new discovery.

Hyssop spurge is indeed considered a weed by most everyone, especially on the Internet, which abounds with elimination techniques. The one positive source I found was in the Botanical Dermatology Database, which describes the milky sap as used to treat warts, calluses and ringworm.

When broken, the stem exudes a prodigious amount of opaque white sap, which is typical of Euphorbias, and probably just as bitter and caustic as other family members such as Poinsettia and Devil’s backbone .

Now that I’ve researched this spurge, I see this species and its relatives just about everywhere. Identification is NOT my strong point; there are many different kinds of weedy spurges and I feel lucky to have found a name for this one.

Next time you are in the garden or taking a walk, take a second look at the flowering weed under your hand or heel – you may happen to find yourself looking at it with new eyes!

You can click on the largest image to view it on my Flickr photostream.