3rd DRY WELL
As a matter of fact,
I needed to go down to the creek again today anyway as I wanted to collect
more mint. There was plenty of it growing along the bank, some with tiny
white flowers, some with pale blue flowers, and some with larger purple
flowers. All had the square stems and opposite leaves, but the leaves
of the purple flowered species were noticeably less aromatic when I crushed
some in between my fingers, so I didn't pick any of those. Instead I cut
maybe a dozen stalks each of the other two species. Hopefully this will
cause them to bush out and grow twice as much so that I can come back
later in the season to collect more. The cut stalks I hung in bunches
from the rafters to dry.
Lady's thumb is a
smartweed, the generic name for a handful of plants of the buckwheat family
all having branching semi-succulent stems with short spikes of tightly
packed flowers at the tips of the the branches and in the leaf axils.
The flowers are pink or white and open ever so slightly, if at all, making
it impossible to count the various parts. Suffice it to say a short spike
of densely packed bud-like flowers.
What makes Lady's
thumb (Polygonum persicaria) unique among the smartweeds is
the dark spot on the leaf. This vaguely heart-shaped spot is said to be
the thumb print of a lady of legend, but apparently no one remembers the
lady or the legend. Blackheart is another name for this plant. It grows
to a height of perhaps two feet and is common in neglected gardens.
include water smartweed (P. amphibium) with a shorter, pinker,
stubbier flower spike found in and around ponds, and pale or pink smartweed
(P. lapathifolium), a much larger plant with drooping flower clusters
to four inches long. I also found a fourth smartweed with small white
flower clusters down along the creekbank. It had arrow-shaped leaves and
I quite easily identified it as arrow-leaved smartweed or arrow-leaved
tearthumb (P. sagittatum). It has sharp tiny recurved bristles
along its stem.
Japanese knotweed (P. cuspidatum), an invasive relative, is huge in comparison. Growing in dense thickets to a height of up to eight feet, it looks like bamboo. The hollow stems are often an inch in diameter when full-grown, but the tender young shoots under a foot tall are purported to be a favorite spring delicacy. They are easy to find by locating last year's monster canes.