Jumping to Conclusions

Winged stems: NOT wingstem
Winged stems: NOT wingstem

This plant remained an unknown only because I jumped to the wrong conclusion.

Growing side by side with a plant called “wingstem”, this six foot tall plant too has decurrent leaf tissue on the stems. I mistakenly concluded that feature was a trait of the genus of wingstem and tried to force this plant to conform. It didn’t. So winged stems is a trait of a remote ancestor of the two genera, Verbesina and Helenium.

This is Helenium autumnale, also known as  “swamp sunflower” which is exactly where I photographed it–in a wetlands area along the beaver-dammed meadow near Rakes Mill Pond. (Passers-by would have seen two grown men mucking about on a drizzly day in the muddy margins of the pond where normal people would never go. But then if they hadn’t put on their rubber boots, you’d not be learning a new plant with me this morning!)

Also called Sneezeweed, its leaves were once dried and ground into “snuff” back in an age when a good sneeze was about as good a high as one might expect. Speaking of which, I might have to include this fact in my recent conclusions about the dwindling sensory expectations of the “golden years”:

“Consider it a feature of this more advanced time in life that the most coveted sensory experience one can look forward to with great anticipation are a cold beer, a hot shower, the deep relaxation of an afternoon nap alone on the couch and the taste of a fresh-picked ear of corn; and that’s about as good as it’s gonna get.” Since the list is short, maybe I should maybe add “and a good sneeze”. But I digress.

Interesting that there is one species of  this plant genus, Virginia Sneezeweed, that grows in limestone areas. It has been found outside Virginia recently–on a sinkhole area in Missouri–and nowhere else until propagated by Missouri botanists.

2 thoughts on “Jumping to Conclusions”

  1. Greetings Fred, how are things? I liked the Helenium photo and seem to recall a Lanark dairy farmer telling me years ago that even a few mouthfuls of it munched by a dairy cow resulted in its milk being spoiled. He also said that most cows know enough to leave sneezeweed alone – apparently it is rather bitter going.

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