Some wildflowers are called weeds… but often those ‘weeds’ have pretty flowers. Consider crown vetch, for instance. Its purple flowers are lovely from a distance and it is useful as a temporary ground cover to prevent erosion. But it’s also a menace, in some cases covering and shading out native plants. Chickweed, on the other hand, isn’t a problem, although people who yearn for perfect lawns may disagree.
A few years ago I threw out some seeds of a flower I saw growing alongside a road. It is some form of scabious, I think, and has happily seeded itself all around the Skating Pond in the Upper Field.
Some kind of tiny butterfly obviously finds it appealing.
Also dismissed as a weed is milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Yes, it spreads easily which can create problems, but take a look at the flowers — aren’t they pretty enough to make up for that?
Common milkweed forms large groups by clones, and that is happening in some of the fields at Glen Villa. I don’t mind, though. The flowers smell good and common milkweed is the host for monarch butterflies as well as being of special value to native, bumble and honey bees.
It’s obviously attractive to all kinds of wild life.
Native Americans used milkweed as a source of fibres, and during the Second World War children in northern states were encouraged to collect the floss for floatation in life vests. Who knew?
Even stranger, the floss is now being used as insulation for winter coats! According to Wikipedia, the first milkweed insulated winter coat was produced in 2016 in collaboration with Altitude Sports, a Canadian online retailer, Quartz Co., a Canadian brand producing high-quality winter coats, and Monark™, a Quebec-based company cultivating milkweed fibres.
The best way to get an up close and personal look at the milkweed growing at Glen Villa is to visit the garden next Saturday, July 20. On that day only, we are opening the garden to the public as a fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation and Conservation Trust. Tickets are selling fast so buy yours on line today through the Massawippi Foundation.
Tickets will be available on site unless all are sold before then. No dogs and no picnics, please!