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Purpurea peripheralis

Foxglove and gargoyle
Backyard, August 2012

I keep meaning to do a photo essay on noxious weeds. So many have invaded the peninsula. Scots and Spanish broom, myriad knapweeds and thistles, hemlock, wild carrot, ragwort, clary sage, saltcedar, even wormwood (absinthe). Looking over the ‘most wanted’ mugshots on the Ag extension’s website, I wonder if any flowering vine, shrub or ground cover is actually native to the area. A quarantined ‘pure’ forest or meadow is difficult to imagine. Would it be nothing more than rhododendron and bracken fern curtailing the shadows wherever firs and alder desist, combed meadow barley or spikegrass bent on the belly of a fat black-tailed deer? Some spare, kempt and simpleminded paradise where  brutally adaptive plants don’t writhe in frenetic one-upmanship?  Well that’s total bullshit of course; even the native species list for the Salt Creek bottomland is pages long, and that is a relatively inhospitable tidal flat; brackish, alkaline, and touristy to boot.

But as a photographer in great need of a project, I tend to crave the distinct.   The plant life here though  is anything but; even the margins of my yard are a comical swoon of rotting lush vegetation. Imperturbably patient and infinitesimally rampant. As if under strict orders to blend in, infiltrate, subvert, avoid detection. Even extracting samples to catalog is difficult, especially to my lazy eye and work habits.  So it seems like it might be a good exercise, build some aesthetic character, discipline. Break free of this embarrassing monotony of silver fir portraits.. But what to document first? Not all invasive plants seem so sinister at first site. Maybe start with ornamental and cultivated plants like Iris pseudacorus, the yellow flag iris. Oxeye daisy, the perennial “she loves me, she love me not’ flower. And of course there is the Foxglove; it looks quite lovely towering about the fetid scrum of the other weeds, a charming botanical chime in Lenten hues, until you hear the whispered scientific and colloquial names- digitalis purpurea, deadman’s bells, bloody fingers, bloody glove, witch’s glove.

A interesting sidebar to the project could be the therapeutic cost-benefit ratio of some of the rustic uses for these plants- risking protracted agony or death for a relatvely slight remedy, such as weight loss… or writer’s block. Hmmm.

From the wiki on digitalis poisoning-

Symptoms include hypersalivation, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, changes in heart rate and rhythm, loss of appetite (anorexia), diarrhea, visual disturbances (yellow or green halos around objects), confusion, dizziness, nightmares, agitation, and/or depression, as well as a higher acute sense of sensual activities.