Friday, July 28, 2017

Hogweed or hogwash?

It was slightly more than a week ago that I first noticed some tall plants with the white umbels (umbellets?) and dark stems growing in a marshy area on the North side of County Road 36. They were too tall to be Queen Ann's lace and they weren't the yellow of wild parsnip, so I became concerned they might be giant hogweed. As the Minnesota Department of Agriculture notes:
Even though this plant has not yet been discovered in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture regulates giant hogweed as a prohibited noxious weed on the eradicate list because of its close proximity of establishment in Wisconsin. It is also a Federal Noxious Weed regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture . By law, all above and below ground plant parts must be destroyed, and no transportation, propagation, or sale of the plants is allowed. If you suspect you have seen giant hogweed, please contact the MDA’s Arrest the Pest voicemail at 888-545-6684 or email
The western edge of the St. Croix watershed, the area where I saw the plants, isn't that far from Wisconsin.

The first sighting happened at a time I was in a hurry to get somewhere or other, but I made one of those infamous "mental notes" to be sure and bring a camera next time so I could take pictures. My mental notes functioned about as well as a steel sieve. Sometimes I had the camera, but didn't drive past the location. Other times I'd end up driving past but not have the camera, until today. Here's a picture I finally took:

Hogweed? Angelica? Cow Parsley?
Hogweed? Angelica? Cow Parsley?
Photo by J. Harrington

Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) [I think]
Photo by J. Harrington

Was it a giant hogweed? It took me longer than I'd like to determine, based largely on the plant's leaves and its relative height, that it wasn't. Then I became curious about what it was. Finally, I think I've decided that it's Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea), a native perennial. Mother Earth News lists some interesting culinary and medicinal uses for angelica but, for now, I think I'll limit my foraging to berries. I'm just pleased my "discovery" turned out to be far preferable to giant hogweed. Finally, I did consider that the plant might be cow parsnip, but the leaves don't seem to match nor is the stem pale green. If any of you have better suggestions, as usual I'd be happy to receive them.

[UPDATE: based on a suggestion from the Better Half, I'll watch and see if purple fruit develops. If so, identification will be changed to elderberry.

Identity Crisis

He was urged to prepare for success: “You never can tell,
    he was told over and over; “others have made it;
    one dare not presume to predict. You never can tell. 

Who’s Who in America lists the order of cats
    in hunting, fishing, bird-watching, farming,
    domestic service--the dictionary order of cats

who have made it. Those not in the book are beyond the pale.
    Not to succeed in you chosen profession is unthinkable.
    Either you make it or--you’re beyond the pale.

Do you understand?”
                   “No," he shakes his head.
    “Are you ready to forage for freedom?”
                                          “No," he adds,
    “I mean, why is a cat always shaking his head?

Because he’s thinking: who am I? I am not
    only one-ninth of myself. I always am
    all of the selves I have been and will be but am    not.”

“The normal cat," I tell him, “soon adjusts
    to others and to changing circumstances;
    he makes his way the way he soon adjusts.”

“I can’t," he says, “perhaps because I’m blue,
    big-footed, lop-eared, socially awkward, impotent,
    and I drink too much, whether because I’m blue

or because I like it, who knows. I want to escape
    at five o’clock    into an untouchable world
where the top is the bottom and everyone wants to escape

from the middle, everyone, every day. I mean,
    I have visions of two green eyes rising
    out of the ocean, blinking, knowing what I mean.”

“Never mind the picture, repeat after me
    the self’s creed. What he tells you you
    tells me and I repeats. Now, after me:

I love myself, I wish I would live well.
    Your gift of love breaks through my self-defeat.
    All prizes are blue. No cat admits defeat.
The next time that he lives he will live well.”

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Please be kind to each other while you can.